Members Visit Beacon Hill to Advocate for Expanding Homeownership, Housing Production and More
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Posted by: Maria Brogan
On June 12th, NEAR members joined hundreds of REALTORS® from across the Commonwealth for our 34th Annual REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill to advocate for bills that would help encourage homeownership and against those that would stymie housing production or put more costs on the backs of real estate transactions.
After an enthusiastic welcome by Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® President Anne Meczywor of Roberts & Associates Realty, Inc. in Lenox, special guest speaker Kevin Honan, State Representative and Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing addressed the group. Representative Honan emphasized the housing crisis and lack of affordable housing in Massachusetts.
“We are included in the top three states with the highest median home price along with California and Hawaii,” Honan said, “and we are 39,000 units short of where we need to be for inventory.”
He also updated attendees on the Housing Choice Initiative, which offers incentives, rewards, technical assistance and targeted legislative reform to encourage and empower municipalities to plan and build the diverse housing stock that the Commonwealth needs to continue to thrive. So far, 79 communities participated in the program. He closed his remarks by reminding us that our legislators receive hundreds of emails every day and that when we show up, it is so much more impactful.
From there, we split into groups to meet our legislators to update them on issues impacting real estate in our communities. We shared why we SUPPORT the following:
Housing Production: For decades Realtors® have worked to encourage housing production in Massachusetts through creating and lobbying for the H.O.M.E. Bill (H.187/S.96). A key component of the bill is to lower the voting requirement for special permits from a super majority to a simple majority. Governor Baker has built on this idea of a simple majority for housing development, filing An Act to promote housing choices. In addition to allowing special permits by a simple majority, it would also reduce the vote threshold for a number of key Realtor® zoning priorities including accessory dwelling units, multifamily zoning, and cluster development.
The governor has coupled this legislation with a Housing Choice Initiative with the goal of incentivizing communities to build more housing. Recognizing the key role that municipalities play in determining whether housing is built, the Housing Choice Initiative provides incentives, rewards, and technical assistance to cities and towns to encourage and empower municipalities to plan and build the additional housing that the Commonwealth needs to continue to thrive. MAR looks forward to working with Governor Baker, the Legislature, and other housing production proponents to meet a goal of producing 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
Expanding Homeownership Opportunities: An Act authorizing the establishment of first-time homebuyer savings accounts (H.2456/S.1628) permits future home buyers to deposit up to $5,000 per year into a First Time Home Buyer Savings Account and then claim that contribution as a deduction on their income tax. This would help people save towards homeownership, leading in-turn to wide-ranging economic and community benefits, including payment of property taxes, local business patronization, and community stability.
Continuing Education: An Act further regulating the continuing education requirements for real estate brokers and salespersons enhances the Real Estate Board’s ability to self-govern Realtor® continuing education. This bill will align real estate with other licensed professions and assure that Realtor® continuing education remains relevant and nimble facing changes in technology and the profession.
Climate Resiliency: An Act relative to GreenWorks (H.3846) creates a bonding program to fund climate resiliency programs in the Commonwealth. Realtors® understand the effects of climate change on Massachusetts and real estate. We support funding these important programs through the equitable GreenWorks bonding plan that spreads the cost for a statewide benefit across all Massachusetts residents rather than placing the burden solely on home buyers and sellers.
We also discussed why we OPPOSE the following:
Real Estate Transfer Taxes: Realtors® strongly oppose real estate transfer taxes, which would authorize the creation of a new transfer tax on the sale of property in a municipality. The imposition of this type of new sales tax on homes could have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. (H.2423, H. 3691, H.3637)
The Governor proposed a transfer tax in the form a 50% increase in the deeds excise tax in a bill entitled, An Act (S.10) providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth, in addition, Massachusetts communities facing budgetary deficiencies regularly seek transfer tax authority to solve local revenue problems. However, creating an entrance or exit fee to homeownership is the wrong way to solve climate change or municipal funding problems. We encouraged legislators to consider the funding mechanism proposed in H.3846, An Act Relative to GreenWorks (see above).
Mandatory Energy Scoring and Audits: These bills (H.2887, S.1983, S.1922) seek to require sellers or their agents to perform a mandatory energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the audit at the time of the listing. Over and above having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer land, such requirements would negatively affect the real estate industry in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is home to some of the oldest housing stock in the country and mandatory energy scoring of such older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s largest investment.
Interested in getting more involved in advocating for homeownership and the real estate industry? Send an email to NEAR CEO Maria Brogan – and watch for updates to attend this event next year!