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 2019-2020 MA Legislative Priorities

Support Increasing Housing Production

·         The H.O.M.E. bill, developed by MAR in 2014, seeks to remove existing barriers to housing production through several complex zoning changes. For example, it would increase availability of open space or “cluster” development that allows for smaller lot acreage requirements than traditional subdivisions diversifying housing options and preserving open space. The bill also removes barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Commonly known as in-law apartments, ADUs are small, self-contained dwellings with their own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area associated with a single-family home. ADUs will provide more housing options and help homeowners enhance the value of their homes.  Finally, it promotes local development by easing restrictions based on zoning variances and site plan reviews procedures.

·         An Act to promote housing choices, a bill that nearly passed with our support last session was again named by Governor as one of his top priorities. The bill gives municipalities more tools and incentives to increase housing developments including: permitting cities and towns to modify zoning laws by simple majority rather than the current 2/3 majority vote for certain issues; increasing housing production options for smart growth zoning districts, such as allowing cluster development and ADUs; and enhances the ability to add housing near public transportation hubs.

Support Expanding Homeownership Opportunities

·         An Act authorizing the establishment of first-time homebuyer savings accounts, 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 measure will help people to save towards homeownership leading to wide-ranging economic and community benefits including payment of property taxes, local business patronization, and family stability.    

·         An Act relative to the relief of mortgage debt, would align the state with a 2007 federal law, allowing homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales, and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on the that debt. Currently, the amount of forgiven debt, sometimes referred to as phantom income, is treated as taxable income to the borrower, meaning distressed homeowners who needed debt forgiveness are suddenly and counterintuitively faced with large state tax bills. This bill would provide these sellers with some peace of mind and much needed monetary relief, increasing their potential for future homeownership.

Support REALTORS® Doing Their Jobs

·         An Act further regulating the continuing education requirements for real estate brokers and salespersons, enhances the Real Estate Board’s authority to revise its rules and regulations governing continuing education requirements for real estate licensees. This bill would bring real estate in-line with most other licensed professions by giving it greater ability to self-regulate, assuring that continuing education remains relevant and nimble facing changes in technology and the profession.    

Oppose 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 tax on homes could have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. The Governor proposed a transfer tax in the form a 50% increase in the deeds excise tax in his budget and a bill entitled, An Act 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. Transfer taxes increase the bottom-line price of most homes by thousands of dollars, providing an additional barrier to homeownership for many and inequitably singling out home buyers and sellers to carry a disproportionate weight in funding government programs. 

Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

·         We oppose bills and proposed regulations that would require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. In addition to 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, which is home to some of the oldest housing stock in the country. Mandatory energy scoring of these older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue many individuals’ largest investment.

 

2017-2018 MA Legislative Priorities

First-time Homebuyer Savings Account
An Act authorizing the establishment of first-time homebuyer savings accounts (S1507)

Sponsor: Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro)                                    
Status: Joint Committee on Revenue

Why We Support 1st Time Homebuyer Savings Accounts:
Saving for a down payment and closing costs for a home is difficult. Programs like Homebuyer Savings Accounts provide a state tax-assisted avenue for individuals, couples, or family members to contribute to the purchase of a home. Each time a home is purchased there are many economic benefits to the community. For example, home buyers are most likely spending large sums of money at local home improvement stores, which generates sales taxes, income tax, and supports local jobs. Homeowners also pay property taxes; a key source of funding for local governments. Furthermore, owning a home also provides stability for families and the communities in which they reside as there are many documented social benefits of homeownership. Homebuyer Savings Accounts increase the overall well-being of citizens. Specifically, this program would allow future home buyers to deposit up to $5,000 per year into a First Time Homeuyer Savings Account and then claim that contribution as a deduction on their income tax.


Support Land Use and Zoning Reforms: The H.O.M.E. Bill
An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy (S94 & H436)

Sponsor: Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) (S94) & Representative Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield) (H436)
Status: S94 Joint Committee on Community Development & Small Business & H436 Joint Committee on Municipalities

Why We Support the H.O.M.E. Bill:
Due to the short supply of housing in Massachusetts, potential homeowners continue to face increasing housing costs. One of the many issues driving the reduced housing stock is the presence of barriers to production resulting from current zoning laws. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® in conjunction with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board has filed legislation addressing these barriers. Several of the provisions include easing the production of cluster development housing; allowing in-law apartments by right; allowing multifamily housing construction by right; simplifying the dimensional variance burden and; approving special permits by a majority vote.


Support Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief
An Act relative to the relief of mortgage debt (S1568)

Sponsor: Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)
Status: Joint Committee on Revenue

Why We Support Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief:
The general tax rule that applies to debt forgiven is that the amount forgiven, sometimes referred to as phantom income, is treated as taxable income to the borrower. This bill would allow homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on the that debt. This bill would mirror the federal law, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, to allow taxpayers to apply for this exclusion on their state tax return as well.


Support Copper Pipe Theft Prevention
An Act regulating secondary metals dealings (S167)
Sponsor: Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole)
Status: Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

An Act regulating secondary metals dealings (H1984)
Sponsor: Representative Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy)
Status: Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Why We Support the Regulation of Scrap Metal:
The problem of copper pipe and wiring theft is widespread in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Homes in every corner of the state have become targets for metal thieves who strip the metal from the home and sell it to scrap metal dealers. Homes that have been robbed of plumbing and wiring are a community problem, hurting home values in neighborhoods in which thefts occur. Further, the stripping of metal piping and other fixtures from the structure likely makes the home ineligible for conventional mortgage financing. MAR supports the regulation of the secondary metals dealing to dissuade thieves from stealing plumbing and wiring from homes.


Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

Status: Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy

Why We Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring and Audits:
These bills seek to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bills commission the design and implementation of an energy scoring and labeling system. 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 stocks in the country and mandatory energy scoring of such older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s largest investment.


Oppose Expansion of Room Occupancy Tax

Status: Joint Committee on Revenue

Why We Oppose the Expansion of the Room Occupancy Tax:
REALTORS® oppose bills imposing a room occupancy tax on short term vacation rentals. These proposals promote the creation of a new tax on all homeowners who choose to rent their homes for a short term, typically under 90 days. In addition to established businesses like hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments, these proposals would allow a city or town to levy a room occupancy tax on any apartment, single or multiple family housing, cottage, condominium or timeshare unit. Private homeowners would then be responsible for the collection, handling, and remittance of these taxes to the Department of Revenue.


Oppose Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Status: Joint Committee on Revenue

Why We Opposes 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. If allowed, Massachusetts communities facing budgetary deficiencies may seek transfer tax authority to solve local revenue problems. However, creating an “entrance or exit fee” to homeownership is the wrong way to solve this problem. Transfer taxes would increase the bottom-line price of many homes by thousands of dollars. These bills single out home buyers and sellers and subjecting them to this new tax only further exemplifies the inequitable nature of this taxing scheme.

 

 

 

 

2015-2016 MA Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Successfully Opposed Mandatory Energy Audits and Scoring

The Senate’s Energy Diversity Legislation contained language from a stand-alone bill that would have required sellers to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing their home for sale and would also require the seller disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit. Additionally, the bill called for the Department of Energy Resources to design and implement an energy scoring and labeling system. Mandatory energy audits at or prior to the transfer of property would disrupt sales and would have a negative impact on the Massachusetts housing economy. Specifically, requiring energy efficiency scoring on homes in Massachusetts would have stigmatized our older homes, causing a substantial decline in home value.

Although the Senate included these proposals in their legislation, the House did not; therefore, they were subject to the conference committee appointed to negotiate the differences between the bills. More than 2,700 Realtors® took action and contacted their legislators to voice their strong opposition to the auditing and scoring proposals. That outreach, combined with our lobbying and marketing campaigns was successful in convincing the conference committee to leave those provisions out of the final bill, which was approved just hours before session ended.


Successfully Opposed Room Occupancy Taxes

The Senate’s economic development bill included provisions from stand-alone bills that would have extended the existing tax on hotels and motels to the rental of private homes. The House did not include the new tax in their economic development bill and it was therefore subject to a conference committee. Realtors® were successful in convincing the conference committee to exclude this new tax from the final bill.


Successfully Opposed Anti-Production Zoning Legislation

In May 2016, the Senate advanced a redrafted version of S.122 An Act promoting the planning and development of sustainable communities of by a vote of 23-15. After months of meetings, the Senate Committee on Ways & Means released a bill that was considerably improved from the original version but would still have negatively impacted housing production in Massachusetts at a time when the state is dealing with a severe housing crisis due in large part to a low rate of housing production that has not kept pace with population growth and needs. MAR successfully lobbied the House to not take the bill up before session ended and thereby defeated the proposal.


Successfully Opposed Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Legislators filed three different transfer tax proposals that would have created new transfer taxes on the sale of property in Provincetown, Nantucket, and one statewide effort. MAR successfully advocated against these proposals and none of them advanced before Sunday’s deadline.


Successfully Opposed Wetland Disclosure Legislation

This legislation would have required real estate licenses to research and disclose to prospective buyers the presence of any wetlands on a property. Such a requirement is far outside the scope of a real estate agent’s licensing and training. This proposal ultimately died in the House without a vote.


Successfully Advocated for Passage of Starter Home Legislation

MAR, along with other coalition members, advocated for the passage of legislation to encourage the production of “starter homes.” Communities will now be able to voluntarily encourage the production of homes smaller than 1,850 square feet on lots smaller than a quarter acre. This will complement the current success that Chapter 40R has had with mixed-use and multifamily housing with the single family houses that young families are currently seeking. Importantly, this proposal targeted young families and other entry level buyers who are currently priced out of the market. Single family housing production continues to be far below the level that is required to meet demand, which results in increasing housing prices. The starter home program will help communities meet the demand by encouraging the production of affordable market rate single-family homes.