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12.5.16 Haverhill Real Estate Company Fined $70,000 in Housing Discrimination Case

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

The WHAV 97.9 website reports that Haverhill real estate company, Andover Portland Avenue Associates, LLC, was fined $70,000 resulting from a housing discrimination involving two tenants with disabilities.

In 2014, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board found the 96-unit Casco Crossing apartment complex in Andover, MA did not comply with building code accessibility requirements.  Andover Portland owned and operated the apartment complex until May 2015 and will be forced to pay two tenants of Casco Crossing apartment complex $20,000 each and pay $15,000 to the state to resolve allegations the company violated state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.

The complaint alleged the following:

  1. Andover Portland failed to design and construct the apartment complex to meet accessibility standards required by law
  2. One tenant requested several accommodations, including a wheelchair ramp to access the building, grab bars in the bathroom, a handicap-accessible toilet and parking, among other things. Andover Portland allegedly failed, in each instance, to “engage in an interactive dialogue and unreasonably refused to provide the modifications or accommodations.”
  3. Andover Portland also allegedly ignored and failed to address requests from the mother of another tenant with several disabilities for “reasonable” modifications, including an automatic building door opener for wheelchair access and “prompt removal of ice from the sidewalks in the winter.”

The tenants claimed they suffered emotional distress, were unable to access common areas and parts of their apartments, and incurred certain additional expenses.

According to Attorney General Healey: “People with disabilities regularly face barriers to housing choice and opportunity. This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to enforcing our fair housing laws to ensure that property owners and managers work with tenants with disabilities.”

Read the entire WHAV 97.9 website report.

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11.2.16 Chapter 40B Senior Housing in Ipswich

Town Farm Road Chapter 40B Senior Housing in Ipswich

According to the Ipswich Chronicle, there is a proposed senior housing development for a 40-home, 20-building complex in Ipswich, to located at 30 and 34 Town Farm Road, with access from Locust Street.

The housing development would be a Chapter 40B affordable housing subdivision, with 25% affordable housing.

MGL Chapter 40B allows builders to bypass local housing zoning restrictions,  including density, as long as the building project includes at least 25% affordable housing.  Communities with 10% of their housing stock qualifying as affordable are exempt from 40B developments.  Ipswich would be subject to Chapter 40B with approximately 8.5% of the town’s housing stock currently qualifyng as affordable.

Ethan Parsons, senior planner, estimates that Ipswich would need between 70 and 80 more affordable units to meet the 10% affordable housing goal.

L.A. Associates Inc., of Wilmington, a firm that guides 40B developments through MassHousing and then manages lotteries for affordable units, has filed a MassHousing application for the development and has notified the Ipswich Board of Selectmen.

The parcel is 7.2 acres with approximately 10% wetlands.  Current zoning would limit a development to between 8-10 homes, if built in a cluster development, which is allowed.  Cluster developments increase allowed density if the developer “clusters” homes more closely together than traditional zoning would allow and leaves a larger portion of the land as open space.

Read the entire Ipswich Chronicle article.

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9.12.16 Peabody Mayor Moves to Increase Affordable Housing Stock

Mayor Edward J. Bettencourt Jr. wants the state to include in-law apartments and group homes in its count of affordable housing stock. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40B lets developers of affordable housing override certain aspects of municipal zoning by laws in cities or towns where less than 10 percent of housing qualifies as affordable. Following the 2010 census, Peabody fell below the 10 percent threshold. Mayor Bettencourt would like to seek to change the state's Chapter 40B law, specifically, counting in-law apartments and group homes as affordable housing and has written a letter to state Reps. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers), Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody), and state Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem) concerning the suggested changes.

Click here to read an associated article from itemlive.com.

 

 

 

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8.26.16 Foreclosures Rising; Loan Modifications Efforts Necessary

Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending - http://maapl.info

According to the Beverly Citizen, a homeownership advocacy group, the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending, met recently to discuss what local municipalities can do to prevent foreclosures and promote local homeownership.

 

According to the Warren Group, the number of foreclosure petitions in Massachusetts increased 13.1% in June 2016 [1,002 foreclosure petitions vs. 866 petitions filed in June 2015]. This marks 28 straight months of year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts. A petition is the first step in the foreclosure process and involves the lender filing a notice of intent to foreclose with the state's Land Court. Through June this year there were 6,616 petitions filed in Massachusetts -- a 24.4% increase from last year's 5,316 filings.

The Warren Group reports that June 2016 also was the 5th straight month with more than 1,000 foreclosure starts, a streak that hasn't happened since 2012.

The Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending alliance discussed the passage of one-sentence bill (H 4553) filed late last month by Springfield Rep. Jose Tosado designed to give cities and towns the clear authority necessary to use their health and safety powers to implement programs like pre-foreclosure mediation without expanding the rights of municipalities. Here is the entire text of H 4553:

"Except where explicitly denied by the General Laws, municipalities shall have authority to enact laws for the purpose of ensuring the safety and security of residents by minimizing foreclosures and ensuring the upkeep of vacant properties and those in foreclosure," the bill reads in its entirety.

Springfield in 2011 enacted two city ordinances related to homes left vacant by the wave of foreclosures that followed the 2008 economic collapse. Six banks that held mortgages on properties in Springfield challenged the legality of the ordinances and the case was decided by the SJC in December 2014.

In the decision written by Justice Francis Spina, the SJC concluded that "the foreclosure process is wholly a matter of State regulation absent an expression of a clear intent to allow local regulation."

Grace Ross [above, left], coordinator for the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending, said the bill would allow cities like Worcester and Lynn to again run pre-foreclosure mediation programs that are on hold following a Supreme Judicial Court decision that questioned the cities' authority to establish such programs.

<!--[if gte mso 10]> <![endif]--> Read the entire Beverly Citizen article.

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7.30.16 Folly Hill Condo/Apartment Potential Development in Beverly

The Salem News reports that a developer is eying building on a 76-acre parcel in Folly Hill, off Route 128 in Beverly, MA.  The potential development would border two existing residential complexes - The Folly Hill Meadows Apartments and Apple Village – and add nearly 700 new apartments and condominiums.

The land, a wooded area valued at about $3.7 million, according to city assessors records, runs along Trask Lane, meeting up with the Beverly Golf & Tennis Club on one end and also abuts neighborhoods on Walcott Road, Friend Street and Sunset Drive. It also borders the Danvers town line.

According to a map in the builder’s brochure, most of the land is not developable, but it could accommodate 634 “garden-style” units and 51 townhouses. The land is currently zoned for residential use.

Mayor Michael Cahill and city officials are looking to scale down such a significant residential development.  According to Mayor Cahill, “While there are private property development rights involved here, we believe over-development on this site would not be in the best interests of the people of Beverly, so we are exploring the city’s options,”

Read the entire Salem News article.

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7.14.16 Attention REALTORS® - Home Energy Scoring Bill Hangs in Balance

After being passed in both the House and the Senate, the Home Energy Scoring and Labeling bill is now before a specially-appointed conference committee for final consideration. Although the version passed by the Massachusetts House was more acceptable from the REALTOR® perspective, serious issues remain in the Senate version which includes a mandatory energy audit before a house could be listed for sale, potentially lowering the market value of a home earning a lower score. Low and moderate income homeowners would be hardest hit by this requirement.

Click here to act now to let your legislators you oppose the energy audit provisions in the Senate version of the bill and to ask them to make it clear to members of the energy diversity conference committee that mandatory energy scoring and labeling should not be included in the final energy legislation.

Please click here to contact your state representative today about this important issue.
 

Click here for more information on this important bill.


 

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