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3.20.19 State News: Tax on High-End Real Estate Sales Could Generate Hundreds of Millions for Boston; Dampen Real Estate Market

A tax on sales of high-dollar real estate in Boston would generate an enormous amount of money for affordable housing, but could dampen the city’s real estate market and faces a long road to approval.

That’s what emerged from a Boston City Council hearing Tuesday on a proposal that would levy a 6 percent tax on most homes, land, and office buildings that sell for more than $2 million, with the proceeds going to the city’s affordable housing fund.

A tax of that size would have generated $420 million last year, according to data from City Councilor Lydia Edwards, one of the bill’s cosponsors. Even a tax on commercial and industrial properties alone would have generated $189 million, nearly quadrupling the city’s current affordable housing budget of roughly $50 million.

“I would think those are numbers and money we certainly could use in the City of Boston,’ Edwards said.

Walsh administration officials — who have pushed for more affordable housing funding but taken no position on the transfer tax — didn’t disagree. Housing chief Sheila Dillon said Mayor Martin J. Walsh is “committed to the goals” of the legislation, but that it needs more study. Commissioner of Assessing Gayle Willett said she worried a transfer tax, and a related extra tax on sales of homes owned for less than two years, could hurt property values and make Boston’s housing market even tighter.

“I think that this would affect sales,” Willett said. “It would be in someone’s interest to get around these fees.”

Real estate industry leaders were more explicit: They don’t like the idea one bit. Greg Vasil, president of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said his members, who include major affordable housing developers, unanimously oppose the current plan. Should it pass, he said, the tax would simply be passed on to the people its supporters are trying to help: low-income renters and small businesses.

“Taxes like this trickle down an economy. They end up coming to rest with those who can least afford them,” Vasil said. “Companies will pay more in rent; people will pay more in terms of rent.”

Read more about this proposal at The Boston Globe.

Boston Skyline

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3.18.19 State News: Compared to Other States, Massachusetts Lags in Move for More Housing

From The Boston Globe

"In Massachusetts, where such housing production plans remain optional, Baker’s focus is on making it a little easier for those that want to build to do so. His bill, he said, would encourage zoning changes for denser development by lowering the approval threshold for city councils and town meetings from the current two-thirds majority to a simple majority: 50 percent plus one.

Baker administration officials say they’re not sure how many units the change could create. But some local officials say that little tweak could make a huge difference.

“Some people seem to think this is a single,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem. “It’s a triple. All day.”

Driscoll has been trying since last summer to push through her City Council new zoning that would help convert two shuttered Catholic schools and a former senior center into dozens of apartments, many of them classified as affordable. Seven of the 11 City Council members support the measure, but it needs eight votes to secure a two-thirds majority. That eighth vote has been elusive; another attempt at passage recently failed by a 7-4 vote.

“We’ve been at this for eight months now. It’s incredibly frustrating,” Driscoll said. “These buildings have been vacant for years. We need to create a path to reuse them.”

Baker’s law would help, she said. But, despite broad support, it has proved hard to pass.

The measure stalled in last year’s legislative session on Beacon Hill after housing advocates and some lawmakers lobbied to include more aggressive zoning changes. Baker tried again during the informal session in December — when a single lawmaker can block a bill — and it fizzled when progressive legislators tried to include protections for tenants at risk of eviction.

At the State House rollout, Baker had a wide array of advocates on hand to back him up. Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, said, “We should move forward on what we can.” Geoff Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Municipal League, praised Baker’s bill, which he described as “bold in its impact, modest in its means,” and said “preserves and protects citizen-based decision-making.”

But there’s no telling how long that comity will last.

Housing advocates say they support Baker’s bill as a first step but made clear they’ll keep pushing for more. “We don’t think this is the last bite at the apple,” Leroux said. Beacon Hill veterans say that could be a tough sell to lawmakers wary of resistance back home, and perhaps from Baker himself."

Read more at The Boston Globe.

State House Winter

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3.18.19 National News: NAR Cheers Bill to Extend Fair Housing Protections to the LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ

From NAR's REALTOR® Magazine

The National Association of REALTORS® supports legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress Wednesday to extend protections under the Fair Housing Act to the LGBT community. “REALTORS® have worked for [nearly] a decade to ensure the American dream of homeownership is not unfairly denied to those in the LGBT community,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement.

NAR amended its Code of Ethics to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2011 and gender identity in 2013. Last year, the association supported the Fair and Equal Housing Act, which would make those protections part of the Fair Housing Act. However, Congress adjourned before the bill could come up for a vote.

The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Equality Act, includes the NAR-supported housing protections of the Fair and Equal Housing Act and also extends LGBT protections in the areas of employment, public accommodations, credit markets, and voting. Shannon McGahn, NAR senior vice president for government affairs, will appear at a policy summit hosted by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals next month in Washington, D.C., to talk about next steps for the legislation.

Read more about "What Everyone Should Know About Equal Opportunity Housing"

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3.18.19 Meeting Notice: Public Meeting on Lynn Waterfront Master Plan Set for Tuesday, March 19th

The Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn) will hold a public meeting for the Lynn Municipal Harbor Plan and Waterfront Master Plan on Tuesday, March 19th from 6:00-7:30 P.M. at the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, 10 Church Street in Downtown Lynn. For more information contact Mary Jane Smalley at msmalley@ediclynn.org or 781-581-9399.

Lynn Waterfront2

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3.15.19 Housing Watch: Salem's Proposed Adaptive Reuse Zoning Overlay Fails in Final Vote

From The Salem News

"Five city councilors shot down an overlay zoning ordinance Thursday night, even after being given a way to continue work on the ordinance to address concerns.

With the rejection of the zoning package aimed at reusing school and city buildings for housing, it can't resurface until at least January of 2020. In the meantime, the future of a construction project in the old senior center building on Broad Street is now in doubt.

The proposal would have created a “Municipal and Religious Reuse Overlay District,” which established rules for developers to work under when developing certain properties in Salem that are owned by the city or religious institutions."

From The Salem Gazette

"In a five-to-six vote Thursday night, Salem City Council defeated a proposed zoning overlay ordinance that would have allowed for the redevelopment of underutilized and vacant municipal and religious buildings in Salem.

On the reconsideration of first-passage for the Municipal and Religious Adaptive Reuse Overlay District, At-large councilors Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and Domingo Dominguez, Ward 4 Councilor Tim Flynn and Ward 7 Councilor Steve Dibble voted in the dissent, At-Large Councilor Thomas Furey, Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy, Ward 2 Councilor Christine Madore, Ward 3 Councilor Lisa Peterson, Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel and Ward 6 Councilor Beth Gerard in the affirmative.

The vote arrived two weeks after at-large councilors Elaine Milo and Arthur Sargent, Ward 7 Councilor Steve Dibble and Ward 4 Councilor Tim Flynn voted against the matter during the City Council’s Feb. 28 regular meeting.

Neither in the Feb. 28 meeting nor in Thursday night’s meeting did the much discussed and highly vetted proposal capture the supermajority vote - eight out of 11 - needed for first passage. That vote means the zoning changes can not be brought before the City Council until its 2020 session - what many who support the ordinance see as a setback for what they describe as an issue that needs addressed without delay: Salem’s housing crisis."

Governor's Proposed Housing Choice Bill Supported by REALTORS®

Last night's failure to pass the Adaptive Zoning Overlay emphasizes the importance of Governor Charlie Baker's proposed Housing Choice Bill, which is supported by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, that would make it easier for cities and towns to relax zoning restrictions to facilitate the construction of new housing. Under the new bill, the vote in Salem last night would have succeeded given that a majority of the City Council supported the overlay. Under current state law, a super majority is required of municipalities in order to pass local zoning changes. 

Read more about the Governor's Housing Choice Bill here

Salem

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3.6.19 Housing Watch: NSAR Members Join Hundreds at Salem's Community Housing Forum

NSAR members joined a few hundred residents at last night's Community Housing Forum in Salem hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). The nearly two-hour long forum featured data to illustrate the housing crisis facing Salem as well as tools the city may use to address the issue and asked residents to weigh in.

Several of those tools discussed included accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law apartments), condominium conversion caps, rental subsidies and inclusionary zoning.

To meet housing demand and avoid Salem residents getting priced out of their community, 2,725 more housing units would be needed by 2030 according to MAPC. 

Read more about the Housing Forum at The Salem News

Click here for a deck of Concern and Response cards produced by the City and MAPC regarding housing issues in Salem!

Salem Community Housing Forum

Hundreds of Salem residents gathered at the Community Life Center for a Community Housing Forum on Tuesday, March 5th hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and MAPC.

Salem

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