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12.18.19 PlanBeverly Makes Master Plan Recommendations

The Master Plan Recommendations, which were developed in conjunction with the public through PlanBeverly, have been made available to the public for review and comment. 

You can find the recommendations here.  If you would like a paper copy those are available at the Senior Center, the Library, and the Planning Department.

In 2020, Beverly will create its new Master Plan based on these recommendations.  This commenting period will be open until January 10th.  There will be further opportunities for comment when the full Master Plan is developed next year.

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12.18.19 Federal Government Spending Bill Includes Wins for REALTORS

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a spending package for fiscal year 2020 that includes serveral issues the National Association of REALTORS® has been lobbying for.

The most prominent may be the extension of the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) for 9 months.  This is a considerably longer period than past extensions (14 over the last two years).  While extensions are vital, NAR has focused support behind the NFIP Reauthorization Act, which would include a 5 year reauthorization along with reforms to improve mapping, enhance mitigation, and remove obstacles to private flood insurance.

Another inclusion is the extension of the mortgage debt forgiveness tax provision, which had lapsed in 2017.  Mortgage Debt Forgiveness became a center issue specifically during the resession because if a portion of a person's mortgage is forgiven (a common example being a short sale) that portion is counted as income for tax purposes.  This is sometimes known as phantom income.  The mortgage debt forgiveness tax provision removes that portion from being counted as income.  The extension is retroactive back to 2017 and through 2020.  Two other tax provisions where included: the deductibility of premiums for mortgage insurance and the deduction of the cost of impovements for commercial buildings to make them more energy efficient.

On the commercial front, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program was included to be reauthorization for 7 years. Terrorism risk insurance can be required to secure necessary financing for commercial production. 

The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week and President Trump has pledged to sign the bill by Friday to avert a government shutdown. 

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12.11.19 Property Taxes Rising on the North Shore

Cities have begun announcing the new property tax rates for 2020 and in several local municipalities taxes will be on the rise.

In Peabody the average homeowner will see an increase of $194.  In Beverly the average homeowner will see an increase of $226.  In Salem, the average owner of a single-family home will see the lowest increase of the three at $87.26 but condo owners will see an increase of $160.77.

Although tax rates are indeed rising, much of the increase in the tax bill is due to higher assessment values.  In Salem alone the assessed value of the entire city rose by 12% and condo values are rising faster than single family values.  This is why the average condo owner in Salem is seeing almost double the increase in their bill compared to the average single family owner even though the tax rate is the same for both.

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12.9.19 Property Sales Tax Considered in Boston

Boston City Council is considering a new law that would levy a sales tax of 2% on all property sold within the city limits.  The original bill set the sales tax at 6% but the Committee on Government Operations made several amendments today.  Another change made by the committee is the deletion of a 25% tax payable by the seller on the repeat transfer within 24 months or transfer of a controlling interest in a trust, LLC, or other entity that directly or indirectly holds an interest in ANY real property situated in the City of Boston.

There are some notable exceptions, chief among them being properties where the sale price is less than $2,000,000.  Per MLS PIN data, that would mean 6.4% of residential transactions in the city of Boston would be affected.  Initially, this exemption did NOT protect a property from the 25% tax to the seller if transferred within 24 months.

The Boston City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday, December 11th on this issue.  10 of the 13 City Council members have co-sponsored the bill.  If the bill passes it would then head to the state house.

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12.4.19 Lynn City Council Authorizes Hiring of City Planners

 

Having gone without a planning department for more than two decades, the Lynn City Council has authorized the hiring of a principle planner and associate planner for Lynn.

The positions are funded for 3 years through gifts from the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn, MassDevelopment, Eastern Back Foundation, Gerondelis Foundation, and the Barr Foundation.  At the end of the 3-year period a decision will be made on whether to create a planning department.

City planning plays a critical role in combating the housing crisis.  Not only to ensure that future housing needs are being addressed, but also that housing is inclusive and integrated into a larger plan incompassing transportation, public space, economic development, and more.  REALTORS® promote the use of Smart Growth and Fair Housing principles in planning.

 

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12.2.19 MassHousing Expands Down Payment Assistance Program

MassHousing has announced that their Down Payment Assistance Program will be expanding to cover up to $15,000 or 5% of the purchase price.  This is an increase from the former limit of $12,000 or 3 percent of the purchase price. 

Also announced is an increase in the income eligibility to 135% Area Median Income (AMI) for Boston and Gateway Cities.  That means for cities like Salem, Lynn, Peabody, and Haverhill that a household can earn up to $128,655 and still be eligible for the program.

Since launch in March of 2018, 1,877 households have so far used the program to purchase their first home.  That represents 13.8 million dollars in financing.  The money available through the program comes in the form of a 15-year fixed rate second mortgage. 

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