Government Affairs

2014Legislative

The Berkshire County Board of REALTORS brings you latest legislative news complied from various sources throughout Berkshire County, Massachusetts and beyond. In addition to current news items, you can also find valuable information, insights, talking points and verbal briefings on today’s hottest issues and direct links to the office of your member of congress.

2015-2016 Legislative Session Updates

With the midpoint of the legislative session quickly approaching, here are some updates on the issues we have been working on:

Land Use and Zoning

The Issue:

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.

The Update:

On October 19th MAR Government Affairs Staff and REALTOR® members testified before the Joint Committee on Small Business and Community Development on S119 An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy (The H.O.M.E. Bill). Our membership provided examples of how zoning laws impact the development of real estate in Massachusetts.

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief

The Issue:

The general tax rule that applies to debt forgiven treats the amount forgiven, sometimes referred to as phantom income, as taxable income to the borrower. Proposed legislation 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 that debt. This 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.

The Update:

This fall, the Joint Committee on Revenue gave the bill a favorable report and it advanced to the House Committee on Ways & Means. MAR testified before the committee on the importance of this tax provision and is continuing to work with the committee on the details of the proposal.

Scrap Metal Theft

The Issue:

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.

The Update:

On October 14th the House of Representatives unanimously passed An Act regulating secondary metals dealings. MAR Staff was joined by REALTOR® members to testify before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure and requested that the committee advance the bill quickly. Shortly thereafter the committee reported the legislation favorably. The bill now awaits action by the Senate.

Energy Efficiency

The Issue:

MAR continues to work with interested parties on increasing energy efficiency in Massachusetts and therefore reducing utility costs to homeowners. Some proposals, however, attempt to reach this goal without concern for property rights or impacts on the Massachusetts housing economy. One bill 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. Additionally, the bill commissions 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.

The Update:

MAR testified in opposition to the bill in June. MAR has met with the Chairs of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee and continues to work with them on this issue. The bill remains in committee at this time.

2013-2014 Legislative Victories

Flood Insurance

MAR worked closely with Speaker DeLeo and then Attorney General Coakley to pass legislation that limits the amount of flood insurance a lender can require on a home. Although we recognize that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is federally regulated, it is crucial that as one of the most affected states, Massachusetts does all that it can to help protect the interests and homes of its residents. Our combination of old housing stock, high cost of living and prominent coastline make flood insurance an essential, but expensive, aspect of a home.

Governor Patrick’s Fiscal Year Budget Recommendations

Governor Patrick’s FY ’14 budget recommendations contained the repeal of three very important tax provisions for REALTORS®. MAR worked tirelessly to ensure that the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate understood the importance of these provisions detailed below and rejected Governor Patrick’s Proposals.

CAPITAL GAINS EXCLUSION ON HOME SALES

This section of the budget would have removed one of the primary ways in which families accumulate wealth for retirement and the purchase of future homes. Had the Governor succeeded in eliminating this provision, the average homeowner would have been subject to a tax bill of over $4,000 just for selling a home. This would be the equivalent of a $250,000,000 annual sales tax on home sales in Massachusetts.

LEAD PAINT TAX CREDIT

The repeal of this tax credit would have put children at a much greater risk for lead poisoning; particularly those children of low and moderate-income families who own or reside in older homes. The credit is also important as it can remove lead paint from vacant apartments and help bring the much-needed living space back on the market.

TITLE V TAX CREDIT

The repeal of this tax credit would have added significant financial strain on low- and moderate-income homeowners. Without this incentive, fewer people will upgrade failing septic systems resulting in significant environmental risks.

Residential Sprinkler System Requirement

The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget included a provision that would have granted municipalities the authority to mandate the installation of automatic sprinklers in new or substantially rehabilitated one and two family homes. MAR successfully lobbied the Conference Committee to reject the Senate proposal and it was not included in the FY 2015 budget sent to, and signed, by the governor.


 

Each individual listed below is linked to their Massachusetts Legislators web page.  This page includes all contact information, as well as e-mail, when available.

State of Massachusetts

Berkshire Representatives & Senator:

United States Senate

United States Congress

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Berkshire Realtors’ Housing Summit, 2018!

Get Ready – We’ve got an AWESOME event in the works… we are still working on the details, but we want you to save the date now for SEPTEMBER 20th!  We are happy to share that have planned a major Berkshire Realtors’ 2018 Housing Summit at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield to offer an opportunity for legislators, town leaders, housing practitioners and the general public to get the latest information on our market, exchange ideas to overcome challenges and build relationships to support a healthy housing market and ultimately a healthy Berkshire economy.

We are still in the planning stages for the detailed agenda but are hoping to secure an AMAZING keynote speaker for this event.  It’s important now, because we know that every successful region has dynamic and diverse neighborhoods with a mix of housing opportunities, legislation that supports a well-balanced housing market, and protection of private property rights for all.  And we need to work together with committed individuals at this crossroad.  Our Housing Summit will:

  • Update and inform the housing community about the current housing state of affairs;
  • Engage participants with different viewpoints in positive conversations;
  • Provide targeted information on barriers to housing production or housing in general;
  • Advise policy makers and housing providers about necessary local changes; and
  • Promote opportunities for action to help our Berkshire housing market.

Community Stakeholders to Be Invited:

  • Legislators on the local, state and national levels.
  • MA Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, MA Office of HUD
  • Town Managers, Councils, and Local Housing Authorities and Trusts
  • Regional Housing Authorities, Boards and Associations.
  • Massachusetts Association of REALTORS, MassHousing, MA Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association’s
  • Real Estate Professionals, Area Builders & Lenders and Interested Members of the General Public

If you have suggestions or input, please send Sandy@BerkshireRealtors.org a message and she will make sure the Government Affairs or Leadership working on the details see it!

I-90 Interchange Study Meeting

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is working on a study that will evaluate the feasibility of adding an interchange on I-90 between Exits 2 and 3.  On Monday, April 30, 2018 stop by between 4:30 PM to 7:00 PM at the Blandford Town Hall, 1 Russell Stage Road, Blandford, MA, there will be a

April is Fair Housing Month

50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act In 2018 the National Association of REALTORS® will join with partners and allies in a year-long commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The commemoration will focus on three key elements of Fair Housing: Acknowledging the organization’s past role in the fight for fair housing; Understanding how
Town Monitor Program of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.

Berkshire REALTOR Town Monitors

Town Monitors are the key players that connect the Berkshire Board of REALTORS to the communities we serve. A Town Monitor is asked to alert the CEO on any issue related to real estate and private property rights affecting the community.  The CEO and the Government Affairs Committee will take this information and learn about
broadband_lastmile

Town Monitor Update: Broadband Open Meeting

A Message from Berkshire REALTOR’s Town Monitor for Monterey, George Cain:  At our last Government Affairs Committee Meeting, we had a brief discussion regarding the County’s Broadband challenges.  Most of the communities in the County have been seeking a broadband solution for 2+ years, and not many towns have made much progress. Monterey is somewhat unique
broadband_lastmile

Last Mile Broadband Funding Passed MA House and Senate

Finally some good legislative news – The Massachusetts House and Senate took action to provide additional funding for the Last Mile Program in a bond bill PASSED by both chambers, the bill authorizes funding up to $32 million for grants for cities, towns, and regional organizations for capital planning, design, infrastructure, and construction of broadband
Health Care Changes

A Couple of Healthcare Bummers

Amid some worrisome news about health care costs for Baystate residents, you may have seen hopeful news that the President also talked about expanding health coverage opportunities to Association Health Plans (AHP).  These types of group plans have long offered promise for small business owners and self-employed individuals seeking affordable health coverage. Unfortunately, NAR reports

3 Minute Train Survey

We are pleased to report that our association has been included in the Berkshire Flyer Working Group of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Realtor Billy Keane, Board Member and Government Affairs Committee Member, was appointed to represent our association in this capacity.  The Berkshire Flyer Workgroup is examining if it might be possible to establish
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