2019-2020 Legislative Priorities: (Please note that these priorities are subject to change)
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, thus 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 on zoning variance and site plan review.
- An Act to promote housing choices, a bill that nearly passed with our support last session was again named by the Governor as one of his top priorities. The Bill gives municipalities more tools and incentives to increase housing development 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
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 save towards homeownership, leading in turn to wide-ranging economic and community benefits, including payment of property taxes, local business patronization, and community
- 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 need debt forgiveness are suddenly and counterintuitively faced with a large state tax bill. This bill would provide these individuals with some peace of mind and much needed monetary relief, increasing their potential for future
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 the 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 providing a greater ability to self-regulate, assuring that continuing education remains relevant and nimble while facing changes in technology and the
Oppose Transfer Taxes
- REALTORS® strongly oppose any new real estate transfer taxes which authorize the creation of a tax on the sale of a home. The imposition of this type of tax on housing would 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 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, while also inequitably singling out home buyers and sellers to carry a disproportionate weight in funding government
Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring
- We oppose bills and proposed regulations that would require sellers or their agents to have their home inspected and rated through a MassSave energy audit prior to listing a home for sale. In addition to having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer property, 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 devalue many individuals’ largest
Here is a very brief video update of our advocacy week issues, along with a quick glimpse at some Berkshire Housing numbers that help explain our current housing inventory pressures. (7 minutes)
At the same time we have been advocating on a local and state level this week, NAR also released a statement about the decades of underinvestment and underbuilding that have created a shortage of housing in America. They state that is more dire than previously expected and will require a concerted, long-term nationwide commitment to overcome. Housing is Critical Infrastructure: Social and Economic Benefits of Building More Housing outlines causes and offers numerous potential solutions for both federal and local-level policymakers to consider, but warns that immediate action must be taken across all levels of government, no matter the approach.
“The state of America’s housing stock… is dire, with a chronic shortage of affordable and available homes [needed to support] the nation’s population,” the report asserts. “A severe lack of new construction and prolonged underinvestment [have led] to an acute shortage of available housing… to the detriment of the health of the public and the economy. The scale of underbuilding and the existing demand-supply gap is enormous… and will require a major national commitment to build more housing of all types.”
Growth in America’s housing inventory has slowed significantly since the turn of the century, particularly over the past decade. This trend affects every region of the country, creating what the NAR report calls an “underbuilding gap” of 5.5 to 6.8 million housing units since 2001.
“There is a strong desire for homeownership across this country, but the lack of supply is preventing too many Americans from achieving that dream,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “It’s clear from the findings of this report and from the conditions we’ve observed in the market over the past few years that we’ll need to do something dramatic to close this gap.”
Among other, more specific policy recommendations, the report’s authors argue that lawmakers must work to expand access to resources, remove barriers to and incentivize new development, and make housing construction an integral part of a national infrastructure strategy.
“A number of factors from the past 20 years are responsible for the massive housing investment gap we see in America today, but what’s important now is that we find solutions that will get us out of this crisis and provide more stability in future markets,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler, who noted adequate increases in housing construction this decade would add an estimated 2.8 million American jobs and $50 billion in new, nationwide tax revenue. “Additional public funding and policy incentives for construction will very clearly provide huge benefits to our nation’s economy, and our work to close this gap will be particularly impactful for lower-income households, households of color and millennials.”
Today’s release comes on the heels of a separate report unveiled by NAR earlier this year. State and Local Policy Strategies to Advance Housing Affordability recommended that lawmakers pursue solutions through financial policy measures, policies aimed at increasing the supply of housing, and zoning and permitting policy reform.