Housing for All Caucus Holds April Meeting

On Tuesday, April 4th at noon over sixty members, staff, and housing advocates joined Co-Chairs Representative Connolly and Senator Cyr for the April meeting of the Housing for All caucus.

When the caucus launched earlier this year, we heard from a number of advocacy organizations who were interested in presenting their priorities to the caucus. This list, while not exhaustive, is a result of that initial outreach, and the caucus hopes to invite more groups to future meetings.

Lydia Lowe on behalf of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Coalition (TOPA) presented on S.880/H.1350, An Act to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal sponsored by Senator Patricia Jehlen and Reps. Jay Livingstone and Rob Consalvo. TOPA is an enabling act which would allow cities and towns a local option to provide tenants in multi-family buildings the right to match a third-party offer when their homes are being sold. Tenants can designate their rights to a non-profit or local housing authority, or partner with an affordable housing purchaser. Click here to access the TOPA Coalition's fact sheet.

Kelly Turley on behalf of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless presented on H.1312/S.856, An Act providing upstream homelessness prevention assistance to families, youth, and adults sponsored by Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Brendan Crighton. This bill would put the RAFT homelessness prevention program into state statute, and ensure that benefits are available to households early in a housing or utility crisis. The bill also seeks to streamline access to RAFT, improve cross-agency collaboration, and allow households to access the resources needed to clear arrearages without arbitrary caps on assistance levels.  This bill would require DHCD to coordinate with the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH) member agencies and offices, and the RAFT Regional Administering Agencies. Click here to access the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet.

Andrea Park on behalf of Homes for All Massachusetts (H4A) presented  on S.1299/H.2103, An Act enabling cities and towns to stabilize rents and protect tenants sponsored by Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representatives Dave Rogers and Samantha Montaño. This bill would repeal the ban on rent control and enable municipalities to enact local rent control ordinances to stabilize housing costs and prevent no-cause evictions. H4A also presented on S.653/H.942, An Act establishing a Massachusetts foreclosure prevention program. Sponsored by Senator Adam Gomez and Representatives Christine Barber and Peter Capano. This bill would establish a statewide Foreclosure Prevention Program to require servicers to participate in pre-foreclosure mediation with homeowners to explore alternatives to foreclosures. Click here and here to access the Homes for All Massachusetts’s fact sheets.

Matt Walsh on behalf of the Local Option for Affordability Coalition (LOHA) presented on H.2747/S.1771, An Act granting a local option real estate transfer fee to fund affordable housing sponsored by Representative Mike Connolly and Senator Jo Comerford. The bill authorizes a transfer fee between 0.5% and 2% on real estate transactions above $1,000,000 or the county median sale price for a single family home (if a municipality's county median sales price is below $750,000). All funds raised by a local transfer fee would be dedicated to affordable housing production and preservation. The bill mandates certain exemptions, including on properties sold for less than $1,000,000 or county median sale price, and allows cities and towns to tailor additional exemptions to meet the unique needs of their community. Click here to access the LOHA coalitions fact sheet.

Mark Martinez on behalf of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) presented on H.1731/S.864,  An Act promoting access to counsel and housing stability in Massachusetts sponsored by Representatives Dave Rogers and Michael Day and Senator Sal DiDomenico. This legislation will create an Access to Counsel Program that provides legal representation for tenants and owner-occupants with low incomes in eviction proceedings.  Legal help and access to the right resources before a court eviction can prevent homelessness, stop illegal or unnecessary evictions, avoid displacement, and create a path to housing stability. The program would be phased in over five years and would help in raising awareness about tenant rights. Click here to access the MLRI fact sheet.

Phil Jones on behalf of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and Eric Shupin on behalf of Citizens’ Housing Planning Association (CHAPA) presented on their Safe and Dignified State Public Housing campaign. Safe and Dignified State Public Housing. The campaign seeks approval of $184 million in operating funds for Local Housing Authorities across the Commonwealth in the 2024 annual budget and the authorization through the 2023 five-year housing bond bill of $8.5 billion in capital funds to sustain public housing facilities and work off the accumulated backlog of deferred capital projects. The campaign also includes legislation to enable a local option transfer fee and more tools for municipalities to implement the MBTA Communities Act.  Click here to access the GBIO fact sheet.

CHAPA’s priority for the session is the Housing Bond Bill, which is expected to be filed by the Governor once an Executive Office of Housing is created in the summer. CHAPA would like to see 20,000 deeply affordable homes by the end of the decade and the preservation of all of our public housing as a central element in the bill. This request would include $8.5 billion for public housing capital and over $2.5 billion for all the other affordable housing production and preservation resources in the next Housing Bond Bill. This $8.5 billion  figure represents the amounts needed to: (1) replace all expired components in the existing state public housing portfolio; (2) cover soft costs of 20–30%; and (3) complete additional critical upgrades for health and safety (i.e., adding sprinkler systems in buildings that do not have them). The figure is also in line with an estimate of $10 billion from the State Auditor in 2006 on the total development/replacement cost of the state public housing portfolio. Click here to access the CHAPA fact sheet.