Rep. Connolly's Housing Policy Amendments to the Economic Development Bill

JULY 12, 2022

Dear Honorable Colleagues,

I am writing to invite you to co-sponsor any and all of the following four housing policy amendments to H.5007, An Act Relating to Economic Growth and Relief for the Commonwealth:

Amendment #176 — Local Option Real Estate Transfer Fee for Housing Affordability. This is enabling legislation for a local transfer fee of between 0.5% and 2% on real estate transactions above the statewide median sale price for single family homes (currently about $529,000) or the county median sale price if a locality’s median is lower than the statewide median. All funds raised by a local transfer fee would go toward local affordable housing production or preservation. The bill also allows for broad and locally-determined exemptions. For example, the City of Somerville intends to exempt owner-occupant sellers and would-be owner-occupant purchasers, while the City of Boston has indicated a desire to exempt properties with values under $2 million. This concept passed committee last session, and the text of this amendment has since been refined to represent the collective work of the Local Option for Housing Affordability (LOHA) coalition. To date, Arlington, Boston, Brookline, Concord, Nantucket, Provincetown, Truro, Cambridge, Chatham, Wellfleet, and Somerville have all passed transfer fee home rule petitions — this amendment would give these municipalities (and any others that wish to do so) the option of doing more to address the ongoing affordable housing emergency in an equitable fashion.

Amendment #113 — Simple-majority approval standard for inclusionary zoning ordinances. Last session, we enacted the Governor's Housing Choice bill, which allows for a simple-majority vote to approve certain housing-related zoning ordinances on the municipal level. However, despite this action, Inclusionary Zoning ordinances still require a 2/3rds vote for approval. This is inherently inequitable, since it is Inclusionary Zoning ordinances that actually require a certain percentage of new housing to be set aside as deed-restricted affordable. Now that we've passed Housing Choice into law, this amendment gives us the opportunity to put Inclusionary Zoning on the same footing as mixed-used zoning for housing development near transit. This concept, which I first started working on in the 2017-18 legislative session, has passed multiple committees over the years.

Amendment #26 — Increase rental deduction to $5,000. Gov. Baker proposed increasing the rental deduction from $3,000 to $5,000 in his tax relief package, but the bill now before us only proposes increasing this deduction to $4,000. As a longtime renter representing a district that largely consists of renters, it’s disappointing to me that our proposal might end up being less generous to renters than what the Governor proposed and less generous than what had passed the Revenue Committee earlier this month. Of the five major tax cuts proposed by the bill now before us, this is by fair the least expensive, and it is also the one that reaches the most taxpayers in the Commonwealth.

Amendment #859 — Special Legislative Commission on Housing as a Human Right. Our constituents are too often facing impossible housing situations, with a lack of affordable housing options, widespread displacement, unsustainable cost burdens, and increasing homelessness being found all across the Commonwealth. While we have done important work to address these matters, so much more remains to be done. This Commission would include a broad range of stakeholders representing tenants, homeowners, small landlords, housing justice organizers and advocates, real estate development professionals, municipal officials, regional planning experts, organized labor, and those with other relevant backgrounds. The Commission will be charged with with examining three main topics: (1) policies relevant to housing stability for tenants, homeowners, and landlords, including but not limited to, local option rent stabilization and good cause eviction protections; (2) policies designed to end homelessness in the Commonwealth, including but not limited to, Housing First programs, low threshold housing programs, and wrap-around services, and (3) policies necessary to guarantee housing for all people in the Commonwealth, including but not limited to, social housing, community land trusts, public housing, and public-private partnerships. Because of the urgency of the housing emergency, the Commission would work throughout the fall and issue findings and recommendations in time for the start of the 2023-24 legislative session.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my staff should you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these housing policy amendments.

Thank you kindly for your consideration of these requests.

Yours in service,