Rep. Connolly's Transfer Fee Legislation Wins Committee Approval As Momentum Builds On Beacon Hill

Momentum for a real estate transfer fee to fund local affordable housing programs continues to grow with some major developments over the past several weeks.

Just before the holidays last month, Representative Mike Connolly's local option transfer fee legislation was voted on favorably by the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. This marks the first time a local option transfer fee bill has moved forward and out of committee this session.

The bill, H.1769, "An Act supporting affordable housing with a local option for a fee to be applied to certain real estate transactions," would authorize cities and towns to impose a fee of up to 2% on the transfer of real property. The revenue raised from the fee would go into the municipalities’ affordable housing trust fund. Exemptions may include transfers between family members, transfers of convenience, transfers to the government, vulnerable seniors, low-income individuals, or any other exemption the municipality deems appropriate. For example, Somerville would plan to exempt owner occupants from paying the fee.

In September, Rep Connolly presented the bill for a public hearing before the committee alongside House colleagues Reps. Denise Provost and Christine Barber and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. Other speakers in support of the transfer fee bill included Somerville City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, Ellen Shachter, Director Somerville Office of Housing Stability, Pamela Hallett  from the Housing Corporation of Arlington, Caroline Bays of the Watertown Town Council, David Lescohier, a Brookline Town Meeting Member, Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn,  Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association, Michael Kane from the Mass Alliance of HUD tenants, Lisa Owens from City Life Vida Urbana, Isaac Simon-Hodes of Lynn United for Change, Jessica Drew of Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, Danny LeBlanc from the Mass. Association of Community Development Corporations, and local housing activists Kristen Strezo and Meredith Porter.

“Achieving this milestone is a testament to the support and hard work of a diverse coalition of local elected leaders representing different municipalities and affordable housing advocates and developers. This legislation is all about putting new tools for raising local funds for affordable housing directly in the hands of those on the front lines of this housing emergency and I want to thank Chair O'Day for his leadership in working to advance this bill out of committee"

City of Boston adopts Transfer Fee home rule petition

Around the same time last month, the City of Boston joined the growing list of of municipalities working to advance a transfer fee. On Monday, Mayor Walsh signed a Home Rule Petition, sending to the Legislature a proposal to asses a fee on the transfer of property valued over 2 million dollars. If the Legislature approves the petition, this would enable the City of Boston to levy the fee which would raise roughly $200 million for the cities' affordable housing trust.

"I'm excited by the movement growing in support of giving new revenue tools to those on the front lines of the affordable housing emergency", Rep Connolly said. "Boston now joins Somerville, Nantucket, Concord and others in formally asking the State to grant it the legal authority it needs to raise the revenue to remedy this crisis. I want to recognize the leadership of Boston City Councilors Lydia Edwards and Kim Janey, the local housing activists, and of course thank Mayor Walsh for signing. I am confident as our movement for housing for all grows, a real estate transfer fee will soon be reality for the municipalities that want to deploy this tool."

“The Transfer Fee Coalition was very excited to learn that H.1769 sponsored by Rep. Mike Connolly was reported favorably out of Committee," said Ellen Shachter, Director of the Office of Housing Stability for the City of Somerville.  "This favorable report helps the Coalition to move forward on this critical legislation which would provide municipalities the flexible authorization they need to raise critically needed funds for affordable housing and to design a transfer fee that is right for their community. We are also thrilled that Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston is sending a home rule petition for a real estate transfer fee to the Legislature. We hope that as more and more communities identify a real estate transfer fee as a key tool for preventing displacement and maintaining the diversity of our cities, momentum will build for passage of critical enabling legislation." 

“It’s important for Massachusetts to take this step in addressing the housing crisis and give towns and cities the authority to have more tools to provide homes for all and make housing a human right," said Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association. "Housing affordability is no longer just a working class issue, many young professionals and graduate students are struggling to find an affordable place to live in Boston and elsewhere, so the State needs to do its part to empower municipalities on the front lines."