Legislative Breakfast Dives Into Important Issues

The CCIAOR Legislative Breakfast was a packed house last Friday. The discussion and engagement between area legislators and REALTORS® was lively and showed how REALTORS® have continued work to do in their advocacy of homeownership and property rights issues for Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Almost everyone from the legislative delegation attended. Senators Julian Cyr and Vinny deMacedo, and representatives Tim Whelan, Randy Hunt, Sarah Peake, David Vieira and Will Crocker were all in attendance. Representative Dylan Fernandes had a personal conflict and could not attend.

The meeting focused on the REALTOR® legislative priorities in the State House. These priorities include:

  • Supporting the establishment of first-time home buyer savings accounts: This program would allow 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 similar to the way that Health Savings Accounts are structured.

What was said on the issue: This bill is sponsored by Senator Cyr. He articulated strong support of the issue; during the breakfast, others on the delegation all signaled their support for the bill.

  • Opposing mandatory energy audits and energy scoring of homes: These bills seek to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and to disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bills commission 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 older homes would significantly
    stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s single largest investment.

What was said on the issue: Representative Hunt was thanked for his opposition to mandatory energy audits and energy scoring of homes during a committee meeting last week where the bill was sent to study, which effectively kills it for this legislative session.

  • Support of the HOME Bill and support of Governor Baker’s Housing Choices Initiative: Due to the short supply of housing in Massachusetts, potential homeowners continue to face ever increasing housing costs. One of the many issues driving the reduced housing stock are barriers to production resulting from current zoning laws. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® in conjunction with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board has worked with legislators to file 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. Governor Baker’s Housing Choices Initiatives seeks to financially incentivize towns who pass pro-housing zoning and also reduce the threshold at Town Meeting to a simple majority – from a 2/3rds majority – for pro-housing initiatives.

What was said on the issue: Representative Vieira says he intends to support the Governor’s proposal, adding he’s always been against lowering the threshold of zoning articles to a simple majority because property rights are sacred, and before they are taken away from an individual, there should be a super majority vote. However, from what he’s seen so far, the Governor’s proposal only allows a simple majority vote where property rights are being expanded, not taken away (REALTORS® agree). Representative Sarah Peake also indicated support for the governor’s initiative and for land use reforms contained in the HOME bill.

  • Oppose the expansion of the rooms tax: REALTORS® oppose bills imposing a room
    occupancy tax on short term vacation rentals. These proposals promote the creation of a new tax on all homeowners who choose to rent their homes for a short term, typically under 90 days. These proposals would allow a city or town to levy a room occupancy tax on any apartment, single or multiple family housing, cottage, condominium or timeshare unit in addition to established businesses like hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments. Private homeowners would then therefore be responsible for the collection, handling, and remittance of these taxes to the Department of Revenue.

What was said on the issue: Representative Peake updated the group on the latest machinations of the House proposal on taxing short term rentals. She detailed to the group how the House proposal gets into regulating short-term rentals more than taxing them and forces collections on the “hosts,” which would be the real estate companies displaying the listings online. Peake came out in opposition to that concept and over-regulating short-term rentals, however, she still favors expanding rooms tax to include them. Here is the House Financial Services bill and the overview of that legislation.

Your Association of REALTORS will continue to be advocating for your business, your clients, and your community on these and important issues. Please reach out and share your thoughts and have conversations with CCIAOR’s CEO Ryan Castle, who works on your behalf on these issues.

Also, be sure to save the date of June 7th for the annual REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill, where CCIAOR joins other REALTOR® Associations around the state to meet with legislators on these and other important issues.