New Housing Production Law Passes
After years of advocacy, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) is celebrating the passage of a new housing production law! The Housing Choices law implements zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority. This will make it easier for municipalities to rezone for denser, transit- or downtown-oriented, new housing development.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Legislature approved the creation of a new zoning type that will allow for increased production near MBTA stations and other public transportation hubs, as well as $60 million in new affordable housing funding as part of a larger economic development bill signed in the final days of the 2019-2020 legislative session.
Significantly, GBREB/GBAR and the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® not only worked tirelessly to support the Housing Choices measure, but also led a coalition of industry groups to oppose two onerous provisions of the economic development bill that would have hurt property owners. Most notably, the legislation sent by the state lawmakers to the Governor’s desk included “Right of First Refusal” language that would have required multifamily property owners at the time of sale to provide tenants with the opportunity to purchase the dwelling. If passed, this provision would have caused significant delays in the property transaction. However, GBREB, MAR and other industry groups worked successfully to urge Gov. Baker to veto this provision of the bill which he did on January 14. The economic development bill also provided for a new surcharge for hotels and motels, but REALTOR® advocacy efforts helped to protect short-term rentals from having to pay this additional fee.
Finally, Gov. Baker vetoed language in the legislation that would have sealed all records in eviction cases from public view, a move backed by GBREB. In taking the action, the Governor explained that the provision would have allowed for the sealing of no-fault eviction cases, but also cases where a tenant endangers others or engages in criminal activity. “Keeping this kind of information sealed is unfair to landlords and creates unnecessary risk for other tenants,” Baker stated.