The REALTORS® Agenda in Massachusetts for 2019
February 6, 2019 Government & Community Affairs
The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® and the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS® have rolled out their state legislative agenda for 2019 and 2020. These issues are essential to advancing REALTORS® ability to operate, protecting a property owner’s ability to transfer property, and making the community as a desirable and viable place to live and do business.
REALTORS® are supporting legislation on Beacon Hill that:
- Increases housing affordability and availability;
- Expands home ownership opportunities to make home within reach of all;
- Increases professionalism of all real estate licensees to better serve consumers.
REALTORS® are opposing efforts on Beacon Hill that:
- Makes buying and selling real estate in Massachusetts more expensive;
- Stigmatizes properties and burdens sellers with costly home audits.
Here are the details:
On efforts to create more housing affordability and availability:
REALTORS® Support the H.O.M.E. Bill
Developed by MAR in 2014, seeks to remove existing barriers to housing production through several complex zoning changes. For example, it would increase availability of open space or “cluster” development that allows for smaller lot acreage requirements than traditional subdivisions, thus diversifying housing options and preserving open space. The Bill also removes barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Commonly known as
in-law apartments, ADUs are small, self-contained dwellings with their own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area associated with a single-family home. ADUs will provide more housing options and help homeowners enhance the value of their homes. Finally, it promotes local development by easing restrictions on zoning variance and site plan review procedures.
REALTORS® Support the Housing Choices Bill
An Act to promote housing choices, a bill that nearly passed with our support last session was again named by the Governor as one of his top priorities. The Bill gives municipalities more tools and incentives to increase housing development including: permitting cities and towns to modify zoning laws by simple majority rather than the current 2/3 majority vote for certain issues; increasing housing production options for smart growth zoning districts, such as allowing cluster development and ADUs; and enhances the ability to add housing near public transportation hubs.
On initiatives to make housing opportunities more accessible to all:
REALTORS® Support Creating First-Time Home Buyer Savings Accounts
In a bill that is a national movement by REALTORS® and offered by Cape & Islands State Senator Julian Cyr, this bill would establish first-time homebuyer savings accounts, permitting 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. This measure will help people save towards homeownership, leading in turn to wide-ranging economic and community benefits, including payment of property taxes, local business patronization, and community stability.
REALTORS® Support not Taxing Sellers on Phantom Income
This bill would align the state with a 2007 federal law, allowing homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales, and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on the that debt. Currently, the amount of forgiven debt, sometimes referred to as phantom income, is treated as taxable income to the borrower, meaning distressed homeowners who need debt forgiveness are suddenly and counter intuitively faced with a large state tax bill. This bill would provide these individuals with some peace of mind and much needed monetary relief, increasing their potential for future homeownership.
On legislation to increase professionalism of all real estate licensees to better serve consumers:
REALTORS® Support Enhancing the Power of the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons
This bill would enhance the Real Estate Board’s authority to revise the rules and regulations governing continuing education requirements for real estate licensees. This bill would bring real estate in line with most other licensed professions by providing a greater ability to self-regulate, assuring that continuing education remains relevant and nimble while facing changes in technology and the profession.
On more taxes on buyers and sellers of homes and businesses in Massachusetts:
REALTORS® Oppose Increasing or Adding More Real Estate Transfer Taxes or Deed Excise Taxes
The imposition of more or higher real estate transfer taxes would have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. The Governor proposed a transfer tax in the form a 50% increase in the deeds excise tax in a bill entitled, An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth. In addition, Massachusetts communities facing budgetary deficiencies regularly seek transfer tax authority to solve local revenue problems. However, creating an entrance or exit fee to homeownership is the wrong way to solve climate change or municipal funding problems. Transfer taxes increase the bottom-line price of most homes by thousands of dollars, providing an additional barrier to homeownership for many, while also inequitably singling out home buyers and sellers to carry a disproportionate weight in funding government programs.
On stigmatizing our historic properties and putting costly mandates on home sellers:
REALTORS® Oppose Mandatory Home Energy Audits Prior to Selling a House
Bills and proposed regulations that would require sellers or their agents to have their home inspected and rated through a MassSave energy audit prior to listing a home for sale are opposed by REALTORS®. In addition to having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer property, such requirements would negatively affect the real estate industry in the Commonwealth, which is home to some of the oldest housing stock in the country. Mandatory energy scoring of these older homes would significantly stigmatize and devalue many individuals’ largest investment.