Housing bank bill gets Beacon Hill hearing

Legislation is one of three transfer fee bills that would allow for creation of a housing bank.

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Rep. Dylan Fernandes, shown here at a 2019 climate change talk, is urging support for his housing bank bill. — Gabrielle Mannino

The Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank (CCMVHB) is asking organizations, town boards, and committees, private citizens of all ages, and others to send testimony in support of a transfer fee bill for affordable housing to the state legislature before the 5 pm deadline Friday.

The Massachuestts legislature’s joint committee on revenue set a hearing at 3 pm Thursday for a transfer fee bill, H.2895, put forward by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Rep. Elizabeth Malia, D-Boston. The bill would allow cities and towns to set a 2 percent transfer fee on real estate transactions, with an exemption threshold of $1 million. In its current form, cities and towns can set their fee at 0 to 1.8 percent that will go toward affordable housing, while 0.2 percent would go to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development for statewide affordable housing measures.

Testimony for H.2895 can be sent to ryan.sterling@mahouse.gov, with a cc to Fernandes’ legislative aide at carlie.clarcq@mahouse.gov. The coalition created a draft letter for proponents, which can be found here. Those sending testimony are urged to include name, town, represented organization or business, and contact information.

“Families across the state are suffering from a profoundly unaffordable housing crisis where ultra-wealthy homebuyers are displacing lifelong residents, and not enough units exist to house working families,” Fernandes said in an email. “This bill gives communities like the Vineyard the option, if they choose to enact it, to impose a small fee on ultra-rich people buying luxury homes and properties to fund affordable housing and create a lasting solution to our housing crisis.”

The Fernandes/Malia bill is one of three bills in front of the legislature that seek to create transfer fees for affordable housing, and would pave the way for Martha’s Vineyard to create a housing bank.

S.868 and H.1377 are the Senate and House versions of the same bill, with identical language. Those bills set the exemption threshold at the state median, which is $503,000. It gives cities and towns the option to raise their exemption threshold.

The coalition’s idea is to model a housing bank after the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, and collect a 2 percent transfer fee on real estate transactions, paid by the buyer, but only on all dollars above $1 million: A home purchased for $999,999 would be exempt from the fee, while a home purchased for $1.2 million would be taxed 2 percent on $200,000.

The Vineyard joins Boston, Summerville, Concord, Cambridge, Brookline, Nantucket, and the Pioneer Valley area in support of transfer-fee legislation.

CCMVHB co-chair Julie Fay said this is one of the first steps in working to pass the legislation.

“The enabling legislation is an important piece allowing Martha’s Vineyard, Boston, and other regions and cities across the state to do what they need to do to support affordable housing,” Fay told The Times. “We really appreciate the legislature taking a look at this, and we hope the bill is reported favorably out of committee to make sure the conversation can continue at the state level.” 

Fay added that each transfer-fee bill is important, and it is critical to keep them all in the conversation moving forward, to give legislators a menu of options to choose from as they craft a bill.

Several Island organizations have sent testimony in support of the legislation, such as Island Grown Initiative, Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, Harbor Homes, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Tisbury and West Tisbury planning boards, Oak Bluffs Business Association, Dukes County Health Council, and others.

1 COMMENT

  1. The taking of Vineyard homeowners’ hard-earned equity in order to fund affordable housing development is not only fundamentally unjust, it will have devastating consequences for the natural environment. Likeminded folks are encouraged to join us. We need to make our voices heard. The name of our group is Keep Our Island Green.

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