The Housing Bank Review Committee (HBRC) heard amendment proposals to the Housing Bank Act from the Coalition to Create the M.V. Housing Bank (CCMVHB) at its Wednesday meeting.
John Abrams, representing the coalition, thumbed through the act as written, providing proposals for changes to the material. In addition to highlighting the need to further define certain terms, such as “previously developed buildings” and “new construction,” in order to prevent possible future debate on interpretations, the committee was presented with amendment proposals specific to conservation and nitrogen-offset mitigation.
Abrams said of selecting proposals for funding, priority should be given to projects located on existing developed properties, and consist of infill development, in addition to reducing nitrogen loading, mitigating the effects of climate change, and have a “master plan to delineate a path to fossil-fuel-free operation and net-zero energy consumption.”
According to the act as currently worded, all new construction, funded entirely or in part by the Housing Bank, should be able to “achieve a home energy system rating of zero, and produce no new net nitrogen pollution,” with the requirement that all projects funded fully or in part by the Housing Bank “minimize disturbances to the local ecology.”
Proposed additions to the act further emphasize environmental safeguarding, requiring all land classified by the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as prime farmland to be protected, along with prohibiting development in priority habitat areas, per the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.
Also taken up by the committee as a proposed amendment was the addition of a clause that would allow the Housing Bank to get set up structurally, before being legally able to enact the 2 percent fee on real estate transactions over $1 million. Because it is “unlikely” that the state enabling legislation will pass this year, coalition coordinator Laura Silber said the Housing Bank would be created “with the expectation that transfer fees are going to be coming in.”
Further clarifying, Abrams said, “We could have an unfunded Housing Bank, [but] get rolling on the organizational part [before] the transfer fee is actually made available by the statewide legislation.” He explained that the clause “provides potential flexibility and potential speed to us having a Housing Bank.”