A blow to affordable housing

Transfer fee for Nantucket withdrawn for now.

Sen. Julian Cyr, seeing the writing on the wall, withdrew an amendment for a transfer fee on Nantucket — a temporary blow for affordable housing advocates. — MV Times

Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank advocates were watching the state legislature closely this week, with the hopes that a home rule petition for a transfer fee on Nantucket would be approved.

But in a procedural move after seeing the writing on the wall, Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, made a decision to withdraw his amendment to the omnibus economic development bill. It was unlikely to pass, and Cyr didn’t want that — not with the momentum building for a transfer fee all around the state, and with Maura Healey as a strong candidate for governor. Even if it had passed, Cyr was concerned there was a strong possibility that Gov. Charlie Baker would veto it.

“If it’s going to be a no, you don’t want the body on record,” Cyr told The Times. “We’re going to come back on this issue, so you don’t want the body on record as a no.”

That happened in the House, a disappointing turn of events for affordable housing advocates who feel that Rep. Michael Connolly, D, rushed that vote.

Disappointed housing advocates on Nantucket, which has worked closely with its neighboring Island, blamed the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which has been opposed to the transfer fee. On Martha’s Vineyard, realtors showed strong support for a 2 percent transfer fee that would be collected 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.

Describing it as a marathon and not a sprint, Cyr said he intends to introduce the Martha’s Vineyard transfer fee bill next session, and with what he hopes will be Healey — who is on record as supporting the fee — at the helm.

“We kind of are at Heartbreak Hill. We are into this. The more that people understand and my colleagues understand the dire situation we’re in … You might not realize how fundamentally the rules have changed in home ownership,” he said, noting he can’t even afford a home in his district. “One of the biggest and most creative challenges is our failure on housing production. I’m broadly optimistic about a transfer fee moving forward, even though I’m disappointed we couldn’t get it done with the Nantucket amendment.”

Cyr equates the momentum with the short-term rental tax, which was resisted but ultimately won support as communities pushed the legislature into action.

Martha’s Vineyard voters overwhelmingly supported a Housing Bank at town meetings and in town elections this spring. A review committee is in the process of offering amendments to the home rule petition, which Cyr and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, will introduce next session.

“My goal is to get this done early in Gov. Healey’s tenure,” Cyr said. “See if we can get it done in the governor’s first budget.”

Though disappointed that it will take longer for their neighbors to ease their housing crunch, Martha’s Vineyard advocates understand why Cyr did what he did.

“Senator Cyr made repeated efforts to move the critically needed Nantucket Housing Bank/Transfer Fee Amendment. He withdrew the amendment in order to avoid a damaging negative vote in the face of opposition from Senate leadership orchestrated by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, “ Dan O’Connell, a member of the executive committee for the Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank, and the state’s former housing and economic development secretary, told The Times. “Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket real estate professionals overwhelmingly support the effort, and together, the Islands will prevail in the next legislative session.” 


  1. It’s not a blow to affordable housing, it’s a set back to the transfer tax housing bank. Meanwhile, the development of affordable housing will remain at a more environmentally sustainable rate. It is nice to read something positive in the news for a change. Keep Our Island Green

      • All cynicism aside, a healthy natural environment does benefit the economy. It is a big reason why people choose MV.

      • Conservation & Housing are not mutually exclusive. I have been on both the AQ Conservation Commission and the AQ Housing Committee for decades. Anyone who was around in the 90s will know how hard we worked to conserve Moshup Trail and I have also advocated for a Housing Bank since the beginning (who remembers SHAC- the Secure Housing Action Committee- from the early aughts, associated with the first Housing Bank effort 20 years ago?). The MV Housing Bank is some of the greenest legislation around. A MINIMUM of 75% of the funds generated through the Housing Bank are to be used on existing developed properties. Think of the Hancock House model, where a large structure was converted into housing for hospital workers. Efficient Energy retrofits make homes more affordable and reduce wasted resources, and high building standards are other ways this legislation is noteworthy for its consideration of environmental concerns as well as the character of our island. As another Housing advocate is wont to say, “ we can’t have island character without the characterS”, all the talented and unique people who partner with the beauty and unique vistas and habitats that make MVY a place people from around the world wish to visit. All these efforts take time and commitment and the Housing Bank will prevail because it has plenty of both behind it.

        • The natural environment cannot exist in the same location that housing exists. And the HB creating housing for more people to live here will certainly not improve the natural environment. “Island characters” always have and always will find a place on MV. There is no guarantee that such people will even qualify under the HB comission criteria. The HB Bank people have never commissioned a single environmental impact study so their representations are wishful thinking at best. What about all the new people occupying all that new housing? Nothing in the legislation limits the housing to people already on MV. There is no question that the HB will increase the rate of residential development and population growth, which is already 25% measured over the last ten years, the second highest growth rate in the Commonwealth. Overpoulation is the biggest environmental concern we have. So saying it is some of the “greenest legislation around”, compared to what for example?

  2. The issue was also the number of housing bills before the state legislature they were all different and we need to have one uniform bill. Marthas Vineyard was way too aggressive and should’ve been turned down. Now what does the newly formed housing bank committee do?

  3. The Housing Bank should never have assumed the entire burden would be carried
    by the buyers. Now that we have to add additional issues like rising interest rates, bear stock market and inflation they need to take a step back. While the need to increase affordable housing is admirable and necessary it must be executed within the confines of the current market and economic considerations.

  4. The headline can be viewed as misleading. Affordable housing and a Housing Bank tax are not synonymous. A proposed bureaucratic HB tax was never the only affordable housing game in town. This fallacy is how people who saw through the housing bank tax and voted against it were vilified as being against affordable housing, when this was never true.

  5. Landslide majorities in all six towns approved “An Act Establishing The MV Housing Bank”. Thank you Cyr (and others) for playing the long game to make it a reality!

  6. Much appreciation to the 100+ member groups of the statewide Local Option for Housing Affordability Coalition (https://www.realestatetransferfee.org/), including Mass General Brigham, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Planned Parenthood of MA, the MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Mass Association of Regional Planning Agencies, and the city/town governments and citizens of Cambridge, Boston, Arlington, Somerville, Chatham, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown & Nantucket for their active efforts moving the transfer fee forward this session. And to Senator Cyr for the dedicated efforts, and the wise strategic decision on Thursday. Onward to the 2023 legislative session!

  7. This was a blow to neither affordable housing, or the Housing Bank, or the transfer fee. It was entirely expected and strategically sound. If Nantucket’s legislation had passed, Gov Baker would likely have vetoed it. The Coalition is expecting that our probable next governor, Maura Healy, who is a strong transfer fee supporter, will push the legislature, early in the next session (starts Jan 2023), to pass a statewide transfer fee. There’s nothing momentary about this – it’s a long haul effort. Those of us who are deeply involved accepted this from the start. Ultimately it will succeed and it will transform the the future of the Vineyard and oh so many people who live here. Onward.

  8. After taking a few days to ponder my comment, I have to focus on the fact that the author of the article introduced the terms “Blow to Affordable Housing, disappointing turn, Disappointed housing advocates” but did not check in with the housing advocates. John Abrams provided the balance by indicating that the process was expected and strategically sound. As with the Nantucket housing advocates, the Vineyard group has been well organized, attentive to all Island resident directives, select boards and numerous Island organizations, and is proceeding in a well established, totally Island committed housing solution. The “red light” adjectives do not apply.

    As a realtor I will respond to Jean Kelleher’s comment, an Island realtor I have a great deal of respect for and have had the pleasure of working with. Ultimately, all funds come from the transaction. Though the Land Bank is paid by the buyer, the buyer puts that cost into the purchasing equation as will happen with a housing fee. It makes little difference who pays it because it becomes a part of the negotiation by either party. Further, as a seller leaves the Island and a new buyer becomes a member of our community, the need for services become critical; caretakers, housekeepers, gardeners, a list of plumbers and electricians, and the list goes on which we as real estate agents prepare for our buyers. As the housing disappears these services also disappear as we are all painfully witnessing today.

    To Dan Larkosh, my coimment is that you and the rest of us demonstrate the benefit of our great democracy which allows us to support our views, be respectful and continue to be friends, which I consider you to be Dan.

    • As the author of that article, you’re wrong. We reached out to the Coalition of which John Abrams is a member and they released a statement from Dan O’Connell, which is included in the story. Abrams, of course, can say they saw this coming. But shouldn’t he then explain why the coalition was so invested in Sen. Cyr’s amendment? And here’s a link to the Nantucket Current article on the same amendment being withdrawn. https://www.nantucketcurrent.com/facing-defeat-in-boston-cyr-withdraws-amendment-for-housing-bank-bill. They were clearly disappointed that the “Massachusetts Association of Realtors wins again.”

  9. George, If I may use your first name. I was a member of the board of the Cape Cod and Island Association of Realtors for five years representing the Vineyard. It is disappointing to me as a member for over 33 years that the Association takes such a narrow position, however they are expressing the position of the National Association of Realtors, to which I pay yearly dues. I feel that despite the strength of the Associaton of Realtors, the will of the people will prevail.
    Though I cannot speak for John Abrams, I can speak for myself and say that I am vested and support those who represent me at the legislature. I further understand that walking the political path is not always straight and direct, but that with persistance for a critical cause such as this which affects all of us, we will achieve this necessary goal. We both have our roles to play and open discussion such as this only helps to provide the transparency needed to successfully go forward. Thanks for responding and clarifying.

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