Hear from the Massachusetts Speaker of the House, Representative Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy), at the Chamber’s Government Affairs Forum.
9:45am - 11:00am
Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel
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Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
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Boston Convention and Exhibition Center
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June 8, 2022
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association, NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and the Real Estate Bar Association wish to record our strong opposition to transfer taxes. Transfer taxes hurt potential homebuyers by increasing prices  through inventory reduction  and applying pressure on home prices below tax carve outs. They also drive-up rents  and compound the pandemic’s devaluation of commercial property .
Our organizations collectively recognize the need for more housing at all income levels across the Commonwealth – both affordable and market rate. Limited supply drives the region’s high housing costs, and last session’s Housing Choice legislation gave communities an additional tool to increase housing production that is woefully needed and rarely permitted . Rather than creating new taxes that increase the cost of housing and undermine business competitiveness, municipalities should examine existing revenue streams, grants, one-time investments, and other actions, such as permitting more housing, to serve their community’s housing needs.
Municipalities have spurned existing affordable housing funding. Massachusetts created the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 2000 as a tool to help communities fund affordable housing. It creates a local property tax surcharge of up to three percent, a state funding match derived from a registry surcharge paid by homebuyers, and potential affordable housing allocation of up to 80%. It has generated over $2 billion in funding that could have been allocated to affordable housing. However, only 53% of communities currently use the CPA, and significantly fewer are maximizing their surcharge  or affordable housing allocations .
The eight communities with CPA spending histories that are requesting local taxes averaged spending only 35% of their allocation on affordable housing in 2021  and only four collect a three-percent CPA surcharge. The other five communities average a 1.3% surcharge, forgoing a total of $75 million in 2021. Our organizations urge communities across the Commonwealth to leverage the tools already available to encourage the production of housing, and not to implement additional taxation that will only serve to chill economic growth.
Taxing homes stifles housing diversity and inclusivity. Transfer taxes violate principles of tax fairness, discriminating against the small percentage of people in the state who buy or sell a home or commercial property annually. They also decrease housing supply, magnifying an already severe inventory shortage and increasing prices for homes below the tax threshold. This will most harm the middle class, who, for example, already face well above state average home prices in several of the communities requesting taxes.
Taxing homes will increase income stratification, raising the already expensive market rate price to become a homeowner. These taxes pose a logistical nightmare for buyers, sellers, closing attorneys, lenders, and the Registry of Deeds. They will require additional costs for the state and impose significant impediments for already complex transactions. These burdens will be another barrier to homeownership for middle- and lower-income people. Their transactions are already more complicated due to specific needs such as special financing or assistance programs. Adding transfer taxes will further limit their ability to become homeowners and build equity. Ultimately, these taxes discriminate against those looking to enter communities in favor of current homeowners, constraining community diversity and inclusivity.
Our organizations urge communities across the Commonwealth the leverage the tools already available, including zoning changes, to encourage the production of housing, and not to implement additional taxation that will only serve to chill economic growth. We urge you to oppose transfer taxes. Rather than punish property owners for their community’s restrictive and exclusionary practices, create pro-development policies and use the ample funds available to assist with housing affordability.
 For every $1,000 added to home costs, another 2,093 Massachusetts residents are priced out. https://www.nahb.org/-/media/NAHB/news-and-economics/docs/housing-economics-plus/special-studies/2021/special-study-nahb-priced-out-estimates-for-2021-february-2021.pdf
 See The Effects of Land Transfer Taxes on Real Estate Markets: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Toronto, https://repository.upenn.edu/real-estate_papers/52/
 Following New York’s enactment of increased transfer taxes on high value properties in April 2019, rents in New York City averaged a 5.63% year over year increase for 10 straight months until COVID-19 impacts started in March 2020. The 10 months prior to April 2019 averaged a rent decrease of 1.9%. See https://www.zumper.com/rent-research/new-york-ny
 Commercial real estate sales totals in Boston dropped 29% and 25% in 2020 and 2021 respectively compared with 2019 totals.
 From roughly 2016 through 2020, the eight communities proposing transfer taxes averaged a subsidized housing inventory increase of 0.5%, while adding over 19,000 inhabitants, an average per town population increase of 2%.
 40% of CPA communities have a 3% surcharge.
 The average housing allocation is 19%, the lowest percentage of any category. The average allocation to historic preservation is 25% and the average allocation to open space and recreation is 32%.
 Cape Cod communities have long sought transfer taxes, yet since 2017 have averaged allocating 40% of CPA funds to affordable housing, forgoing over $6 million. Brookline recently became the ninth community requesting a transfer tax despite enacting CPA so recently (2021) that they as yet have no available CPA funds.