In a legislative session that will go down as one of the most, if not the most, successful sessions ever for our Association, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts (HBRAMA) can now claim a seat at the table with multiple victories for our industry. Thanks to the incredible efforts of Ben Fierro and Patricia Lynch of Lynch & Fierro LLP, who worked tirelessly over a whole range of issues by effectively lobbying key elected officials and by taking the lead on a multitude of legislative initiatives, as well as many of our volunteer Association Members, we are very pleased to inform you that in the late hours of July 31, 2016, we can now claim victories in the following efforts, subject to the Governor's signature:
Starter Home Program -- At approximately 12:03 am on August 1, 2016, State Senators enacted House Bill No. 4569, An act relative to job creation and workforce development. The last minute action by the Legislature - which under its rules will not meet again in formal session for the remainder of the year - means the "Starter Home Program" initially conceived by the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts nearly ten years ago, needs only the signature of the Governor to become law.
Governor Baker had filed a sweeping economic development bill last February. Among that legislation's many provisions was the "Starter Home Program," the idea of which the HBRAMA had been discussing with the Baker-Polito Administration from its first days in office. The association worked closely with Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay and her staff at the Department of Housing and Community Development in developing the program as an adjunct to Chapter 40R, the Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Law. The "starter home" program was strongly supported by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, who made it a priority of the administration during negotiations with the House and Senate Conference Committee over the final bill that emerged late last night.
With the HBRAMA's support, the Legislature enacted Chapter 40R in 2004 to provide financial incentives to cities and towns to create "smart growth zoning districts" where mixed-use and higher density housing could be developed near transit stations and areas of concentrated development as a matter of right. Although the law has been successful in producing mixed-use and multi-family developments, it has failed to spur needed single-family housing. H. 4569 (§§ 33-57) amends Chapter 40R to allow communities to take advantage of the financial incentives offered by the state through that law to facilitate the production of "starter homes" (i.e., smaller homes [maximum 1,850 sq. ft.] on smaller lots [maximum 1/4 acre] that are affordable to entry-level buyers of average means).
As has been the case since the enactment of Chapter 40R in 2004, communities will receive zoning incentive payments ranging form $10,000 to $600,000 depending upon the size of the "starter home" zoning district, as well as housing production payments of $3,000 for each unit of housing built. The law also requires that 20% of the units be set aside for sale to persons and families earning no more than 100% of area median income, there is also an open space requirement.
Although Massachusetts has seen an increase in housing production in the past several years, much of that production has been multi-family housing. Single-family housing production continues to lag far below that which is needed to meet demand, as well as to moderate pricing pressures on the stock of existing single-family homes. The "starter home" program is the first state program specifically targeted to encourage the production of single-family housing.
The association owes a debt of thanks to Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, Secretary Ash, Undersecretary Kornegay, Speaker Robert DeLeo, Rep. Joseph Wagner, Rep. Brian Dempsey, and Senators Eileen Donoghue and Karen Spilka for the passage of the most important pro-housing measure in more than a decade.
Energy Legislation -- Due in part to our Association's efforts, the House-Senate Conference Committee on the Energy Bill did not include the provision directing the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS), in conjunction with the Division of Energy Resources, to develop amendments to the State Building Code mandating electric vehicle (EV) charging in all residential buildings and structures. The Senate added that provision to the bill as an "end run" around the BBRS. Additionally, the proposed mandate to create a home scoring and energy rating process for homes, which would have required an energy inspection prior to the sale of a home and the creation and use of a mandatory energy score, was also excluded from the final compromise bill. Most importantly, the bill approved last night by the Legislature did not include the Senate language requiring the commonwealth to develop a "climate change adaptation plan" that would have applied additional climate protection-related conditions to any permit issued by a state department or agency.
Special Permits Extended/Zoning Reform Defeated - Your Association worked very hard to successfully defeat the adoption of comprehensive zoning reform that would have resulted in significant impediments to the homebuilding permitting process. On the other hand, and through the advocacy efforts of the Association, H. 4569 includes two important amendments to the state's Zoning Act. Section 29 of the bill extends from 6 months to 12 months the period of time a permit holder must begin construction under a building permit or begin to exercise the rights granted by a special permit, in order to secure the protection from any subsequent changes in local zoning (G.L. c. 40A, §6). This change provides our members with added time to arrange for financing and commence construction without the fear of new zoning changes that could otherwise impact freeze protections. Section 30 of the bill extends the term of special permits from 2 years to 3 years (G.L. c.40A, §9), thereby giving our members more flexibility on the exercise of these special permits, particularly during periods of economic downtown.
Sprinkler Legislation - Thanks to our successful advocacy work, House Bill No. 2089, An Act Relative To Enhanced Fire Protection In New One and Two Family Dwellings, which would have amended G.L. c. 148, § 26J to require the installation of automatic sprinklers in new or substantially rehabilitated one and two-family dwellings as a local option, subject to local acceptance, did not make it through this legislative session. As a result, Massachusetts remains as one of 47 other states that do not mandate sprinklers in one- and two-family residential dwellings.
Home Improvement Contractor Payments -- As you may recall, on May 6, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law legislation sponsored by the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts to make it easier for home improvement contractors and subcontractors to pay registration, renewal and Guaranty Fund fees associated with the Home Improvement Contractor Program. Chapter 99 of the Acts of 2016 will enable the commonwealth to accept payment of those fees by credit card beginning on October 1, 2016. We thank Rep. John W. Scibak for sponsoring this legislation and the Department of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for its support.
These tremendous efforts would not have been successful without the many volunteers who have taken precious time out of their busy schedules to help our Association succeed.
But we must do more.
We are now on the cusp of achieving a significant number of the Association objectives, some of which have been years in the making, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue to work for our seat at the table and fight for our industry. We must have a voice in the media to influence public opinion to ensure that our message is heard throughout the Commonwealth.
This victory has spared our industry the additional cost of the many thousands of dollars more per home that would have otherwise been added to the average cost of a new home. Please consider a contribution to our Public Policy Fund so that we can continue to advance the work of the Association for the benefit of our homebuilding industry. To this end, we are asking each member of the Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, Inc. to contribute to the Public Policy Fund commensurate with their abilities.
Public Policy Fund Initiative Contribution Levels:
Public Policy Influencer: $150
Public Policy Playmaker: $300
Public Policy Rulemaker: $750+
Attached is a letter from President Scott Colwell, and Immediate Past President Liz Kovach, which provides instruction on how your contribution can make a difference. Read Letter
We thank the many Members who have already generously contributed to the Public Policy Fund this year.
On behalf of the Governmental Affairs Committee, thank you and have an enjoyable rest of the summer!
John Smolak, Chair
Governmental Affairs Committee
Jeff Brem, P.E., Meisner Brem Corp.
Chair, Wetlands and Water Resources Subcommittee
Gary Campbell, COO, Gilbert S. Campbell, Inc.
Chair, Energy and Building Codes Subcommittee
Mark Kablack, Esq., M.A. Kablack & Associates, P.C.
Chair, Zoning and Chapter 40B Subcommittee
Mark Leff, SVP, Salem Five
Chair, Natural Gas Subcommittee