CHAPA Endorses Legislation to Allow Transfer Fees to Support Affordable Housing

On September 21, CHAPA endorsed legislation (H.1377 & S.868) that would allow cities and towns the opportunity to enact a local transfer fee on real estate transactions in order to support affordable housing.

Why Real Estate Transfer Fees?

The legislation would create an option for cities and towns to enact fees ranging from 0.5% - 2% on certain real estate transactions. A local option real estate transfer fee would be an effective, efficient and equitable tool for raising necessary revenue for affordable housing in communities across the Commonwealth.

Currently each city or town has to first approve the transfer fee locally, file a home rule petition in the state legislature and can only adopt if the Legislature approves it and it is signed by the Governor. Historically, these home rule petitions have stalled in the Legislature.

H.1377 and S.868 would create an enabling legislative framework, similar to the Community Preservation Act, where cities and towns can choose to adopt their version of transfer fees within the framework. Communities would be required to go through a public input process to craft a transfer fee policy that works for each city and town.

Currently 38 states and D.C. levy some kind of real estate transfer fees along with many local governments. The fee rates vary widely from 0.01% in Colorado to 6.1% on certain types of transfers in New Jersey.

What Does the Legislation Propose?

  • Creates Critical Resource for Affordable Housing
    • Authorizes a transfer fee of between 0.5% and 2% on purchase price of a property being sold above either the statewide median sale price for single family homes (currently~ $480,000) or the county median sale price for single family homes if a local median sale price is lower than the statewide median sale price.
    • The fee will be deposited in the city or town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) or other municipal affordable housing trust funds as defined in Chapter 44B. If none exist, it can be deposited in the Community Preservation Fund (CPF). In absence of CPF, the fee will be deposited in the state AHTF (under chapter 121D) and will be earmarked for affordable housing purposes for that city/town. 
    • The Coalition is currently debating an amendment to allow authorization up to 225% of area median income for affordable housing restriction for municipalities that have established their own thresholds through their home rule petitions for the AHTFs specifically applicable for high priced markets like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Allows for Broad & Locally-Determined Exemptions
    • The legislation allows for the following exemptions. Municipalities can adopt further exemptions as long as it maintains the intent of the legislation.
    • Mandates following exemptions,
      • Property transfers below 100% of the state or county median sale price or 100% of median county price whichever is lower
      • Transfers made as gifts with consideration less than $100 presuming the fair market value of the property at the time of transfer
      • Transfers to any municipal, state or federal agency or institution
      • Transfers occurring by virtue of death or bankruptcy
      • Transfers made in partition of land and improvements under chapter 241
      • Transfers to charitable or religious organizations as long as they comply with the affordable housing uses
      • Transfers to mortgagee in case of foreclosure and division or marital assets
      • Transfers of residential property that include 1 or more units governed by affordable housing restrictions; provided, however, that the fee imposed under the provisions of this section on such a property shall be proportionately reduced based on the percentage of residential units with affordable housing restrictions, as compared to the total number of residential units in that property
  • Discourages Speculative Sales
    • Municipalities are also authorized to charge a fee of up to 6% for speculative sales (properties sold within 1 year at a price 3 times the state median sale price with some exceptions).
  • Requires Local Debate Prior To Adoption
    • Each municipality seeking to adopt a transfer fee pursuant to this Act would have to engage in a critical local community process to determine if a transfer fee is right for their community, and, if so, what exemptions, terms and conditions are appropriate based on local prices and market conditions.

Supporting Evidence

  • A 2020 report by Institute for Policy Studies shows, a luxury real estate transfer fee of 2% applied to sales at just two luxury buildings in Boston would have generated more than $16 million for the Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund. The report projects that if there had been a 2% real estate transfer fee on home sales valued over 140% of the current median sale price of $463,000 in Braintree, for example, the city would have raised an estimated $826,000 in revenue from 247 transactions between 2015 and 2020. A 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax would have raised over $206,000.
  • A 2017 study by RKG Associates show that a transfer fee of 1% for Somerville could yield between $6.6 million to $9.1 million in annual fee revenue to support affordable housing in Somerville

Coalition Advocating for the Transfer Fee

A wide range of organizations support the enabling legislation for Real Estate Transfer Fees -- you can add your organization to the growing list of supporters, too! Current endorses include:

  • ACK Now
  • Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority
  • Boston Building Trades Council
  • Boston Neighborhood Community Land Trust
  • Boston Tenants Coalition
  • Brazilian Workers Center
  • Cambridge Residents Alliance
  • Chinese Progressive Association
  • City Life Vida Urbana
  • Community Action Agency of Somerville
  • Community Action - Pioneer Valley
  • Community Teamwork
  • Coalition to Create the Martha's Vineyard Housing Bank
  • Concord Housing Foundation
  • Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
  • Dukes County Health Council
  • Equal Justice in Needham
  • Equitable Arlington
  • Eliot Community Health Services - Homeless Services
  • Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution
  • Fresh Pond Residents Alliance
  • Greater Boston Food Bank
  • Green Cambridge
  • Heading Home
  • HomeStart
  • Homeowners Rehab Inc.
  • Housing Corporation of Arlington
  • Housing Families
  • Institute for Policy Studies
  • Jamaica Plain Progressives
  • Just-A-Start
  • Lynn United for Change
  • Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
  • Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)
  • Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
  • Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN)
  • Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
  • Massachusetts Public Health Association
  • Massachusetts Senior Action Cambridge/Somerville Chapter
  • Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
  • Mayor Joseph Curtatone/City of Somerville
  • Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
  • Metro West Collaborative Development
  • Our Revolution Somerville
  • Progressive Massachusetts
  • Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)
  • Real Estate Cafe
  • Right to the City Boston
  • Rural Development, Inc.
  • Somerville Community Corporation
  • Somerville Community Land Trust
  • Somerville Homeless Coalition
  • Somerville Stands Together
  • Somerville YIMBY
  • Springfield - No One Leaves
  • The Welcome Project
  • Those Who Can, For Those In Need
  • Western Mass. Network to End Homelessness
  • Worcester Community Action Council