April 2024

Affordable Homes Act advances in the Legislature

Governor Healey’s ambitious housing legislation, House Bill No. 4138, the Affordable Homes Act (AHA), advanced through two committees at the State House and is currently under review by the House Committee on Ways and Means. This landmark bill authorizes $4.12 billion in bond funding to increase the supply of housing, rehabilitate and modernize public housing, and support affordable housing opportunities.


The AHA also includes numerous policy initiatives, including a provision supported by the HBRAMA to amend the Zoning Act to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in all residentially zoned districts as a matter of right. Despite the ability of ADUs to fill a gap in housing options, a group of municipal officials testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets on April 2 in opposition to mandating ADUs by right. They argued that cities and towns should be left to their own discretion as to how and where accessory dwelling units be allowed within their community.


A provision in the bill to allow cities and towns to impose a local tax on real estate transfers to fund affordable housing recently got a boost on Beacon Hill, when a coalition of mayors and other municipal bodies sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership expressing their strong support for the enactment of a local option real estate transfer tax. A copy of their letter can be found here. The HBRAMA is a part of a coalition that includes the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, NAIOP The Commercial Real Estate Association, the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and others, vigorously lobbying to strike the transfer tax from the bill. A copy of the coalition’s statement against the transfer tax can be found here.


Finally, the association continues to oppose another provision in the AHA that would amend the Zoning Act to lower the threshold for the adoption of inclusionary zoning ordinances and bylaws.


The full House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill sometime next month. 

DPU Interconnection Working Group meets

The Interconnection Working Group (IWG) met last month at the Department of Public Utilities for the first time under the Healey-Driscoll Administration. The IWG brings together representatives of the residential and commercial development industry and National Grid and Eversource to address challenges in securing electric and gas service in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Among the representatives of the HBRAMA attending the meeting were Utilities Subcommittee Co-Chairs, Mark Leff of Salem Five Bank, Russ Leonard of Leonard Electric, and John Noonan of Noonan Electric, as well as HBRAMA President Mike Duffany, Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, Brian Lussier of Comfort Homes, and Don Poyant of Eastward Companies.

During the course of the 90-minute session, DPU Chair Richard Van Nostrand had the opportunity to hear from both the developers and the utility companies of the very real barriers to decarbonizing the building sector and transitioning to an all-electric future. 

More communities adopt Specialized Stretch Energy Code; others repeal Stretch Code 

Having become effective on December 28, 2022, 33 communities have now adopted the Municipal Opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code promulgated by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) pursuant to the climate bill enacted by the Legislature in 2021. As of this date, the following cities and towns have adopted the Specialized Code:


Acton, Amherst, Aquinnah, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Maynard, Medford, Melrose, Needham, Newton, Northampton, Norwood, Salem, Sherborn, Somerville, Stow, Swampscott, Truro, Wakefield, Watertown, Wellesley, Wellfleet, Weston, and Worcester.


The effective date requiring builders to comply with the Specialized Stretch Energy Code varies by municipality. Those dates are:


  • Effective July 1, 2023 (Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Watertown);
  • Effective January 1, 2024 (Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Boston, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Maynard, Newton, Northampton, Sherborn, Stow, Truro, Wellesley, Wellfleet);
  • Effective July 1, 2024 (Amherst, Bedford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Needham, Medford, Melrose, Needham, Norwood, Salem, Swampscott, Wakefield, Weston, Worcester);
  • Effective January 1, 2025 (Belmont).


The Specialized Stretch Energy Code may be adopted by any city or town by either a vote of a City Council or at Town Meeting. While the regulations do not require a concurrency period under which a building can be constructed under either the existing Base Code or Stretch Energy Code, the DOER encourages municipalities to provide for a minimum 6-month delayed effective date following local approval so that projects can be designed or revised to comply with the new code.


Meanwhile, a growing backlash to the most recent version of the Stretch Energy Code has resulted in some municipalities repealing it and leaving the Green Communities Program. The towns of Rochester and Essex have recently repealed the Stretch Energy Code primarily due to the provision effective January 1, 2023 relative to so-called “large editions” to existing buildings. Citizens’ petitions have also been submitted to the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting in Ipswich and Nantucket.

Forum held in Boston on Housing and the Grid

The HBRAMA was a co-sponsor with National Grid and the State House News Service of a forum held in Boston earlier this month entitled, “Housing Goals and the Challenges and Opportunities of Clean Growth.”


HBRAMA Government Affairs Chair Rob Brennan spoke on a panel that included Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities Secretary Ed Augustus. Others participating in the program included Bill Grogan, President of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Greater Boston, and Lisa Wieland, President, New England, for National Grid. This forum brought together industry professionals, legislators and other policy makers to discuss how to achieve a green energy future for Massachusetts without impacting housing production and affordability.


The Commonwealth has established ambitious goals for both building and modernizing its way to more affordable housing and transitioning to a net-zero energy system. The built environment is responsible for almost 40 percent of global energy-related carbon emissions. As higher efficiency, all-electric home and building technologies come onto the market and codes and standards tighten, the panelists discussed the following key questions:


  • Who will install these new technologies?
  • How can they be incorporated into new and aging housing stock?
  • What is needed to ready the electric grid to handle this increased demand?
  • Which solutions do customers want?
  • When and where will renewables be sited, and how will we optimize available land?

From utilities to housing developers to technology providers to environmentalists, the forum grappled with the push and pull of state goals and the time and investment needed to go all-electric.

Governor Files Economic Development Bill

Governor Healey filed an omnibus economic development bill intended to grow the state economy and strengthen its competitiveness. House Bill No. 4459, An Act relative to strengthening Massachusetts’ economic leadership, is currently awaiting a public hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Of interest to the members of the HBRAMA are several sections that will aid housing production:


  • §81_Would amend the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, §6) to provide that construction or operations under a special permit or site plan approval pursuant to the local ordinance or by-law, shall conform to any subsequent amendment of the zoning ordinance or by-law or of any other local land use regulations unless the use or construction is commenced within a period of 3 years after the issuance of the special permit or site plan approval; and, in cases involving construction, unless such construction is continued through to completion as continuously and expeditiously as is reasonable.
  • §145_ Would eliminate the cap on the number of residential units that may be developed at Devens
  • §148_Would establish a new Permit Extension Act for all real estate development projects by providing that an approval in effect or existence during the period from January 1, 2023 to January 1, 2025, inclusive, shall be extended by state law for an additional 2 years beyond its lawful term of the approval.


The HBRAMA will be urging the Legislature to include these provisions in the final bill it sends to the governor.

Save the Date!

Annual Installation and Awards Banquet

Thursday, November 14, 2024

Please join us as we install the 2025 HBRAMA Executive Committee Team with David O'Sullivan as president. Also on the schedule is the recognition and honoring of the 2024 Legends of the Industry. Click the image below to learn more.

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