June 2021
2021 Officer Installation
HBRAMA Officer Installation

After 18 months of leading the association through the many issues affecting our industry during the pandemic, Matt Anderson turned over the presidential duties to Emerson Clauss III at the annual installation and awards banquet held on June 9 at the Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth. The swearing in of our new leadership team was performed by Michael Kennealy the MA Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and included: Emerson Clauss III of the Boston local as president, Jeffrey Brem from Northeast, vice president elect, Joshua Nolan from Western as 1st vice president, Michael Duffany, from Cape Cod as vice president/treasurer and Robin Ward, also from the Cape Cod local as secretary. The new leadership team will serve the association throughout the balance of this year and through 2022.
HBRAMA testifies in support of Permit Extension Act

Legislation critical to keeping desperately needed new housing developments moving forward was the subject of a public hearing before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on June 1. Senate Bill No. 2065 was filed by Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and is strongly supported by the HBRAMA. It bill would extend the term of certain permits and approvals concerning the use of real estate that were in existence from the period March 10, 2020 to March 10, 2021, for two (2) years in addition to the lawful term of such a permit or approval.
While the coronavirus pandemic did result in an uptick in home remodeling projects by existing homeowners, needed new housing developments were stalled or not begun because of an inability to obtain financing, buyers’ COVID fears of shopping for a new home, high unemployment or anxiety of losing a job, and general market conditions brought on by the national recession.
This legislation is nearly identical to the Permit Extension Act of 2010 that was enacted during the Great Recession. Its purpose is to ensure that residential, commercial and other real estate developments that have received state or local approval during the pandemic can be completed.
A copy of the association’s letter in support of S. 2065 can be found here.  
Renewed push on Beacon Hill for sprinklers in one and two-family homes

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security held a public hearing on June 9 on legislation that would allow cities and towns to mandate the installation of fire sprinklers in all newly constructed one and two-family homes. During the course of the three-hour hearing, the committee heard from representatives of the Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association, the Professional Fire Fighters Association, the National Fire Prevention Association and the fire chief for the Town of Hopkinton, in support of Senate Bill No. 1627 and House Bill No. 2417. The HBRAMA was the only organization to testify in opposition to these measures.
The HBRAMA has consistently supported amendments to the State Building Code that enhance life-safety in residential structures where their benefits clearly exceed their costs and their adoption would not undermine housing affordability. The HBRAMA does not oppose fire sprinkler technology or the voluntary installation of these fire suppression systems. It opposes, however, the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems in one and two-family homes because such systems are complicated, costly, and are inconsequential in terms of their value in protecting the life and safety of the occupants of such residences.
Massachusetts already has some of the highest housing costs in the nation. Housing affordability, particularly for first-generation homebuyers and persons of color, is a serious social problem in the Commonwealth. Allowing cities and towns to mandate the installation of fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed one and two-family homes will only serve to be yet another barrier to homeownership.
A copy of the association’s letter in opposition to S.1627/H.2417 can be found here
HBRAMA submits comments of proposed revisions to MEPA policy and regs

Prompted to act, in part, by the passage of an historic climate policy law last March, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office has begun a process to make certain changes to its policies and regulations. These include revisions to the MEPA Interim Protocol for Environmental Justice Outreach as a supplement to the requirements of the 2017 Environmental Justice (EJ) Policy.
In a letter dated June 15 to Tori Kim, Director of the MEPA Office, HBRAMA President Emerson Clauss III stated the association support for the Interim Protocol, but urged there be further clarification, with examples, of the expectations of a project proponent for the provision of the types of translation and interpretation services for notices, documents and community meetings and what might be considered “a significant portion of the population” of a given EJ population so that its members can more effectively reach out to affected populations.
The letter also addressed the draft Interim Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency. While the HBRAMA understands the intent of the protocol, it believes the Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Addendum suffers from ambiguity, and therefore, would benefit from the input of a stakeholder group which can provide input that the association believes would lead to greater predictability in the modeling such that the regulated community can be assured that the expense and effort of a proposed project being evaluated through this protocol would result in an environmental benefit.
President Clauss’ letter was submitted following a meeting between MEPA Director Kim and HBRAMA member Attorney John Smolak and HBRAMA counsel and lobbyist Ben Fierro.
A copy of the letter can be found here
More communities seek authority to ban new gas infrastructure

Increasing numbers of cities and towns are seeking permission from the Legislature to prohibit gas infrastructure in new homes and other buildings.
As this issue of “On the Level” was going to press, the Town of Acton was considering two warrant articles at its Annual Town Meeting aimed at helping the town stop the construction of fossil-fueled new buildings, and move new and significantly rehabbed buildings to electric technologies.
Article #13 proposes a new local bylaw and #14 requests, via a Home Rule Petition, that the Legislature grant the town the authority to regulate newly constructed buildings in town. The bylaw includes a waiver process under certain circumstances. Acton declared a climate emergency last year requiring the town to move urgently to reduce its fossil fuel use. The declaration claimed that green house gas emissions from buildings represent at least 41% of all Acton’s GHG emissions.
Supporters of the warrant articles argue the transition to non-fossil-fueled systems for heating, cooling, hot water, and cooking is critical and that fundamental to this shift is the use of heat pump technology.
Other municipalities — Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord and Lexington — have passed similar articles. The HBRAMA and other real estate organizations and business groups are opposed to the passage of such Home Rule Petitions. 
Gov. Baker proposes to spend $1 billion of federal relief on housing

The Baker-Polito Administration announced on June 17, a plan to immediately put to use approximately $2.815 billion of the Commonwealth's direct federal aid to support key priorities including housing and homeownership, economic development and local downtowns, job training and workforce development, health care, and infrastructure. The plan devotes $1 billion to funding homeownership and housing priorities, a significant investment to help increase housing production and reduce barriers to owning a home as part of the ongoing COVID-19 recovery effort. These new housing resources build upon over $1.6 billion in separate federal funding that has already been allocated to entities throughout the Commonwealth for housing purposes since the start of the pandemic.
Highlights of the plan include:
  • $300 million to support expanded homeownership opportunities, focused on first-time homebuyers who are residents of disproportionately impacted municipalities;
  • $200 million to support housing production through MassHousing's CommonWealth Builder Program and similar efforts, which aim to help communities of color build wealth by promoting home ownership among residents of disproportionately impacted municipalities;
  • $200 million to fund rental housing production and provide increased housing options to workers and residents of disproportionately impacted municipalities;
  • $300 million to finance the statewide production of senior and veteran housing. These new housing options would contain a supportive services component, and would be combined with other resources including Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, rental payments, and, in the case of veteran housing, VA health care.
The $2.815 billion is part of a total of approximately $5.3 billion in direct aid to the Commonwealth from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. These discretionary funds are intended to support urgent COVID-19 response efforts, replace lost revenue, support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses, and address unequal public health and economic challenges in Massachusetts cities and towns throughout the pandemic.
HBRAMA Receives Grant from NAHB

HBRAMA on behalf of the Net Zero Subcommittee applied for $20,000 in funding from the NAHB State and Local Issues Fund to aid the subcommittee in working with the state Department of Energy Resources as it seek to craft a new stretch energy code that includes, but is not limited to, net-zero building performance standards and a definition of net zero. These funds will be used to hire professionals versed in net-zero standards.

HBRAMA will undertake a cost analysis of the new promulgated code as well as propose financial offsets to any new code mandates such as tax incentives, rebates or density bonuses. The NAHB State and Local Government Affairs Committee at their virtual Spring Leadership Meeting which took place June 14-18 found that the climate change legislation recently adopted by Massachusetts carried a national significance and believes HBRAMA was uniquely positioned to influence the final outcome of the legislation as relates to housing affordability.
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Housing Committee hears from Robert Dietz,
NAHB Chief Economist

On June 3, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing hosted an informational hearing for the members of the committee. Among the invited speakers, were Robert Dietz, Ph.D., Chief Economist and Senior V.P. for Economics and Housing Policy for the National Association of Home Builders. Rob Dietz is the nation’s leading expert on housing economics.
The Joint Committee on Housing is co-chaired by Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) and Rep. James Arciero (D-Westford). The committee is responsible to reviewing and making recommendations to the full Legislature on all bills related to housing production, preservation and stability.
In his presentation, Dietz reviewed housing affordability in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area, highlighting the racial disparity in homeownership. While the homeownership rate in Massachusetts is 62%, it is only 36% for Blacks and 28% for Hispanics. The average sales price of a new home in Massachusetts is $538,000, which is significantly higher than the national average of $340,000. Given the lack of supply and that mortgage interest rates will trend higher as the economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic, housing affordability will remain a major social problem in the Commonwealth.
Some of the current challenges facing the home building industry include: shortages or delays in obtaining building materials; delays in obtaining permits and approvals; and difficulties in finding workers and subcontractors.
Dietz cited the rise in home improvement and remodeling projects during the pandemic and noted that 70% of the housing stock in Massachusetts is more than 40 years old, thereby likely resulting in the remodeling business remaining strong for the foreseeable future. 
Thank you to our newest sustaining member
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