August 2021
Legislators consider bill to limit choice of building materials in construction

Under the guise of public safety, fire officials together with concrete and aggregate producers have introduced legislation that would codify in statute issues related to building materials and construction methods that have historically been guided by the International Building Code (IBC) as promulgated by the International Code Council (ICC). Ever since the establishment of the ICC in 1994, the Commonwealth has consistently adopted the IBC for use in the State Building Code (780 CMR).
The language in S. 1589/H.2449 is duplicative of code proposals that have been rejected in the past by the ICC. It would define the term “light frame construction” by limiting the types of framing materials to a set of 6 types: those that utilize metal-plate-connected wood trusses, wooden I-joists, solid-sawn wood joists, composite wood joists as floor or roof system structural elements, or load bearing elements made of combustible materials. This limitation conflicts with the broader definition in the current code that allows engineers and architects to design a system that best suits the needs of a particular building.
These bills would also impose new height, stories, and size limitations on Type V construction, typically referred to as combustible construction. These provisions, too, have been rejected by the ICC, which develops its family of codes though a research driven, multi-stakeholder involved process that includes input from scientists, architects, engineers, contractors, and building and fire officials from throughout the nation.
The HBRAMA has joined with a coalition of developers, contractors, building owners, design professionals and building officials to oppose passage of S. 1589/H. 2449. The HBRAMA strongly believes that limiting a builder’s ability to choose building materials that comply with national building codes will only add to the already high cost of residential construction with no benefit to public safety.

A copy of S. 1589 can be found here. A copy of the written testimony submitted by the HBRAMA and other organizations to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security can be found here.
HBRAMA opposes bill to extend time to bring construction defect claims

As it has in the past, the HBRAMA expressed its opposition to a bill before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary that would make it easier for condominium owners to bring construction defect claims against builders, contractors, engineers and architects. H. 1501 was sponsored by Rep. Claire Cronin (D-Easton) and has the support of the Real Estate Bar Association.
This legislation amends the statute governing tort actions arising from improvements to real property, by requiring that the statute of limitations for construction defect claims against a condominium developer commence within three (3) years after the accrual of a right of action, unless the condominium developer remains in control of the organization of unit owners during that time; provides for the commencement of the running of the statute of limitations after the declarant control termination date if the developer remains in control; defines the declarant control date as the later of the seating of a managing board comprised mostly of owners other than the declarant, or when the declarant owns less than 25% of the beneficial interest of the condominium.
In addition, under the proposed law, the six (6) year statute of repose applicable to a defect claim would not bar a claim until the later of the declarant control termination date; the opening of the improvement to use; or the earlier of the substantial completion of all phases of the condominium or the expiration of phasing rights.
The HBRAMA’s concern is that the bill will add tremendous indefiniteness and lack of predictability to the statute to construction defect claims, with potentially drastic impacts to the ability of its members to construct and finance large condominium projects. The association is joined in its opposition to H. 1501 by the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Massachusetts Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, among other organizations.
A copy of the association’s letter in opposition to H. 1501 can be found here.  
Housing Committee holds hearing on HBRAMA bills
On July 28, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing held a lengthy public hearing via Zoom teleconferencing on several bills sponsored by the HBRAMA. Testifying on behalf of the association was its counsel, Benjamin Fierro of the firm of Lynch & Fierro LLP.
Fierro spoke in favor of H. 1409, An Act relative to starter homes. This legislation would amend the Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Act (G.L. c. 40R) to strike the provision in that law that permits cities and towns to adopt and impose design standards on “starter homes” developed in starter home zoning districts. He argued that imposing design standards on these homes would potentially add to their cost, thereby undermining the law’s goal of producing more affordable single-family homes.
Attorney Fierro also testified in support of H. 1411, An Act facilitating site plan review. This legislation would amend the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A) to expressly provide authority to cities and towns to adopt zoning ordinances and bylaws for site plan review and would establish uniform procedures and criteria for site plan review. Importantly, it would address the concern expressed by the Land Court that current law is unclear as to how a petitioner would appeal a denial of a site plan. Voicing support of H. 1411 was the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association that noted that the bill would provide a more predictable process for developers and make communities more comfortable in reviewing site plans.
Finally, the HBRAMA submitted a letter in opposition to a home rule petition filed by the Town of Concord to establish a surcharge on building permits with the funds earmarked for the creation of affordable housing.
A copy of the association’s letter in opposition to S. 2438 can be found here
HBRAMA President-elect Brem testifies (remotely) at the State House

With his expertise as both an engineer and home builder, HBRAMA President-elect Jeff Brem was uniquely qualified to testify before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government last month on several bills sponsored by the association relative to subdivision roads.
H. 2176, An Act providing for safe subdivision roads, would amend the Subdivision Control Law (G.L. c. 41, §81Q) to provide subdivision regulations adopted by local planning boards cannot limit the length of a road with a dead end to less than 1,200 feet or as specified by the State Fire Code, as set forth in the NFPA Code, whichever length is shorter. Many communities unreasonably limit the length of such ways simply to extract concessions from builders when they need to request a waiver for a longer road. H. 2176 addresses this problem by tying such regulations to appropriate fire safety standards.
Brem also testified in support of H. 2173, An Act reducing impervious surfaces in subdivisions. This legislation would amend the Subdivision Control Law to prohibit a city or town from imposing standards for the construction of ways within a subdivision that exceed those commonly applied by that city or town to the “reconstruction” of municipal roads located in similarly zoned districts. H. 2173 would help reign in excessive roadway specifications that are unneeded for safe passage, create unnecessary impervious surface, and add to the high cost of housing.
At this same hearing, HBRAMA counsel Benjamin Fierro testified in support of two other bills sponsored by the association.
H. 2171, An Act relative to variances, would amend the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, §10) to provide that the one-year term to exercise the rights authorized by a variance shall not include such time required to pursue or await the determination of an appeal of the granting of such variance.
H. 2172, An Act relative to special permits, would also amend the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, §9) to provide that local zoning ordinances or bylaws shall provide that a special permit shall lapse within a specified period of time, but not less than 3 years from the date of filing of its approval with the city or town clerk.
A copy of the HBRAMA letter in support of H. 2171 can be found here.  
HBRAMA Net Zero Sub-committee retains Amy Dain

The Net-Zero Subcommittee, originally established by Past President Matt Anderson and placed under the auspices of the Government Affairs Committee has retained Amy Dain to write a project proposal on behalf of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Massachusetts. The proposal will be submitted to academic institutions to perform research about the transition of the homebuilding and home remodeling industry in Massachusetts to “Net Zero” emissions. The focus of the research will be to identify key components of the industry’s transition, analyze the costs of the potential changes and their potential impacts on housing projects, and identify public policies and potential cost offsets to increased housing costs such as tax rebates, credits and density increases among others that would support the industry’s transition towards reduced carbon output without exacerbating the state’s housing shortage and affordability challenges.

Amy’s career has been a tour of Massachusetts-based think tanks. She has worked in-house or as a consultant on projects for: Collins Center for Public Management, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Mass INC, the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, and other organizations. She recently wrote the State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston, a survey of zoning and plans in 100 cities and towns of Greater Boston. She received her Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

The proposal costs along with potential costs to underwrite the research with an academic institution such as MIT’s Center for Real Estate will be funded in part by a $20,000 grant to HBRAMA from NAHB’s State and Local Government Affairs Committee as well as funding from HBRAMA’s Public Policy Funds.

The Net Zero Committee is currently meeting bi-weekly to monitor the Department of Energy’s progress in the development of a Net-Zero stretch energy code and is seeking to place key members of the association on various Boards and Committees that are involved with the states move toward zero carbon emissions. 
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