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Keep housing-transfer fee, Senate urged

Stan Wolf, who wrote this letter, is an Arlington resident of nearly 40 years with a background in basic science research and science education. He is also an active member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and an active participant in efforts in Arlington to promote affordable housing in our community.letters logo

The affordable-housing crisis is causing harm across our Commonwealth, and Arlington is not exempt. Housing and apartment rental prices strain our budgets, our young people are forced to take their talents far from home and local workers face long daily commutes that weaken their connections to our town.

Gov. Healey included a powerful tool, the real-estate transfer fee for local communities, in the Affordable Homes Act that she submitted to the Legislature (H.4138; see this link for the status of the bill and its text). It empowers any municipality in the Commonwealth that so choses to develop its own transfer-fee plan that would include a 0.05- to 2-percent fee on the value of the real-estate sale more than $1 million. Thus, for a home that sold for $1.2 million, the fee would apply to only the last $200,000. 

Funds raised in this way would be applied to a local affordable-housing trust to be used to create and sustain lower-cost housing within that community. At the 2-percent rate, implementation of the provision in Arlington would generate $2.8 million for affordable housing in Arlington each year. Recognizing the power of such a provision, more than a dozen Massachusetts communities already support this effort, as has GBIO through its Housing Justice Campaign (see YouTube video). 

Unfortunately, the House stripped away this valuable tool from its version of the housing bond bill (H.4707). Now we must turn to the Senate and ask our senators to reinstate this important part of the bill.

If we want to maintain Arlington as an affordable and family-oriented community, I urge our senators to act quickly to reinstate the local option for a real estate transfer fee into the housing bond bill, and for Arlington residents to reach out to their legislators to let them know of their support of this act. 


This letter was published Monday, June 10, 2024. 

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Comments

Sue Lindner on Monday, 10 June 2024 21:23
Sellers currently pay a transfer tax - deed stamps - and other issues

The transfer tax bill that was taken out of the House Bill is problematic for several reasons. One of which is the varying amount of tax that each community could impose - 1/2% to 2%. The goal should be a universal tax policy, and the individual option works as a detriment against that. Another issue is that there is no clear provision on who would be responsible for enforcing the tax lien. The seller is selling the house - what would be attached to enforce the additional lien? The house that the Buyer now owns? Who collects the tax, and how? Currently - the seller is already on the hook for a transfer tax - $4.56 per $1,000. So, in the 1.2 million dollar example above - the seller would owe the Commonwealth of Massachusetts $5,472.00. This fee is paid to the Commonwealth when the deed is recorded in the registry of deeds. The recording fees are paid to "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts" as is the deed stamps tax. I can't imagine a scenario where each registry will collect checks for each individual town in the county. This also puts the onus on the mom and pop seller, which is often the case in these parts. Folks are often selling their homes in towns like Arlington because they can no longer afford to live here. Why not put the onus on the buyer, often times a developer, who is the one able to afford the million dollar plus home? Anyway - food for thought.

The transfer tax bill that was taken out of the House Bill is problematic for several reasons. One of which is the varying amount of tax that each community could impose - 1/2% to 2%. The goal should be a universal tax policy, and the individual option works as a detriment against that. Another issue is that there is no clear provision on who would be responsible for enforcing the tax lien. The seller is selling the house - what would be attached to enforce the additional lien? The house that the Buyer now owns? Who collects the tax, and how? Currently - the seller is already on the hook for a transfer tax - $4.56 per $1,000. So, in the 1.2 million dollar example above - the seller would owe the Commonwealth of Massachusetts $5,472.00. This fee is paid to the Commonwealth when the deed is recorded in the registry of deeds. The recording fees are paid to "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts" as is the deed stamps tax. I can't imagine a scenario where each registry will collect checks for each individual town in the county. This also puts the onus on the mom and pop seller, which is often the case in these parts. Folks are often selling their homes in towns like Arlington because they can no longer afford to live here. Why not put the onus on the buyer, often times a developer, who is the one able to afford the million dollar plus home? Anyway - food for thought.
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