Baker eyes housing crunch Wants rules on density, parking eased

By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter Dec 25, 2017
Baker eyes housing crunch
Charlie Baker

BOSTON — Rising property values and construction that cannot keep pace with a growing population are conspiring to crunch the state’s housing supply, edging many first-time homebuyers out of the market.

Gov. Charlie Baker wants to boost the housing stock as part of an ambitious plan to add at least 35,000 new homes over the next eight years through a mix of policies and incentives aimed at making way for multifamily and affordable housing.

But the first-term Republican is also taking aim at restrictive local zoning, which many say is at the root of the state’s housing shortage.

Baker said he plans to push legislation to make it easier for cities and towns to change zoning rules to increase the density of development and reduce parking requirements. Both generally need a two-thirds majority of a city council or town meeting. He wants a simple majority.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature and partnering with cities and towns to deliver much-needed housing to regions across Massachusetts, while respecting our long-standing home rule tradition,” Baker said in a statement unveiling the proposal.

Paul Yorkis, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, said the plan shows “bold leadership” in an area that previous governors have been reluctant to get involved with.

“This is a very positive step on the part of the Baker administration,” said Yorkis, a Medway developer. “We are facing a major housing crisis.”

But the plan, which hinges on legislative approval, also requires approval by referendum or local boards on whether to keep the requirement for a supermajority vote.

Yorkis said there needs to be a bigger incentive to compel communities with restrictive zoning to change.

“By allowing cities and towns to opt in or out, it doesn’t address the need statewide,” he said. “That’s not going to solve the problem.”

Local decision-making

Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said his organization is reviewing the housing plan, but he said on the surface it’s preferable to other proposals that would “cede local zoning authority to the state.”

“It preserves local decision-making and offers incentives and tools for communities to help address the challenge of increasing the number of housing units,” he said. “The fundamental principle here is the governor believes there needs to be local support to make these changes.”

Beckwith said local governments would resist any efforts to amend Baker’s legislation in a way that forces them to change zoning laws.

For example, lawmakers are considering ideas aimed at boosting the amount of affordable housing by allowing cities and towns to adopt “inclusionary zoning” that requires developers to designate units for affordable housing in exchange for concessions in other areas, such as development density.

A proposal to do that also requires communities to designate an area where developers have a right to build multifamily housing without a special permit, and it would require communities to designate areas where “cluster development” is allowed.

“This is a major rewrite of zoning laws,” Beckwith said. “It would take away the ability of cities and towns to control what gets built.”

More housing needed

Few argue the need for more low-cost housing in the state, which has the sixth-highest rents in the country, according to a recent study by Harvard University’s Center for Housing Studies.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimates the Greater Boston region needs at least 400,000 new affordable housing units by 2040 to keep pace with demand. Housing is deemed “affordable” when a tenant or owner pays no more than one-third of their income for housing costs, according to state officials.

To qualify for affordable housing, tenants generally must make less than 80 percent of the median income — adjusted to the size of their family — in the city or town where they want to live.

A state law approved more than 45 years ago shifts the burden onto cities and towns to ensure at least one-tenth of local housing is affordable.

The Chapter 40B law aimed to encourage affordable development by reducing zoning roadblocks, but housing advocates say it has done little to solve the problem, as towns have found a way around it.

On the North Shore, most communities fall short of the minimum, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Statewide only about 50 communities have reached the 10 percent threshold.

Jim Wilde, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership, said communities often set restrictive zoning as a way to block multifamily and affordable housing projects. As objections, he said, local boards often cite “myths” such as school overcrowding or an increased burden on police, fire and other municipal services.

“Nobody wants to say they don’t want people like them living in their town,” he said, “so they use the tired, old arguments about a drain on the school system or, ‘We don’t have the space for more housing.'”

He supports Baker’s plan and said the state needs to do even more.

“Because cities and towns are never going to do this on their own,” he said. “And if we don’t solve it soon, we’re going to lose even more people who can’t afford to live here.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com

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Merry-Christmas

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Neighborhood-2Bad news, homeowners: Tax bill would end deductions for interest on home equity loans
187

DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF/FILE
By Tim Logan GLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 19, 2017
Millions of Americans who use their homes as a piggy bank may soon have fewer pennies to count on if they decide to borrow money to start a business, pay for college, or buy a new car.

Under the massive tax bill now poised to pass Congress — and be signed by President Trump before Christmas — homeowners no longer would be able to deduct the interest on home equity loans, a relatively cheap form of borrowing based on the equity in a property.

The provision eliminates the interest deduction on such loans, a move that could cost a borrower several hundred dollars a year, depending on the loan amount. Currently, borrowers can write off the interest on home equity loans of up to $100,000.

It’s one of several provisions in the bill that would reduce the financial perks homeowners have long enjoyed through their tax returns, a swing away from a policy that for decades has been aimed at encouraging homeownership. The moves are part of a strategy that Republican leaders say is designed to simplify the tax code and raise money to offset tax cuts in the bill.

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The bill would also rein in write-downs for mortgage interest and property taxes. Such tax-reducing strategies have been popular in expensive housing markets, including suburban Boston.

Read Story
GOP appears to clinch tax bill with Susan Collins’s support
The House and Senate plan votes on Tuesday before sending the bill to President Trump.

While tax experts say that most people — especially renters and people with relatively small mortgages — would pay less in taxes under the bill, thanks to a near-doubling of the standard deduction to $24,000, those who itemize won’t be able to squeeze as many benefits out of their homes.

“That’s going to hurt some people,” said Jim Angelini, a tax professor at Suffolk University. “The government will be subsidizing homeownership less.”

Specifically, the plan would allow interest to be deducted only on the first $750,000 of a new mortgage, down from $1 million today. It would also cap at $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted on a federal return.

“In the broad context, these are all ways in which being a homeowner will no longer be treated as specially in the tax code,” said Alex Casey, a policy adviser at the real estate website Zillow.

It’s unclear what that will mean for home values, which have soared in recent years.

Groups such as the National Association of Realtors said they expect the lower mortgage interest deduction to cause home prices to fall, estimating a 10 percent drop under an earlier version of the overhaul that set the interest cap at $500,000.

Some housing economists counter that housing inventory could fall if would-be sellers stay on the sidelines and that potential buyers could have more cash in the bank, both of which could counteract the impact of the smaller deductions and drive prices up.

Either way, the tax bill is likely to do little to help people already struggling to buy a house in high-cost places such as Boston, said Nela Richardson, chief economist at the real estate website Redfin. She said getting a mortgage could become more difficult, inventory might be squeezed even tighter, and most of the gains from lower tax rates and other tweaks will accrue to the wealthy.

“This is a missed opportunity for housing,” Richardson said. “There was a way in this to start leveling the inequality we see in the housing market. This bill does nothing to change that, or to help people in need of help.”

Interest groups of all sorts are continuing to pore over the massive bill, even as lawmakers get ready to vote.

The move to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent will probably dampen investment in tax credits that often help fund affordable housing, said David Gasson, spokesman for Boston Capital Corp., which finances housing in Boston.

But advocates for affordable housing were relieved that the current version of the bill isn’t more harmful. Provisions that could have gutted financing used for about 3,000 low-cost apartments a year in Massachusetts were stripped out during negotiations last week.

“We broke even, which is better than getting whacked,” Gasson said. “Still, affordable housing development is going to suffer because of this.”

Likewise, hospital officials cited the “mixed results” of the final legislation. They’re glad that a deduction for medical expenses and a key tax-exempt bond program for hospital expansions survived but worry that repealing the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act will lead to fewer people carrying health insurance.

That mandate required most Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

Pharmaceutical companies welcomed parts of the bill, including the lowering of corporate taxes.

Some leaders in Massachusetts’ booming biotechnology cluster, however, are unhappy that it would cut in half a tax credit for developing medicines to treat rare diseases.

“It is disappointing to see any reduction in the orphan drug tax credit,” said Paula Soteropoulos, chief executive of Akcea Therapeutics, a Cambridge biotech.

“Meaningful incentives are crucial to reduce risk and foster relevant R&D and innovation.”

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, Jonathan Saltzman, and Shirley Leung of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@bytimlogan.

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Lynnfield Average Income Tax Deduction

tax imageavg town tax deduction 2017_12_07_11_02_56

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WEALTHY BOSTON SUBURBS HERE COMES GOP TAX BILL

This recent Boston Globe article maybe of interest to Lynnfield Transparency readers.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/12/06/look-out-wealthy-boston-suburbs-here-comes-gop-tax-bill/FtkwPuRNWMYaN5GpzG2bJL/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter

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Recommendation for New Town Adminstrator

The following was submitted by a Lynnfield Transparency reader.  Thank you for your input and thoughtful consideration concerning our next Town Administrator.

Town Administrator

Job Description

Lynnfield MA

The Administrator for the town of Lynnfield under the guidance of the Board of Selectmen is responsible for the day to day operations of the Town’s government. Through frequent and direct interactions the administrator shall ensure the smooth functioning of the government by providing department heads with direction and guidance.  The Administrator through the establishment of effective working relationships will ensure the implementation of the direction of the Board of Selectmen as well as the town’s compliance with State and Federal law. He/she will also comply with Essex County policies, procedures in any matters that may affect the town of Lynnfield.

The Administrator as Personnel Officer of the town will:

Supervise and provide direction to all department heads.

Ensure that all personnel records are maintained and complete.

Ensure that all employees are fully trained on all policies and procedures as may be required.

Ensure that all town personnel policies are adhered to and administered fairly.

Administer personnel performance reviews of department heads and administrative staff as appropriate.

Reviews and approves disciplinary actions up to and including suspension and will provide recommendations of termination to the Board of Selectmen.

The Administrator as part of his/her supervisory duties will:

Conceive, develop and present for approval to the Board of Selectmen policies and procedures as may be required.

Implement the recommendations of the town’s auditors as should be stated in the annual financial reports.

Investigate and implement cost savings for the town and report out quarterly.

Act as lead negotiator for the contract of services, goods, and capital items as well as personnel union contracts.

Develop draft and coordinate Grants and RFPs/RFQs for the town in accordance to the law as may be required.

Develop criteria for a project manager search for projects exceeding $250k as needed to ensure proper budget control.

Conduct regular one on one and department head and employee meetings to update personnel and solicit feedback on issues or problems.

 

Develop, maintain and gain approval of the BOS of a 5 year Master Plan describing the development and proposed evolution of the town government and services as may be required by our community.

Provide the BOS with the preparatory information packages for their next meeting and monthly written reports on town activities/affairs.

 

The Administrator as part of their financial responsibilities will:

Develop, review and present in coordination with the Department Heads the annual budget of expenses and revenues of the town to the BOS for approval in an agreed upon timeframe.

Represent the town in Finance Committee meetings to present update/status information and department budget requests.

Monitor and report to the BOS department spending and revenues against the approved budget monthly and adjust spending to maintain budgetary compliance.

Reconcile and report to the BOS the account balances and revenues of the Treasurer, Town Clerk, Tax Collector.

Ensure that transfers to and from town accounts are appropriately authorized and completed on a timely basis.

Ensure that the town’s departments fully cooperate and coordinate with the town’s auditors.

Implement and maintain a capital asset tracking system and report on it annually.

 

The Administrator as the manager of the town government will:

Receive, investigate and respond to citizen complaints in a timely and professional manner.

Review the recommendations of the Board of Assessors and recommend action to the BOS for requests for abatement and exemptions.

 

The Administrator may also be assigned other duties from time to time as determined by the BOS.

 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Required:

The Administrator shall have a thorough working knowledge of public administration including municipal accounting, personnel management of professional staff as well as Massachusetts Municipal State Law.  He/She shall have developed skills in communication (oral and written), planning, organizing, delegation and resolution of disputes.  He/She will possess excellent judgement, and the ability to lead.

 

               Supervision Exercised:

The Administrator will have direct supervisory authority over all department heads that fall under the control of the BOS.  He/She shall have the authority to discipline and suspend employees under his/her control and to make the recommendations to the selectmen regarding termination.  The administrator shall have all other authority as may be granted under the town’s policies and procedures as approved by the BOS.

 

               Minimum Qualifications:

A Bachelor’s degree in Public Management, Business Finance or related field with five years of relevant experience.  Master’s degree preferred including two years of prior administrative experience. Prior experience in Massachusetts Municipal setting, CPA or law degree preferred, experience in Essex County or State Committees preferred.

 

 

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King Rail Recent Issue: “….condition of soil by the proposed clubhouse, environmental testing has revealed is incapable of supporting any buildings.”

Please read the attached article for more details :http://homenewshere.com/middlesex_east/article_8f81ce56-bf2b-11e7-8054-5babacdaab33.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-shareGolf Picture

 

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