MAR has long worked to educate lawmakers on the challenges presented by home energy scoring, such as the likelihood that REALTORS® would need to disclose scores to prospective buyers, the near impossibility of developing a fair and clear grading system, and the negative effect scores will have on older homes. Required energy scoring will further hamper an already burdened housing market with the second oldest median home age in the country. MAR filed a brief and a letter raising concerns with the proposed home energy scoring program included in the Department of Public Utilities three-year Energy Efficiency Investment Plans.
Over MAR objections, the DPU approved the plans in late January as long as the costs do not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the Residential Conservation Services budget.
This issue will also be debated in the legislative arena as several bills have been filed related to home energy scoring. We look forward to being part the discussion.
New Legislative Session
A new two-year session started in January, the 191st in Massachusetts history, with committee assignments released in early February. The leaders of the House and Senate will remain unchanged from the end of last session, with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka. The Ways and Means Committee has two new chairs in Representative Aaron Michlewitz and Senator Michael Rodrigues. The Housing Committee has one returning and one new leader in Representative Kevin Honan and Senator Brendan Crighton, respectively. Crighton served as Vice-Chair of the Committee last session.
In late January, Governor Charlie Baker released his $42.7 billion budget proposal. The budget discussed a plan, filed as a separate bill, to increase the deeds excise tax by 50% with the new revenue earmarked to fund climate resiliency programs. Justin Davidson, MAR’s General Counsel & Director of Government Affairs, was quoted in several articles on the issue (see, e.g., Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Wall Street Journal, and WBUR) voicing our opposition to the transfer tax and explaining that it would increase the cost of housing, further exacerbating the Commonwealth’s housing crisis.
In late February, Speaker DeLeo proposed a similar plan funded by borrowing the money, rather than imposing a transfer tax on Massachusetts homeowners. Polling data collected in behalf of the REALTORS® shows that a majority (roughly 2/3) of eligible voters on the issue oppose the tax.
Throughout the quarter, MAR staff has reviewed thousands of filed bills on issues of interest, and are committed to continue our important work on:
The H.O.M.E. and Housing Choice bills, which would both increase housing production;
Promoting first-time homebuyer savings accounts to encourage and help stimulate
Opposing legislation requiring home energy scoring; and
Closely monitoring newly emerging rent control proposals.