Housing Leaders Form Coalition to Push for Real Estate Transfer Fee Legislation

Would raise hundreds of millions for affordable and workforce housing...
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth)

BOSTON - State and local officials stood alongside affordable housing advocates at the State House on Wednesday to announce a coalition in support of legislation allowing municipalities to charge up to a 2% fee on high-cost real estate transactions to fund affordable and workforce housing.


In January of 2019, Representatives Dylan Fernandes, Liz Malia, and Mike Connolly, and Senator Jo Comerford filed statewide legislation allowing municipalities to create a fund for workforce and affordable housing through a transfer fee. The bills are H2457, H2552, H1769, S773 respectively. Under state law, municipalities cannot yet impose a transfer fees and, to date, six communities including Boston, Somerville, Nantucket, Provincetown, Brookline and Concord have filed petitions requesting that the legislature allow their municipality to use a transfer fee on high cost home sales to fund affordable housing.

Today, legislators, municipal leaders, and over 30 housing advocacy groups announced their support for consensus transfer fee legislation that empowers local cities and towns to impose a fee between .5% and 2% on high cost home sales to fund affordable housing.

Topline points of the bill

  • The transfer fee is a local option for any city or town, a municipality’s legislative body decides whether to opt in
  • Money raised by the transfer fee is collected by and remains in the city or town
  • Money raised by the transfer fee goes towards workforce and affordable housing (up to 175% area median income)
  • A city or town cannot impose a fee on home sales below the state median home price
  • The transfer fee shall be flexible allowing cities or towns to impose a fee of up to 2% on real estate transactions 

Practical implications

The areas of the state that filed home rule petitions for a transfer fee are the most expensive places to own and rent. If the bill is passed, some of these cities and towns, through a vote of their legislative body, will exempt the first million or two million dollars of the real estate transaction. However, to allow municipalities reeling from the housing crisis but without many or any multi-million dollar homes or extensive commercial real estate to raise revenue, the threshold was set at the state median home price which is currently around $470,000. This should enable a range of cities and towns across the state to tailor their transfer fee legislation to their local market conditions in order to effectively raise funds for affordable housing.

Next steps

The 2 Cents for Housing Coalition is working with the Committee on Revenue, where most of the transfer fee bills currently sit, to combine the bills and report out favorably the compromise transfer fee legislation. A copy of the transfer fee legislation is attached in this email.


Wednesday’s speakers included Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, State Representatives Dylan Fernandes, Liz Malia, and Mike Connolly, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, State Senator Julian Cyr, Boston tenant Shameeka Moreno, Ken Beaugrand of the Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers, Marc Draisen of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and Lise Holdorf, Co-owner of Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord.

“The housing crisis is eroding the fabric of communities across the state as working families, and lifelong residents cannot compete in a runaway housing market. Wealthy home buyers purchasing million dollar homes can afford to pitch in two cents so that our teachers, police officers, and nurses can continue to live in the communities they serve in and love,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes at today's press conference.

"In Boston, we often ask whether we have a housing market or a stock market, with units traded like commodities," said Boston City Councilor Edwards, Chair of the Council's Committee on Housing and Community Development. "We need our city and state to ensure residents can come home to communities, and a real estate transfer fee would greatly scale up local resources to invest in housing our communities can afford."

“We need to explore every possible tool to address the unaffordability of housing in the greater Boston area,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. “It's only fair that speculators, who are profiting from the housing crisis, should be part of the solution. We need more affordable housing, and a transfer fee is one tool that will help us to get housing built and to stem the tide of displacement of our residents.”

“Communities across Massachusetts are struggling with a crisis in affordable housing for residents from firefighters to farmers,” said Chuck Collins, Boston-based senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. “By taxing high end real estate transfers, cities and towns will be able to generate meaningful revenue to fund permanently affordable housing and home ownership. A transfer tax was a key recommendation in our report last year on the hidden disruption caused by Boston's luxury housing surge.”

The growing list of members of the 2 Cents for Housing Coalition includes:

•             Boston Tenants Coalition

•             Cambridge Residents Alliance

•             Chinese Progressive Association

•             City Life Vida Urbana

•             Community Action Agency of Somerville

•             Concord Housing Foundation

•             Equitable Arlington

•             Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution

•             Fresh Pond Residents Alliance

•             Green Cambridge

•             Heading Home

•             Homeowners Rehab Inc. of Cambridge

•             HomeStart

•             Housing Corporation of Arlington

•             Housing Families

•             Institute for Policy Studies

•             Island Housing Trust

•             Just-A-Start

•             Lynn United for Change

•             Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance

•             Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)

•             Massachusetts Homeless Coalition

•             Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

•             Massachusetts Senior Action Cambridge/Somerville Chapter

•             Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants

•             Mayor Joseph Curtatone/City of Somerville

•             Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)

•             Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers

•             Our Revolution Somerville

•             Progressive Massachusetts

•             Right to the City Boston

•             Somerville Community Corporation

•             Somerville Community Land Trust

•             Somerville Homeless Coalition

•             Western Mass. Network to End Homelessness


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