COVID-19 Update: Governor Baker Announces Phase 3 Start Date, Amends E.O. Tolling State Permits; SJC Releases Updated Operations Order; DPU Begins Energy Relief Plan for C&I Customers; MBTA Announces Flex Pass Pilot

Governor Baker Announces Phase 3 Start Date

Today Governor Baker announced that Phase 3 will begin on Monday, July 6. While Phase 3 is anticipated to be in place until there is an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, Governor Baker indicated that Phase 3 will be implemented in two steps.

Businesses allowed to reopen at this point in Phase 3 include but are not limited to:

  • Fitness Centers and Health Clubs
  • Museums and Aquariums
  • Movie Theaters and Performance Halls (at limited capacity)
  • Casinos (with additional minimum protocols set by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission)

Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration has updated the guidance related to gatherings. The new guidance related to indoor gatherings will allow eight people per 1000SF, with a maximum of 25 people. Outdoor enclosed gatherings will be limited to 25% of the capacity, with a maximum of 100 people. This updated guidance will be effective Monday, July 6, except for the City of Boston, where it will be implemented Monday, July 13. For all guidance, orders and updates related to the Commonwealth’s reopening plan please visit: www.mass.gov/reopening

Governor Baker Amends State Permit Tolling Order

This morning, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order rescinding and replacing his March 26 Order to suspend relevant permitting deadlines and extend out the validity of state permits.

Importantly, this updated order addressed NAIOP’s significant concerns with the previous order’s appeals language. In the updated order, any individual whose right to appeal would have expired between March 10, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall have until August 10, 2020 to proceed with their appeal. Any person whose right to appeal expires after July 1, 2020 will be held to the regular or statutory deadline, or by August 10, 2020, whichever is later.

NAIOP advocated strongly for this Executive Order given the extraordinary impact of the previous order on projects throughout the Commonwealth, and we were pleased to see our concerns addressed in the final language. A huge thank you to the NAIOP members who provided their expertise and insight throughout this process.

SJC Releases Updated Order Regarding Court Operations

On June 24, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting court house access until at least July 13, 2020. In addition, the order affirmed that there will be no further extensions of deadlines or civil statutes of limitations beyond June 30, 2020, “unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines a new or extended tolling period is needed) and that appeal periods on local permits will begin to run on July 1, 2020.

DPU Begins Energy Relief Plan for Commercial and Industrial Customers

On June 26, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the commencement of a program designed to assist companies that have fallen into arrears on gas or electricity payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full implementation of the program will begin after the March 10 State of Emergency is lifted and current customer protections expire. The Customer Outreach Plan will consist of four phases. You can read the full order by clicking here. Any company having trouble paying their electric or gas bills due to COVID-19 should contact their distribution company for further information.

MBTA Announces Five-Day Flex Pass Pilot for Commuter Rail mTicket

Yesterday, July 1, the MBTA began the new Five-day Flex Pass on mTicket pilot, a program designed to allow greater flexibility for commuter rail passengers as employers and employees explore staggered schedules and telework policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot will take place from July 1 – September 30, 2020 and is only available within the mTicket app. Once purchased, the Flex Pass provides five one-day passes that can be used at any time in a 30-day period. This pass, available for all zones and interzones, is a 10% discount when compared to five round-trip tickets.

CRE Must Do More to Ensure Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Now Is the Time to Listen, Learn – and Act

The below op-ed was originally published in Banker and Tradesman on June 28, 2020

Now is a pivotal moment in history where society’s attention is finally focused on what we have collectively ignored for far too long – hundreds of years of brutality, racism and inequity throughout the United States of America. While COVID-19 has pushed us into unusual and unprecedented times, the systemic issues being protested were with us long before the pandemic.  

As an industry, commercial real estate is predominantly white and male. While steps have been made in recent years to begin to address this, more must be done. The collective voice of our industry is strong – and must be used to amplify voices that are not heard. It is incumbent upon industry leaders to bring attention to these injustices and to commit to real change for this critical sector of the economy.  

NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, applauds the peaceful protests that have occurred around the country and here in the commonwealth. Diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority for our organization and our leadership, but we recognize that we can and will do more to advance change across the industry.  

Small incremental change is no longer enough. Real change will happen when all companies – and senior leadership – commit to creating a more diverse and inclusive industry. It will not happen overnight, but the industry must be unified in making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority. 

What Must Be Done 

NAIOP urges the professionals and companies in the commercial real estate industry to start with the following action steps. 

Listen and learn. Business leaders like to think they have all the answers. However, now is a time to listen, learn and acknowledge how deeply embedded racism is in the United States. This does not mean asking the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in your company for their advice – seek out professionals who specialize in this space and commit to being an active part of any company dialogue. Internalize what you learn and address it in your professional and personal interactions. 

Engage leadership. Change must come from the top. While human resources professionals are an important piece of this work, hiring BIPOC is just one piece of the puzzle. In order for the industry to diversify itself from entry-level positions to the C-suite, and change the culture, company leadership must be at the table, advocating for BIPOC employee success and committing to long term change. 

Support MWBE businesses and the organizations that empower them. After too many years of hearing that there were no people of color in commercial real estate, Dave Madan created the Builders of Color Coalition (BCC). It convenes minority real estate professionals in Greater Boston’s building sector to leverage access to development projects. Its 500 members include developers, investors, architects, attorneys, bankers, contractors and brokers working across a wide range of firms, from family-owned enterprises to multinational companies. The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, also known as BECMA, led by Segun Idowu works to advance the economic well-being of Black businesses, organizations that serve the Black community and Black residents of Massachusetts. These organizations are critical to the success of businesses of color and will help the commercial real estate industry to create more diverse teams.  

These are just two examples of organizations that are working to address serious inequities in companies across Massachusetts. Seek out organizations, community groups and change-makers who have been working in this space for years and invite them to the table as you begin these conversations.  

Hold Yourself Accountable 

Create a career pathway for diverse talent. Talent recruitment programs designed to introduce high school and college students of color to commercial real estate are essential. The Commercial Real Estate Success Training (CREST) Program is a comprehensive initiative to support commercial real estate companies in their commitment to attract underrepresented college students of color and women to the industry through summer internships. The program, now in its fourth year, has placed close to one hundred students in internships and led to career placements in the industry.  

With broader industry support, more students can be placed in these internships. NAIOP is encouraging its members to support CREST by hosting an intern or committing to a financial contribution that will allow the program to expand. The Real Estate Exchange (REEX) Summer Program, sponsored by REEC, is a unique 10-day, academic-intensive experience for high school students created to expose teens of color to top-tier universities and career opportunities in business, entrepreneurship and commercial real estate. NAIOP is proud to support REEX and CREST and we will continue to urge members to seek out programs that target equity and inclusion and implement them. 

Be accountable. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Create diversity metrics, set hiring goals and update them regularly. While numbers are important, they do not matter if the culture is not inclusive and supportive. Make both a priority – and hold yourself accountable for their success. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list of action items for the industry. These are simply near-term steps that should be the minimum requirement for all commercial real estate firms. In the coming months, NAIOP will be working with a subcommittee of its board of directors and a coalition of real estate trade groups to identify and advance further opportunities for change. We do not have all the answers, but we are committed to learning, listening and acting to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive industry. 

Tamara Small is CEO and Reesa Fischer is executive director of NAIOP Massachusetts – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. 

Changing the CRE Industry Requires Action – Support the CREST Internship Program

Dear NAIOP Members & Friends,

Diversity, equity & inclusion are a priority for NAIOP Massachusetts and our leadership, but we recognize that we must do more to advance change across the industry. Small incremental change is no longer enough. Real change will happen when all companies – and senior leadership – commit to creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.

Talent recruitment programs designed to introduce college students of color to commercial real estate are essential. NAIOP is proud to be a supporter of the Commercial Real Estate Success Training (CREST) Program, a comprehensive initiative to support commercial real estate companies in their commitment to attract underrepresented college students of color and women to the industry through summer internships. With broader industry support, more students can be placed in these internships. Please see the request below from NAIOP Members Tom O’Brien and Dick Galvin on one simple step your firm can take right now to change the industry for the better. 

CREST and the future of this industry need your support. To sign up today, please contact Milton Benjamin at mbenjamin@kagegrowth.com or by phone at (617) 930-3402.

Tamara Small & Reesa Fischer

Dear Friends in NAIOP, 

We certainly hope that all of you and your families, employees, and partners, are staying healthy and safe during this incredibly challenging time for all of us. We are especially mindful of all of the frontline workers in our industry, whether in construction, building management, hospitality staff, or any position that is potentially in harms way, we want to salute them.

We write this letter on the eve of the NAIOP sponsored CRE Summit on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, set for June 24th. As events have unfolded since the tragic death of George Floyd, and a national conversation about racism and its effects has emerged that has been long overdue, our industry must continue to engage on these issues, and find concrete solutions that create real change going forward. 

We continue to believe that a key component of those solutions is the ongoing commitment and support of the CREST program. Under Milton Benjamin’s incredible leadership, CREST has continued to grow, and offer the kind of internship opportunities to young women and students of color that simply would not be there without this focused effort. This summer in particular was poised to be the best yet, with 40 students selected and ready to go, and participation from a wide range of companies and organizations big and small. Then COVID-19 hit and the world turned upside down. 

The commitments for many of these kids dried up, and the internship program changed dramatically, both in size and execution. Right now we have only nine interns placed, a huge reduction in both participation and support for the program. We recognize that all of us have taken huge hits to our budgets, including painful decisions about layoffs, salary reductions, and other draconian measures. But we also recognize, and hope you do too, that now is the exact moment to continue our commitment to CREST, and ramp it up even further. As our friend Kirk Sykes likes to say, “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” 

We ask two things of this group. First, if you had considered an intern before, but decided to back out, please reconsider, if possible. We know it’s late in the game, but for many of these kids, even a short term opportunity is meaningful. More importantly, we need to recognize that CREST needs long term support and commitment, both in intern support, and sponsorship. As we move to a more open business environment, and your business opens up, please think about how you might participate in this important program. We want to have these discussions later this summer and fall, and we want to ensure that CREST is positioned for greater success next summer, and beyond. 

We know that this group is filled with passionate, supportive people and companies who are ready to take this moment, and the discussions we’re having, and convert them to action that can change people’s lives, and change the Boston CRE industry for the positive. We must accept the challenge, and continue to what is now necessary to make this change happen. 

Sincerely,

Tom O’Brien, The HYM Investment Group, LLC

Dick Galvin, Accordia Partners

Change Happens Now

Today, NAIOP Massachusetts made the decision to cancel this afternoon’s State of the Market program. We made this decision because we believe that now is a pivotal moment in history where attention should be focused on what has been ignored for far too long – hundreds of years of brutality, racism and inequity throughout the United States of America.

NAIOP applauds the peaceful protests that have occurred around the country and here in the Commonwealth. While COVID-19 has pushed us into unusual and unprecedented times, the systemic issues being protested in recent days were with us long before the pandemic.

NAIOP is about more than just buildings, which can be repaired. We are about strengthening our communities. Our collective voice is strong – and must be used to amplify those voices that are not heard. It is incumbent upon all of us to bring attention to these injustices now, and always. While NAIOP does not have all of the answers, we are committed to learning and working with all of you to advance much needed change.

Today, we urge you to take time to look within and support programs and organizations like YWBoston that work each and every day to fight racial injustice. Change is needed and the time is now.

Tamara Small, CEO
Reesa Fischer, Executive Director

COVID-19 Update: Boston Announces Office Reopening Framework

Today, Mayor Marty Walsh announced a new framework for all office spaces located within Boston. Starting June 1, office spaces located within the City of Boston will be required to limit capacity to no more than 25 percent of the maximum occupancy level during phase 1. This framework is in place as an operational recommendation to be used as a reference in line with Federal and State-wide mandates.

These operational recommendations apply to operations during Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s phased reopening plan, and are subject to revision and modification during subsequent phases or as necessitated by public health considerations. The City’s operational recommendations include, but are not limited to:

  • Identify and clearly communicate a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 and the impact to the workplace.
  • Providing personal protective gear for any employee whose job functions requires it, as identified in the hazard assessment, including training on how to put on and remove equipment safely.
  • Limiting the number of people in an elevator at a time to no more than four. All individuals must wear face coverings in elevators, except where unsafe due to medical condition or disability.
  • Stair usage should be limited to one direction (down) except in cases of emergency.
  • Regular sanitization of handrails, buttons, door handles and other high-touch frequency areas.
  • Establish accommodation and leave policies for employees that are consistent with federal standards.

We encourage all of our members and member-organizations to review the City’s framework. These operational recommendations incorporate the Commonwealth’s Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Office Spaces and supplement them with recommendations based on guidance from the CDC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and industry associations to offer best practices for preparing and returning to the physical workplace, preparing your workforce, and ensuring continuity of operations. NAIOP presented to the City regarding Industry Best Practices and we are pleased to see that many of our recommendations have been incorporated into this guidance.

The Mayor has made it very clear that the City hope’s employees who can work from home continue to do so throughout this recovery in order to limit potential exposure and allow for a successful and resilient reopening.

NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies, Executive Orders and legislation that address how this public health crisis is affecting real estate and overall economic development. We are working on numerous initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou if you have any questions.

COVID-19 Update: Governor Announces Reopening Plan – Construction Restarts and Office Space Reopening Standards Released

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration released its plan for reopening the Massachusetts Economy. Please visit mass.gov/reopening to review the full report, general business guidance, sector guidance, mandatory employer and worker posters, and FAQs on the 4-Phase Reopening Plan. In order to reopen, all businesses must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Phase One will allow the following (with restrictions, some capacity limitations, staggered start):

  • On May 18: Essential businesses; Manufacturing; Construction
  • On May 25: Lab space; Office space (outside of Boston); Limited Personal Services (hair; pet grooming; car washes); Retail (remote fulfillment; curbside pick-up)
  • On June 1: Office space in Boston

Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer depending upon public-health data.

All Construction Included in Phase 1 Reopening Announcement

Governor Baker announced that effective today all construction (including office, retail, etc.) will be allowed to proceed if the appropriate documentation and safety standards and guidance are in place (in addition to any local requirements or restrictions). 

In addition to the mandatory safety standards for all industries announced on May 11 regarding social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and sanitization, the Baker-Polito Administration today released construction-specific mandatory safety standards and guidance. The requirements must be in place before reopening a site, and include but are not limited to:

  • Keeping all crews a minimum of six feet apart at all times to eliminate the potential of cross-contamination
  • No in-person meetings of more than 10 people
  • Where social distancing is impossible, employers will be required to supply PPE including, as appropriate, a standard face covering, gloves and eye protection.
  • The elimination of large gathering places on site such as shacks and break areas, allowing instead for small break areas with limited seating available to ensure social distancing.
  • The designation of a site-specific COVID-19 Officer (who may also be the Health and Safety Officer) for every site except for construction and remodeling work in one to three family residences. This Officer shall certify that the contractor and all subcontractors are in full compliance with the COVID-19 safety requirements for construction.

The construction-specific requirements and guidance allows cities and towns to require additional site-specific risk analysis and safety plans.

Construction in the City of Boston

Also starting today, May 18, the City of Boston will allow a subset of construction projects on sites that meet specific criteria to commence (hospitals, public schools, 1-3 unit residential buildings, road and utility work or other outdoor/open-air work such as steel erection). On May 26, all construction projects in Boston may re-commence construction, if the construction site has submitted a COVID-19 Safety Plan and a COVID-19 Safety Affidavit in accordance with the City’s Temporary Guidance for Construction

Office Space Reopening

Starting May 25, the Administration will allow office space to reopen at 25% of capacity, except in the City of Boston, which will allow office space to reopen on June 1. NAIOP has been in talks with the City and we will keep members posted if any additional standards for offices are released. The Baker-Polito Administration has released guidance for office spaces ahead of the May 25 date so that companies are able to review and plan for reopening. The guidance released includes a COVID-19 checklist and mandatory sector-specific safety standards.

The Administration has made it very clear that they hope employees who can work from home continue to do so throughout this recovery in order to limit potential exposure and allow for a successful and resilient reopening.

Plan for Public Transit Released

The MBTA has remained open throughout this public health crisis, and will continue to provide service as adjusted to prioritize essential travel for healthcare and emergency workers. All riders and employees are required to wear face coverings while riding public transit. Stations and vehicles will continue to be cleaned and sanitized with increased frequency, and customers should board at the rear doors of buses and street-level trolley stops. Seniors and individuals with disabilities may still board at the front door if needed. 

A message to Millennials and Gen Z: Finding opportunity in uncertainty

In uncertainty, there is opportunity. Seize it.

The following post was written by Leslie Cohen, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at Samuels & Associates and 2020 President of NAIOP Massachusetts

For most leaders of companies, the last eight weeks have been among the most challenging of their careers. The pace of change, the uncertainty ahead, the multi-dimensional contingency planning, all while adopting to new virtual environments and motivating a team unmoored from its daily routines and worried about their own health, the health of their family and friends, the economic uncertainty and the status of the world during this pandemic.

But most of us have lived through multiple challenging moments, from the aftermath of 9/11 to the crash of 2008. And we know that while the path ahead of us is unlike either of those moments, we will eventually get to the other side.

For the younger professionals in our firms, however, these are unchartered waters. Though they came of age during the Great Recession, they have experienced only economic growth in their careers. And while those are undoubtedly more fun (and possibly more lucrative, at least in the short term), these moments of uncertainty offer opportunity as well.

For those on our teams and in our circles who have not worked through a crisis or economic downturn, I can assure you that:

  1. You will not only get through this, you will be prepared for the next time. In the short term, this situation may result in a temporary setback on your professional goals, your personal goals. But not only will you adjust to the new normal, you may see opportunities that weren’t there before. There is also something really powerful about learning to adjust your personal expectations for the greater good. And when the next moment of crisis comes – and it will – you will have the confidence that comes from having survived this one.
  2. You will learn a TON. I learned so much about the real estate business in 2008 – because that moment required different things from a smaller team than I had ever been asked to do before. That’s where I learned how to be a leasing agent, how to be an asset manager, how to identify the mission critical items in loan and venture documents, and more. My mindset changed from that of a project manager with an engineer’s point of view to that of a businessperson with a broader perspective.  
  3. You will be a smarter businessperson, smarter manager and smarter leader. Up cycles are wonderful – they offer the resources to foster creativity and explore new ideas. But down cycles foster resiliency, innovation, and the need to do more with less, set yourself apart from the pack, and always be hunting for the way to turn smaller opportunities into valuable assets.
  4. You will be a leader. Even if you aren’t in a partnership or management role, this crisis enables you to take a leadership position – to rally the troops, to be creative and reinvent yourself and help others do the same. Once it feels like the crisis phase of the pandemic is over, we’ll be faced with new challenges. Embrace these skills as we navigate the “new normal” and return to the office – creating new systems, embracing new protocol, and fostering a positive environment for new ideas.

I didn’t know any of this during the early moments of the 2008 downturn. And I probably would have scoffed at the idea, during a moment when it felt like the world I knew had fallen off a cliff, that the experience would define me in all of the most positive ways. But it did. 

In uncertainty, there is opportunity. Seize it.

Leslie Cohen – Principal, Chief Operating Officer

COVID-19 Update: Boston Announces Incremental Start to Construction

On May 5, City of Boston announced it will be taking an incremental approach to broadening the allowable categories of construction. Effective May 5, all essential construction projects (as defined by the state, which currently means residential, hospitals, public schools, mixed use with residential, public works and construction related to COVID-19) with approved safety plans and signed affidavits as required under the COVID-19 Safety Policy for Construction will be authorized to prepare the site with project specific COVID-19 safety measures.

As of May 18, the City of Boston will allow a subset of essential construction projects on sites that meet specific criteria to commence (hospitals, public schools, 1-3 unit residential buildings, road and utility work or other outdoor/open-air work such as steel erection). On May 26, all essential construction projects as defined by the state may re-commence construction in adherence to safety plans.

At no time will the City of Boston permit any construction beyond what is allowed by the Commonwealth. DPW and ISD will continue to monitor and enforce the COVID-19 Safety Plans for Construction. In accordance with the signed affidavit, contractors acknowledge and agree that non-compliance with any requirements may result in suspension of termination of work in progress of revocation of the City’s permit for such work.

NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies, Executive Orders and legislation that address how this public health crisis is affecting real estate and overall economic development. We are working on numerous initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou if you have any questions.

COVID-19: Boston Issues Construction Protocols, Governor Signs Eviction Legislation

Boston Issues Construction Site Safety

Due to the public health emergency caused by the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) the City of Boston will be implementing new protocols for essential construction work in the City of Boston. All essential construction sites must now submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan and a COVID-19 Safety Affidavit. These policies go into effect on April 27th for all essential construction. Nothing in these new protocols changes what construction is currently allowable in the City of Boston right now, but when construction resumes at some point, compliance with this policy will be required.

COVID-19 Safety Plan
This document will detail the job site practices that the contractor will follow to protect worker safety. Every contractor will be required to provide the City with this document when applying for a permit. If a job is already permitted, contractors must provide this document by April 27 or before work starts.

There are six key elements the City will be looking for in each plan: 1.) steps taken before shifts start to ensure workers are healthy; 2.) practices to ensure social distancing that can be achieved on the job site; 3.) materials provided to ensure job site hygiene; 4.) protocols for the use of personal protective equipment; 5.) communications and training practices to ensure everyone is informed; and 6.) procedures in case there is COVID-19 exposure on the job site.

To help with this, the City has provided a Safety Plan Worksheet (available here) for guidance.

COVID-19 Safety Affidavit
This affidavit (available here) attests that the contractor has created, provided to the City, and will implement its COVID-19 Safety Plan. It follows the same requirements as the Safety Plan. Failure to adhere to the policy may result in approval to work being revoked. 

Questions about the updated policies are due by April 22, and can be submitted by email to construction@boston.gov.


Governor Signs Eviction Moratorium Into Law

Today Governor Baker signed H. 4647 An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency, which institutes moratoriums on non-emergency evictions of residents and small businesses in the Commonwealth.

NAIOP recognizes the importance of helping small businesses who have been impacted by this crisis and we are happy to see that, in these uncertain times, the final bill includes language that serves small businesses and commercial landlords across the Commonwealth. While the bill provides protection from evictions, it does not relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent or restrict a landlord’s ability to recover rent. In addition, in contrast to the original bill that passed in the House, the language does not apply to all commercial tenants, but rather focuses on those that need help now – small businesses. It also allows for commercial landlords to exercise contractual remedies.

The protections extend for 120 days from the date it is signed by Governor Baker or 45 days after the emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is sooner. If the State of Emergency is extended beyond May 4, the Governor may not extend this emergency legislation for more than 45 days after the emergency declaration is lifted.

NAIOP is grateful to the many members who provided technical expertise on this issue and worked diligently to ensure the concerns of our industry were reflected in the final language.

COVID 19 Update: Eviction Legislation Before Senate, Clarity on Construction Moratoriums and Other Issues Affecting CRE

Construction Moratoriums and Guidance

In recent days, there has been a great deal of confusion over construction moratoriums at the state and local level. We hope the following summary, which reflects the latest information, provides some clarity.

State: On Tuesday, March 31, the Baker-Polito Administration updated the construction related guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance limits “essential” construction to housing and critical infrastructure activities. Under the revised list, private nonresidential construction is not considered essential (unless it falls within one of the specified exemptions). As of noon, April 1, only housing projects (including mixed use with housing, infrastructure projects and construction related to COVID-19 can proceed. On April 2, the state updated the FAQ page to answer questions on this issue. The state also issued supplemental guidelines to limit COVID-19 exposures on construction sites and additional guidance outlining the enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines. It specifically states that “for all private projects the primary enforcement responsibility rests with the city or town.”

Local: Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and numerous other cities and towns have issued a halt to all construction until further notice. Companies should maintain the crews necessary to make sure sites are “safe and secure.”  On April 5, Mayor Walsh asked that even if a job is one of the few that is allowed to move forward under current guidelines, companies should consider shutting down. In addition, effective April 2, Cambridge issued its own construction guidance

Commercial and Residential Eviction Moratorium Legislation

On Thursday, April 2, the House passed H. 4615, An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency. The bill provides eviction moratoriums for both commercial and residential tenants. The bill is now before the Senate, where a vote is expected on April 9.

Property Tax Update

As part of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, the municipal relief bill signed by Governor Baker on April 3, municipalities are allowed to extend the due date of quarterly taxes to June 1st.  
 
The City of Cambridge announced it is extending the due date for Second Half Real Estate and Property Tax bills until June 1, 2020. In addition, interest and other penalties on late payments made on Excise Tax and water/sewer bills with due dates after March 10, 2020 will be waived if payments are made before June 30, 2020. It is our understanding that this applies to both residential and commercial.
 
The City of Boston has extended the due date for property tax bills in Boston until June 1st to give residents more flexibility during the ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19. It is our understanding this only applies to residential.

BPDA Covid-19 Response

The BPDA is postponing all BPDA-hosted public meetings regarding Article 80 development projects and planning studies until further notice. While projects will continue to be reviewed internally by BPDA staff, the public review process for both Article 80 development projects and the BPDA’s planning studies is on hold until public meetings can be resumed. If you are a landlord or tenant of the BPDA’s housing program, please visit the BPDA’s housing page for information and resources. As the BPDA’s response to Covid-19 continues to evolve, please check this page or follow @bostonplans on Twitter for updated guidance.

COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund

On April 6, Governor Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker announced the launch of the COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund. It is designed to support organizations assisting Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, frontline health care workers, and other essential service providers.  Donations are needed and encouraged.