About Tamara Small

Tamara serves as the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for NAIOP Massachusetts.

Do Climate Resiliency the Right Way

NAIOP Massachusetts authored the following op-ed on key climate change resiliency legislation. Commonwealth Magazine ran the op-ed on April 1, 2018. 

Do Climate Resiliency the Right Way

Extreme weather is a threat to overall economy

Promoting climate change resiliency is top of mind for Massachusetts residents and businesses. The 2018 nor’easters have placed considerable stress on our infrastructure and communities, as well as the public’s consciousness.  Sixty-five percent of voters now say that climate change is affecting storms, according to a recent WBUR poll, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

In addition to the public health and environmental risks associated with climate change, NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, views climate change as a threat to the overall economy.  As we have seen with increasing frequency, transportation systems, communications, utilities, and businesses of all sizes are affected by extreme weather events.  Preparing for a changing climate needs to be a shared responsibility between the public and private sectors.

Currently, developers are tailoring plans to local site needs, particularly flooding risks in Cambridge and Boston, and, as an example, utilizing technology such as aquafences. They are bringing working knowledge to Climate Ready Boston and similar initiatives, seeking best practices from developers and governments in other states, and partnering with the public sector on key climate initiatives.

On March 15, NAIOP was proud to join Gov. Charlie Baker, public officials, and members of the environmental advocacy community to support new climate change resiliency and environmental bond legislation.  The governor’s bill (House 4318 – An Act Promoting Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental and Natural Resource Protection and Investment in Recreational Assets and Opportunity) directs the state, led by the secretary of energy and environmental affairs and the secretary of public safety and security, to draft a comprehensive plan, known as the Integrated State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan.

Under the legislation, the plan would need to be updated every five years, ensuring a focus on climate change resiliency beyond the current administration. The plan would include the following components: observed and projected climate trends, risk analysis and vulnerability assessments, and evaluation of the Commonwealth’s adaptive capacity to respond to climate change.  It further requires the state to carry out the plan and to offer guidance and strategies for municipalities to navigate the state plan, alongside local bylaws and regulations.

The legislation authorizes $1.4 billion in capital allocations for investments in safeguarding residents, communities, and businesses from the impacts of climate change.  As an example, it expands the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program, which 20 percent of Massachusetts municipalities currently participate in, with a $50 million commitment.  It also commits another $170 million to coastal resiliency measures, such as critical seawalls and dams that protect our environmental assets.

This comprehensive approach sets the Commonwealth on a path towards improved resiliency without unreasonably hampering economic development and new housing.  Other climate change legislation, such as Senate bill 2196 – known as the Comprehensive Management Adaptation Plan, or CAMP, bill, is the wrong approach.  The bill, [crafted initially by Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton], goes far beyond regulating the reasonable impacts of climate change and would create tremendous uncertainty for the real estate industry, the business community, and regulatory agencies.

Under CAMP, “all certificates, licenses, permits, authorizations, grants, financial obligations, projects, actions, and approvals issued thereafter by a state agency or state authority” would need to be consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the yet to be determined adaptation plan.  Consistency with this plan would be open to interpretation and the term “maximum extent practicable” is not defined.  It is disconcerting that a cost-benefit analysis is not part of this approach. It is unclear how such a broad requirement could even be implemented and the legal challenges around such a concept could be significant.  Tying up every grant, permit, approval, certificate, and authorization in court would do nothing to better prepare the Commonwealth for climate change.

Unlike CAMP, the governor’s climate change legislation builds on the significant work done to date by the Baker-Polito Administration on this issue.  It codifies key portions of Executive Order No. 569, which established an integrated climate change strategy for the Commonwealth.

The governor’s climate change resiliency legislation prepares the Commonwealth to adapt and mitigate climate change on a long-term basis, working hand in hand with local policymakers and regulators.  It provides communities with the tools they need to build up resiliency efforts through new grants and programs aimed at protecting critical environmental resources.

In short, House bill 4318 is the right approach at the right time.  Its passage will ensure that climate change adaptation and resiliency continue to be a top priority for the public and private sectors.

The legislation now goes to a legislative committee for its consideration. NAIOP strongly urges legislative leaders to approve the necessary investment in planning for extreme storms and rising sea levels.

Tamara Small is the senior vice president of government affairs for NAIOP Massachusetts – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

 

Legislative Update: Issues Affecting CRE on Beacon Hill

STATEHOUSEIMAGE

Coasting past a February 7th deadline to advance, retract, or postpone action on the 7,300 bills filed this session, Massachusetts legislators are now meeting through July 31, at which point they will break for the summer and the fall campaign cycle.

As NAIOP expected, several opportunities and threats made it through the deadline set for legislative committees to report out bills to the legislature, including the following:

Housing Choice Initiative

Having unveiled the Housing Choice Initiative with broad-based support in December, Governor Baker used his January State of the Commonwealth speech to highlight the Administration’s plan to spur housing production. The Governor’s legislative package, supported by NAIOP, received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Housing in February. H.4075 is expected to now move to the House Committee on Ways & Means. Under the legislation, numerous local zoning changes, including the adoption of a 40R district, reduced parking ratios or mixed-use zoning, among others, would require only a majority vote of the local legislative body instead of a supermajority. NAIOP believes this bill, combined with the Housing Choice Designation for municipalities that prioritize housing production, and the Housing Bond Bill (referenced below) are important tools for addressing the Commonwealth’s housing crisis. NAIOP will continue to work to advance this much-needed legislation.

Problematic Zoning Legislation

Smart growth advocates and environmental groups remain committed to Senate Bill 81 and House Bill 2420, the zoning bills that are strongly opposed by the real estate industry. Both of the bills were granted an extension order to March 7. NAIOP, working with a broad real estate coalition, continues to educate lawmakers about the problematic provisions of the bills – particularly language that would hinder the production of housing in Massachusetts. Now that new Senate President Harriette Chandler has indicated that affordable housing is a top priority, NAIOP is advocating that the Governor’s approach is the best path forward for the Commonwealth and will continue to oppose any efforts to combine the Governor’s bill and the zoning bills.

Wage Theft

Wage theft is a serious matter and those who intentionally violate wage theft laws should be held accountable. Unfortunately, two wage theft bills (Senate Bill 999 and House Bill 1033), while well-intended, go after employers who are following the rules and doing the right thing. The bills penalize those who inadvertently do business with a firm that has committed a wage violation, through the imposition of vicarious liability (something that no other state imposes). The legislation would affect anyone involved in construction and development, but it would also have a huge impact on all businesses. It would apply equally to hospitals, universities, and businesses, large and small, that outsource aspects of their operations to other companies or “contractors.”  The financial impact could be severe. Both of the bills were given an extension order until March 7.

NAIOP is part of a large business coalition that is deeply concerned with the impact these bills could have on the Massachusetts economy. Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Paul Brodeur created a wage theft working group, which includes representatives from both sides of the issue. The group has met several times and we will continue to offer up alternative solutions to addressing the issue of wage theft and we will continue to oppose any wage theft bill that would include vicarious liability.

Housing Bond Bill & Brownfields Tax Credit

In January, the House passed a $1.7 billion housing bond bill, which contains numerous provisions supported by NAIOP.  It includes an extension of the soon-to-expire Brownfields Tax Credit and extends the authorization of other tax credits including the state’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the Community Investment Tax Credit.  The bill is now before the Senate Committee on Bonding, which held a hearing on it last week. NAIOP will continue to advocate for quick passage of this important legislation.

A potential economic development bill, an omnibus energy bill, and countless other bills are also on NAIOP’s radar. In the next five months, NAIOP will continue to fight for legislation that encourages economic development and supports the commercial real estate industry.  If there are issues of interest to you or your firm, please contact NAIOP’s Government Affairs Team.

NAIOP Supports Baker-Polito Housing Legislation

housingpressconference
On Monday, NAIOP was pleased to join Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay to support a new initiative to increase housing production in the Commonwealth. The Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth. It also creates a new technical assistance toolbox to empower cities and towns to plan for new housing production and proposes legislative changes, through An Act to Promote Housing Choices, to deliver smart, effective zoning at the local level. (A section by section summary of the bill is also available.)

NAIOP believes the production of workforce housing is critical for the continued growth of the Massachusetts economy and we are pleased to support this initiative. Unlike the extremely problematic zoning legislation that is supported by planners and environmental groups and opposed by the real estate industry and municipalities, this bill does not include language that would hinder the production of housing. Instead, it rewards communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted certain best practices with a new Housing Choice Designation.

Cities and towns that receive the Housing Choice Designation will be eligible for new financial resources, including exclusive access to new Housing Choice Capital Grants, and preferential treatment for many state grant and capital funding programs, including MassWorks, Complete Streets, MassDOT capital projects and PARC and LAND grants.

Under the legislation, the following local zoning changes would require only a majority vote of the local legislative body:

  • Reducing dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes, to allow homes to be built closer together.
  • Reducing required parking ratios, which can lower the cost of building new housing and accommodate development on a smaller footprint.
  • Creating mixed-use zoning in town centers, and creating multi-family and starter home zoning in town centers, near transit, and in other smart locations.
  • Adopting “Natural Resource Protection Zoning” and “Open Space Residential Development.” These zoning techniques allow the clustering of new development while protecting open space or conservation land.
  • Adopting provisions for Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), which protects open space while creating more density in suitable locations.
  • Adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning, which provides incentives for dense, mixed-use development in town centers, near transit, and in other “smart” locations.
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units or “in-law” apartments – small apartments in the same building or on the same lot as an existing home.
  • Allowing for increased density through a Special Permit process promoting more flexible development.

While it does not mandate that any town adopt these zoning best practices, it does remove the barrier of having to convince a supermajority of the legislative body to adopt them.  

Unlike the zoning bills referenced above, this bill has the support of all of the key players – municipalities, business groups, housing advocates, environmental groups, and real estate. NAIOP looks forward to working with the Baker Administration and the legislature to advance this important legislation, which will be an important step in truly addressing the housing crisis facing Massachusetts.

Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit to Force Stormwater Permits in the Charles River Watershed

The following is a guest post by Hamilton Hackney of Greenberg Traurig regarding the recent decision in CLF v. EPA. NAIOP is extremely pleased with the decision in this case, which we had been following closely. NAIOP will continue to monitor stormwater issues at the state and federal levels on behalf of the commercial real estate industry.

Last week, the federal district court dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force USEPA to create a permitting program for stormwater discharges in the Charles River watershed.  Filed by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Charles River Watershed Association, the suit claimed that USEPA had a mandatory duty to require commercial and institutional properties that discharged stormwater to obtain permits to do so.  If successful, this suit would have forced commercial and institutional property owners to obtain permits, develop stormwater control plans and possibly design and install additional stormwater controls on their properties.

The suit invoked USEPA’s so-called Residual Designation Authority in the Clean Water Act. Although this authority has been exercised very infrequently to date, environmental groups are increasingly citing this statutory authorization as a basis for demanding that USEPA expand regulation of stormwater beyond industrial sources, construction sites and municipal stormwater systems.  In this particular case, the environmental groups argued that USEPA’s approval of “pollution budgets” (Total Daily Maximum Loads or TMDLs) for the Charles River obligated USEPA to regulate previously unregulated stormwater discharges to ensure that the TMDLs were achieved.  Given the hundreds of existing or proposed TMDLs in Massachusetts alone, that position could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and institutional real estate in the many watersheds with TMDLs.

The federal district court’s dismissal of this lawsuit follows another federal court decision last December in a similar case in Rhode Island.  Together, these decisions indicate that courts remain reluctant to intrude on USEPA’s discretion to choose when and how it may exercise its Residual Designation Authority.  While that is an encouraging outcome, these decisions are likely to be appealed, so there may be more developments on this issue.

Massachusetts Adopts New Energy Code & Stretch Energy Code

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) voted in July to adopt several changes to the energy provisions of the existing building code (8th edition). The BBRS adopted the next edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2015) as the base energy code in non-stretch code communities and adopted a new stretch energy code (approximately 15% more energy efficient than the current base energy code), which will automatically take effect in existing stretch code communities without a vote by the city or town.

NAIOP was pleased that the BBRS did not advance the solar rooftop readiness or electric vehicle readiness requirements that had been proposed (and opposed by NAIOP), but disappointed that a new stretch energy code was adopted.

A concurrency period will run from August 12, 2016 – January 1, 2017 which allows persons seeking building permits to submit plans and other required documents that conform to either the energy provisions in effect prior to August 12, 2016, or the amended energy provisions effective August 12, 2016, but not a combination of the two. Beginning January 2, 2017, all building permits and submitted documents must conform to the amended energy provisions only.

Public hearings on the next (9th) edition of the building and energy codes are expected this fall. NAIOP will continue to advocate on behalf of the industry on these important issues.

Legislative Wrap-Up

Around 12:30AM on August 1, 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature wrapped up its work for the 2015 – 2016 legislative session. There was a flurry of activity in the final hours of the session. For the remainder of 2016, the Legislature will meet in informal session, but during those sessions bills need the unanimous approval of the limited number of members attending to be approved. Any member of the Legislature can prevent any bill from advancing simply by objecting.

This session NAIOP played offense and defense on a wide range of bills – with a number of significant victories. The following is an end-of session update on some of the bills NAIOP pursued this session:

Economic Development Bill Includes NAIOP Priorities
One of the final bills passed at the end of the session was the Economic Development Bill, H.4569 An Relative to Job Creation & Workforce Development. The bill included a number of provisions supported by NAIOP that will encourage economic activity in Massachusetts including:

  • Extends (from 6 months to 12 months) the period of time within which an applicant must begin construction following the issuance of a building permit or special permit or otherwise be subject to subsequent amendments to local ordinances. Extends (from 2 years to 3 years) the life of a special permit if construction has not commenced.
  • Increases the total number of projects allowed per community under the I-cubed program from 8 to 10 projects.
  • $45 million for the depleted Brownfields Redevelopment Fund.
  • Creates a new starter home program as part of Chapter 40R. Communities that establish a starter home district will be eligible for incentive payments from the state. The program encourages the production of densely located, smaller, single family homes, with a requirement that at least 20% of the homes in the district be affordable to and occupied by households with incomes at or below 100% of AMI.
  • $500 million for MassWorks, which gives municipalities and other public entities grants to support public infrastructure, economic development and job creation.
  • $15 million for a Site Readiness Fund, which will be administered by MassDevelopment and will promote site assembly, site assessment, pre-development permitting and other pre-development and marketing activities. These activities may enhance a site’s readiness for commercial, industrial or mixed-use development.
  • $15 million for an Innovation Infrastructure Fund, which will make grants and loans available to municipalities, private property owners, and business operations for design, construction and improvement of buildings and for equipment to spur innovation and entrepreneurship across the state, including co-working spaces, innovation centers, maker spaces, and artist spaces.
  • $45 million for the Transformative Development Initiative. The TDI Fund makes equity investments in major development projects in Gateway Cities. The fund also supports needed technical assistance for these municipalities.
  • $15 million for the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund. This funds incentive payments to communities that create dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts in accordance with the Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Act.
  • $25 million for the Workforce Housing Production Program.  The pilot program will supplement the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) to encourage redevelopment of underutilized buildings in Gateway Cities.
  • Makes important reforms to the EDIP program
  • Reforms the Urban Center Housing Tax Increment Financing Zone (UCH-TIF), which authorizes cities and towns to utilize tax increment financing to encourage increased residential growth, affordable housing, and commercial growth.
  • Reforms the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP), which offers developers a state tax credit for substantially rehabilitating properties for lease or sale as multi-unit market rate housing in Gateway Cities, to now include new construction, as well as rehabilitation of existing structures. The bill further increases the maximum allowable credit under the program from 10% of qualifying expenses to 25% of qualifying expenses.

The Governor did veto a section of the bill opposed by NAIOP that would have created Community Benefit Districts. The proposed language created uncertainty and confusion and would have imposed fees on commercial, residential and non-profit property owners.  NAIOP applauds the Governor and the Legislature for their work on this very important bill.

Energy Bill – NAIOP Objections Removed, Commercial PACE Adopted
Another bill that emerged from conference committee on Sunday, July 31 was the energy bill, H.4568, An Act to Promote Energy Diversity. NAIOP was pleased that all of the sections the organization opposed were removed from the final bill. Those sections included: the Climate Adaptation Management Plan, which went well beyond planning and contained subjective and far reaching language that could have had extremely negative consequences for the Massachusetts economy; electric vehicle requirements as part of the building code; and mandatory energy inspections prior to the sale of a home and the creation and use of a mandatory energy score.  The legislature did adopt Commercial PACE, which is supported by NAIOP and creates a financing mechanism for energy efficiency improvements in commercial properties.

Zoning Legislation – Defeated
NAIOP was extremely pleased that the House did not take up the zoning bill that was passed by the Senate. S. 2311, An Act Promoting Housing and Sustainable Development, was supported by planners and environmental groups and strongly opposed by the real estate and business groups in the state, as well as the Mass Municipal Association. The legislation would have added expense and delay to the land development process in Massachusetts.

Wage Bill – Defeated
NAIOP and a coalition of business groups were also glad to see that the House did not support another problematic bill passed by the Senate, S.2207 An Act to Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability. The bill would have affected all businesses, including anyone involved in construction and development. It was a radical proposal that went far beyond what other states have done. It did not target wage cheaters. Instead, it would have targeted and punished the companies who contracted with them, even if the companies knew nothing or had no way of knowing about any wage violations.

Water Banking – Defeated
Finally, NAIOP brought together a coalition of organizations to defeat H. 657, An Act Providing for the Establishment of Sustainable Water Resource Funds. The bill would have provided communities with the authority to create water banks – essentially an impact fee that unfairly targeted new development and focused on environmental mitigation and water conservation measures rather than water infrastructure upgrades or capacity issues.

Special thanks to all NAIOP members who provided input and expertise on the wide range of issues NAIOP pursued this session. NAIOP will now begin drafting its legislative agenda for the 2017 – 2018 session by meeting with members to determine how to best advance the goals of the industry.

Update from Beacon Hill

Formal sessions for the 2015-2016 legislature will end on Sunday, July 31. Since many legislators attended the Republican National Convention last week or the Democratic National Convention this week, a lot of action and major votes are expected this weekend as formal sessions will be held on Saturday and Sunday. NAIOP has been actively lobbying on a number of important bills and will continue to do so through the final moments of the session on Sunday night.

Much of NAIOP’s advocacy has been devoted to fighting bills that would do harm to the industry and discourage economic development. Among those bills are the zoning and wage theft bills, which were both passed by the Senate. NAIOP has been working to educate members of the House on the serious consequences these bills would have on economic development if passed.

This weekend the Legislature is expected to pass a number of bills that are now in conference committee and are priorities for both the House and Senate including: the ride-hailing industry bill; a municipal government reform bill; the non-compete legislation; an omnibus energy bill; and an economic development bill.  NAIOP has weighed in on the energy bill by supporting the positions of organizations like AIM on the procurement issues, while also supporting PACE language, and opposing the climate adaptation management plan (CAMP) language, as well as mandatory energy scoring and energy audit requirements. A letter to conference committee members was sent last week highlighting our concerns with the most problematic sections of the bill.

NAIOP is also advocating for the inclusion of language in the economic development bill that was included in the House version. Specifically, NAIOP supports important changes to I-cubed, increased funding for MassWorks and the creation of a new starter home program.

In short, there is one thing that is certain about the final hours of the legislative session – absolutely nothing is certain. Stay tuned for future updates from Beacon Hill.