NAIOP Weighs In On Focus40: The 2040 Investment Plan for the MBTA

focus40

Today NAIOP submitted comments in support of Focus40, the 2040 Investment Plan for the MBTA. NAIOP applauds Secretary Pollack and the Baker-Polito Administration for the significant time and thought that went into Focus40.  A reliable public transit system is critical for sustained economic growth and NAIOP believes that Focus40, combined with the Administration’s Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth, and ongoing initiatives such as Rail Vision, as well as the significant work done by the Fiscal and Management Control Board, create a framework for the future.

By focusing on the three tiers of Doing, Planning and Imagining, Focus40 identifies investments that will make the MBTA a more reliable, robust and resilient public transportation system. Focus40 identifies 12 key programs: Blue Line 2040, Orange Line 2040, Green Line 2040, Silver Line 2040, Red Line 2040, Resiliency, Customer Experience, Paratransit, Commuter Rail 2040, Water Transportation 2040, Bus 2040 and Place Based Service Additions.

NAIOP’s comment letter is very supportive and encourages additional focus in the following areas:

– Water Transportation: In the current draft, an identified program objective for 2040 is “supporting a robust, multi-operator Boston Harbor water transportation system, serving more passengers and destinations and excellent connections to landside MBTA service.”  NAIOP believes that water transit has significant potential and that Focus40 provides a unique opportunity to further investigate how waterfront communities, including Boston, could benefit from an expanded system.  NAIOP looks forward to serving as a resource on this issue.

– Ride Sharing and Technology: While references to ridesharing are made under the Customer Experience program recommendations, NAIOP suggests that detailed analysis about the current and future impact of ride sharing services, e.g. Uber, Lyft as well as other technologies be included.  In addition to offering an alternative or complement to MBTA service, these companies are changing the composition of our streets and the level of congestion in many areas.  New and “disruptive” technologies are already impacting transportation and should be considered, making enhanced transportation information sharing through technology an integral part of the Commonwealth’s transportation plan.

– Regional Needs: Considering how the program objectives and recommendations might affect access to other parts of the Commonwealth should be further investigated in Focus40.  While we acknowledge that the MBTA is first and foremost the public transportation system for Boston and surrounding communities, we think that it’s necessary to zoom out and look at outside factors that may interact with the MBTA lines.

– Non-Capital Priorities and Human Resources Planning:  While it is important to have goals and big ideas to guide large investments, the essentials of good MBTA administration are absolutely critical.  The transformational work of the Fiscal and Management Control Board over the past three years illustrates this very clearly.  It is imperative that the big ideas in Focus40 do not overshadow the vital day to day needs and expectations of the region.  We recommend that Focus40 consider how human resources planning and operational strategies will allow this to continue.

Finally, it’s worth noting that in 2015, at the start of the Baker-Polito Administration, NAIOP issued the report, From Good to Great: Recommendations for the Baker-Polito Administration.  The report was based on member feedback and included recommendations on a wide range of policy areas, including transportation.  Specifically, NAIOP urged the Administration to develop a “Vision 2040 Transportation Plan,” which “should address tomorrow’s opportunities, focusing on the issues which may arise over the next 25 years, including long term demographic, economic, environmental, technological, cultural and governmental transformations, the potential effects of global climate change on infrastructure, and the development of new modal choices.”  It’s great to see that when NAIOP members weigh in, policymakers listen! We look forward to continuing to engage members and working with the MassDOT team on this and other transportation initiatives.

Luxury Residence Report Misses the Mark

A report was recently issued from the Institute for Policy Studies that has attracted significant media coverage and editorials from virtually all of the local print and broadcast outlets.

Elisif_20161213_5514.jpgCredit: Elisif Brandon

It’s a great story: the ultra-rich, international money launderers have descended on the Boston real estate scene, crowding out poor and middle-class residents.

However, when you go beyond the buzz and dig into the content of the report, there is much to question. The report implies that owning condos through a trust or LLC is done to hide the owner’s identity. This form of ownership is actually a very common practice for tax, estate, and transactional reasons. Furthermore, while some buyers may choose to remain anonymous, it’s rather uncommon and to imply that anyone who does this is somehow laundering money is factually incorrect.

If these higher priced apartments or condos were not built, middle income apartments would not be replacing them — the economics just do not work with the current high construction costs. Furthermore, these buildings are already paying a tax devoted to the production of affordable housing, with a requirement to provide for at least 15 percent of the units built on site as affordable or a fee to produce those units off site. In addition, the city’s office buildings must also pay a “linkage fee” for affordable housing and workforce training.

Virtually all of these new developments are built on vacant land or in commercial areas where there had not been any housing, so they have not displaced existing residents. In fact, many of these developments have been the catalyst to creating new 24/7 neighborhoods.

If these condo owners are not here full-time to justify a residential tax break, so what? Do we want to discourage retirees living in Florida from living here for six months? Do we want to tell the penthouse owner, Michael Dell, to take a hike and take his jobs with him? I don’t think so.

The real issue is that it will take federal and state resources, communities working with developers, and overcoming NIMBY-ism and fear of affordable housing at the local level to truly address this housing crisis. Rather than drawing false conclusions and creating easy scapegoats, it’s time we all come together to find economically feasible solutions.

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Boston Business Journal on September 20, 2018, as written by NAIOP Massachusetts CEO David Begelfer.

 

20 years later, Brownfields Act remains a pioneering policy

This op-ed originally appeared in Viewpoint on bizjournals.com on September 13, 2018. The joint op-ed was authored by Ned Abelson, attorney at Goulston & Storrs and co-chair of the NAIOP Brownfields Committee, and by David Begelfer, NAIOP Massachusetts CEO and an active participant in the passage of the Brownfields Act. 

Twenty years ago this summer, Gov. Paul Cellucci signed into law the “Brownfields Act,” establishing new incentives and protections to encourage parties to clean up and redevelop contaminated property in Massachusetts. This law provides comprehensive liability relief and financial incentives to attract new investment in these properties while ensuring a safe and effective cleanup. Simply put, without the passage of the Brownfields Act, many communities that are now thriving would be filled with vacant and contaminated properties.

Suburban Office Park

A Brownfield site is blocked from productive use because of potentially hazardous contaminants. Prior to the passage of this law, developers considering cleaning up and then redeveloping such a property often concluded the effort was simply too risky, too expensive and too time-consuming to offset future profits from leasing the property to retailers, businesses and residents.

A model for states across the country, the Brownfields Act allows innocent Massachusetts real estate owners and operators to apply to the Department of Revenue for a state income tax credit to offset the net cost of the cleanup. Any party that contaminated a property or owned the property at the time of contamination is not eligible for the tax credit. Depending on the extent of the completed cleanup, the taxpayer may apply for a credit equal to either 25 percent or 50 percent of the cleanup cost. If the site has an Activity and Use Limitation, or AUL — typically a use restriction placed on title as part of the cleanup process — then a 25 percent credit would apply; if no AUL, then eligibility increases to 50 percent. Without this tax credit, many contaminated properties would remain a public health risk and there would be no incentive to clean up and return these sites to productive use.

The credits have provided critical additional funding for community development corporations, or CDCs, and other community-based organizations. And a change to the law in 2006 has helped nonprofit organizations, which were previously not able to use all of their credits, to sell or transfer the credits to others. In recent years, the state Department of Revenue has distributed between $28 million and $61 million annually in Brownfields tax credits, benefitting between 40 and 80 development projects each year.

The Brownfields Act was created through a unique collaboration of Massachusetts policymakers and a truly diverse set of stakeholders. Developers, town officials, environmentalists, business association representatives, scientists and many others spent hundreds of hours negotiating the details of this landmark legislation.

For Massachusetts residents and businesses, the benefits have been significant. By cleaning up these sites, public health conditions improved, local communities were revitalized, housing was built in vacant areas, new jobs were created, and municipal real estate tax revenue grew. For developers and their partners in engineering, construction and architecture, redeveloping a former industrial site no longer posed a financial or legal death sentence.

For a very modest investment by the commonwealth, billions of dollars of investments have been made throughout the state, benefitting its citizens and municipalities. We commend the Legislature’s work this session to provide for a five-year extension of the Brownfields tax credit in the Housing Bond bill, signed by Gov. Baker on May 31. Twenty years later, the Brownfields Act’s approach to economic development and public health policy continues to be bipartisan, beneficial, bold and, most important, very successful.

 

BLDUP Spotlight and Q&A – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

This post comes from BLDUP.com: BLDUP Spotlight – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

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Last week NAIOP announced that David Begelfer would be retiring after more than 27 years leading the organization. NAIOP’s Board of Directors voted Reesa Fischer, currently Chief Operating Officer, and Tamara Small, currently Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, to co-lead the association. Fischer will serve as Executive Director with operational, financial, programming and membership/marketing oversight. Small will serve as Chief Executive Officer with oversight of the organization’s government affairs and lobbying activities, public relations, and research. BLDUP sat down with the three industry leaders to discuss the transition and NAIOP’s goals for the future.

BLDUP: For our readers that are not familiar, what is NAIOP?

Tamara Small: Officially NAIOP is The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. Long ago NAIOP stood for National Association of Industrial and Office Parks. It was then changed to National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.  In 2009, the national organization recognized we represented so much more than industrial and office properties.  They did not want to lose the brand recognition that NAIOP had so they kept the acronym, but changed what it stood for.  We now represent office, retail, mixed-use, multifamily, lab and institutional space here in Massachusetts. We are the largest of all the NAIOP chapters at nearly 1,700 members.

Reesa Fischer: Our membership is made up of a variety of industry leaders.  While we are primarily (60%), owners, developers, and operators, the other 40% is made up of attorneys, brokers, and everyone else who supports the commercial real estate industry.  This variety of folks involved in the organization is also a big differentiator for NAIOP.  We operate based on a 3 legs of the stool principle, government affairs advocacy, events/education & networking.

BLDUP:  What is NAIOP forecasting for the Boston market?  Are there any trends you are seeing?

David Begelfer: What I see as our greatest risk going forward is probably not a recession, at least locally.  The Boston market is quite strong and we do not see a lot of oversupply or speculative projects.

A serious downturn does not look like it’s in the cards for the next 2-3 years but we do anticipate somewhat of a slow down because of our success. There are two major components exceeding inflation, land cost and construction costs (the biggest part being labor costs) and these two issues affect development.  We have a very tight market with regards to the construction industry and the number of people and subcontractors.  We also have barriers for entry for companies and individuals to move in from out of state because of the high cost of living.  We are seeing inflation in costs of land/construction because of our dynamic economy. Because of this, we are already starting to price out residential rent projects, pushing them toward condos.

Another aspect of this looming problem is the limited capacity of skilled unemployed workers that can fuel the market going forward.  We have relied upon immigration from out of the country for the last 25 years of growth.  Immigration is starting to have some cracks for various reasons (policy, political, practical economic).  We have concerns that the constant flow is drying up and Massachusetts has always had a problem with net migration out of the state.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that we are at a greater risk from our success than from a possible recession.

BLDUP:  David, What is your proudest achievement as outgoing CEO of NAIOP?

David Begelfer:  It is very hard to choose one particular moment, but if I had to take an overview of the past 27+ years, I’m very proud of the “secret sauce” of NAIOP.  From the start, the secret sauce was to integrate the top professionals and engage in our organization primarily in government affairs and advocacy.  It’s very difficult to handle the wide range of issues that we deal with, regulatory, legislative, judicial, policy and then within each of those baskets another array of issues from environmental, transportation, economic, building codes, all across the map.  The only way we have been able to handle this and provide expert feedback is the unbelievably involved professionals who work with us. This has allowed us to expand the breadth and depth of issues that we deal with and we have done it in a way that we can give something back. We can’t pay for this counsel but instead, we offer networking, connections, and leadership opportunities to add value to our relationships and provide a win/win for everyone involved.  The involvement and growth of volunteerism within the organization is the greatest success I could imagine.

Additionally, we have been able to bring some of the top people in the industry onto our staff.  One of the reasons this is a seamless transition is that others have developed expertise within our organization. It was very easy to choose Reesa & Tamara to move forward into the leadership of the organization.

Reesa Fischer: I feel it is important to mention David’s ability to embrace change.  Most trade associations are very stagnant and very conservative.  They do what they do and as long as it’s not broken they don’t fix it is. One thing we value at NAIOP (and it’s why I love working here) is that embracing change is what it’s going to take to stay competitive.  We like to think of our organization as a disruptor and we are always trying new things that people wouldn’t necessarily expect from a trade association.

David Begelfer: We are always looking to see what can be changed and done differently.  There is no complacency in this organization. People talk about having periodic strategic plans; we strategically think about our organization throughout the year.  That may cause more work, but it keeps us relevant. You can’t fight change you have to embrace it!

BLDUP: Government affairs and advocacy is a big part of what you do. How do you work to accomplish your advocacy goals?

Tamara Small: We have our eyes and ears on anything that would have an impact on the industry and we weigh in wherever appropriate – whether it’s legislative, regulatory or judicial advocacy.  The process is a very collaborative one.  We have over 200 people on our Government Affairs committee and a very active board of directors who provide input. This expertise allows us to provide real-world examples that illustrate the impact of any proposed changes.

As an example, we just wrapped up the legislative session which ran from January 2017 through July 31, 2018.  There were about 8,000 bills filed this session and we tracked hundreds of them, provided testimony, served on legislative task forces and met with legislators.  Clearly, no legislator can be an expert on every single issue. So, for those issues that are of interest to us, we provide substantive, factual information on how the bill would affect the commercial real estate industry – and often the greater overall economy. Through this approach, we have built strong relationships with legislators and regulators.

A good example of how NAIOP handles advocacy would be a provision of the economic development bill that was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 10. The bill includes language that will bring clarity to the development process for properties along railroad rights of way. The process had been a source of frustration to the development community for many years. So, through our government affairs committee, we drafted a legislative fix and worked for 8 years to educate lawmakers on the need for the change. Through the leadership of key legislators and MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, we were able to work together on language that was signed into law. It will bring transparency and predictability to the development process – two things that are critical for any real estate project.   Talking about railroad rights of way may not be the most exciting topic, but it is one of those things that will affect important transit-oriented projects throughout the Commonwealth.

BLDUP:  What is the next legislative issue you will be focusing on?

Looking ahead, our three areas of focus will be: Housing, Transportation, and Climate Resiliency

We believe that climate resiliency is a top priority for the industry. It’s an economic development issue.  We were very supportive of the climate change legislation that passed this session. The bill that was passed requires the Commonwealth to develop a climate adaptation plan, complete vulnerability assessments at the state and local levels, and identify how the public and private sectors can work together to really think through what climate change means for the real estate industry and for the greater economy.

Another broader economic development issue that we are passionate about is the need for more workforce housing.  We were very supportive of Governor Baker’s housing bill.  We worked with all of the business groups as well as the Mass Municipal Association to try and get that passed in the final hours of the legislative session, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it. In my mind, it would have been the most significant housing bill in years.  We also thought it was very significant that we had such a broad coalition of support for the first time in 30 years of discussion around this issue. We are going to continue to push for this in the next session, which kicks off in January.

Our third big area is transportation. We will continue to advocate for an efficient, world-class transportation system in MA.  We need the type of system that allows people to get in and out of the city and to expanding areas with ease.  We are going to be looking at that in the next legislative session to ensure we can expand on existing capacity.

BLDUP:  Reesa & Tamara what are your goals for the NAIOP in next 5-10 years and David what would you like to see continue after you retire?

David Begelfer: I do think that NAIOP is going to continue to sit on the same 3 legs of the stool, advocacy, education, programming/networking.  Every member gets something from one or all of these areas.  We need to take a look at new technology, be proactive, be entrepreneurial, be thoughtful, and stay in touch with members and their needs.  We also want to offer new platforms for information.

One thing that is NOT going to be happening, is people are NOT going to be totally virtual. They want to meet face to face. That’s never going to change.  You will always need networking.

We have also taken a look at online learning and have seen a much greater demand for face to face learning but in a tighter timeline.  We are moving into podcasts.  That seems to be a very popular way for people to get information while driving, walking, or spinning. It’s hard to plan for the future when technology is changing so quickly.  Right now we have a partnership with the MIT Center for Real Estate that enables us to see what is on the cutting edge of the industry.  We just need to continue to keep an open mind.

Reesa Fischer: It’s about expanding the information and knowledge the we can provide the members and providing them with different options of delivery. People are just so busy and not everyone can come to a site event.  Some people prefer podcasts or live webinars.  We need to expand our information and methods of delivery to stay relevant.

We have also seen a huge demand for professional development skills that are outside of the industry.  The membership is looking to be able to provide skills for their talent.  Talent is a big issue right now, retaining and obtaining.  Learning professional skills while networking and engaging with people in the industry is a unique opportunity we can provide our members.

Tamara Small:  We are nothing without members. We look forward to working with our many member-driven committees and continually seeking feedback directly from the industry.  As Reesa and I transition to our new roles, we will be sitting down with our leadership and members to do our own focus groups in order to understand what they need. We look forward to growing and expanding with them.

Reesa Fischer:  Yes, we are very externally focused!

BLDUP:  What is the last book you read that you would recommend and why?

Reesa Fischer: The Road to Recognition by Seth Price.  Seth is a local guy who runs Placester and did a keynote at one of our marketing conferences.  The book is about building your personal brand which plays into a corporate brand: being authentic, setting up expectations, meeting expectations.  Detailing ways to keep you competitive either personally or professionally. It’s how I look at our organization so that we can continue to be important in the industry.

Tamara Small: Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist by Bill Cummings.  It is interesting to hear his rags to riches story and his unbelievable drive and entrepreneurial spirit that have helped create his company.  The book provides history about the CRE industry but also an inside look at one of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve encountered.  He is also someone who has really devoted a good part of his career now to charitable endeavors and that is very admirable.

David Begelfer: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.  It’s astounding the genius that was there but not just genius: the genius was combined with unbelievable curiosity.  Almost anything he saw he wanted to look further into it. It’s frightening that a lot of what he discovered was never published and lost for hundreds of years. People would rediscover these things hundreds of years later.  He discovered something about how the heart works but it was not actually verified until 1970. He was way ahead of his time. It is a very fascinating read and again it was not just intelligence but a need to be entrepreneurial and also a great observer and creative.

BLDUP:  It is important to note that despite the CRE industry being primarily male, NAIOP’s new leadership team is female.  Tamara and Reesa what are your thoughts on this.

Reesa Fischer:  Just a little history, when I started here 8 years ago, the percentage of women in the industry and in NAIOP was significantly lower.  It is really exciting to see that women have very quickly been getting involved.  Our female membership rates have gone from around 10% up to 28-30%.

About 7 years ago we started an annual event, the Women of Influence luncheon. It sells out 200+ tickets every year with wait lists of people.  I think the pipeline is filling up as young women are starting to come into the industry and seeing there are a variety of ways to get involved, not just brokerage but in the development world as well.

Women are very organized and project management focused and very collaborative and that is what this industry is.  It’s about time women recognize they can actually play an important role. We are also more women in senior roles and running companies.

Our Distinguished Real Estate Award recipient this year is Related Beal, run by Kimberly Sherman Stamler.  Our President-elect for next year is also a woman so the top 3 levels of our organization will be female.  We are very excited to feel like we are following the trend and blazing new trails for women in the industry.

Tamara Small:  Going forward we will operate under a collaborative leadership structure which we found is much more common with women.  Reesa and I have worked together for so many years and we both have our own unique strengths so we are excited to continue this and take NAIOP to the next level.

David Begelfer: We have not said we want to have women run the organization, we have put into place the best people we have for the position and they happen to be women.  They are stepping up and being chosen to lead because of their skills.

BLDUP:  David, to conclude on more of a personal note, what are your plans for your new free time?

David Begelfer:  I have a lot of interests to stay active and involved in the industry.  I love to travel, play golf, those are wonderful things, but I don’t see that as sufficient to keep me alive and well and excited about my future. I’m looking into opportunities that will allow me to keep active and participate in this active industry. I am mostly looking forward to being a member of NAIOP and getting all the value that a member gets from being involved.

Legislative Wrap-Up: NAIOP Fights for Industry Through Final Hours of Session

MAStateHouse_GrayIn the early hours of August 1, Massachusetts legislators adjourned a busy two-year legislative session in which lawmakers introduced 4,861 bills in the House and 3,128 bills in the Senate. NAIOP Massachusetts and its Government Affairs Committee members worked tirelessly to represent the interests of the commercial real estate development industry. NAIOP applauds the leadership of the “big three” – Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, former Senate President Harriette Chandler, newly elected Senate President Karen Spilka, as well as committee chairs and legislators who pursued a wide-ranging agenda. For the remainder of 2018, 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 a bill from advancing simply by objecting.

While NAIOP advocates on hundreds of bills, here are the must-know highlights of the 2017-2018 legislative session and what they mean for CRE:

Railroad Right of Way Reform Passes in Economic Development Bill
In a win for NAIOP Massachusetts’ advocacy, the economic development bill approved by the House and Senate reforms the current railroad right of way statute (MGL 40/54a) that has created uncertainty and delays for projects on former railroad rights of way. The language in Section 10 of H. 4868 removes the confusing “land appurtenant to” language from the review process; directs MassDOT to establish guidelines, timeframes, and a determination of inapplicability option for unimpacted land; and brings certainty to landowners and lenders while protecting properties of importance to the Commonwealth’s future transportation needs. The final language was based on a stand-alone bill filed at the request of NAIOP by Rep. Joe Wagner and was the result of years of discussions between NAIOP, MassDOT and the legislature. The economic development bill also includes $250 million for the MassWorks program and $75 million for workforce skills capital grants, as well as many other bond reauthorizations designed to spur economic development.

VERY special thanks to Secretary Pollack, Rep. Wagner, Rep. Strauss, Sen. Boncore, Sen. Lesser, legislative leadership, and NAIOP members for their work on this issue. The bill is now before Governor Baker and is expected to be signed very soon.

Flawed Zoning Bill Defeated
NAIOP and all real estate groups in the state, as well as the Mass Municipal Association, opposed H. 4397.  The bill was a top priority for planners and environmental groups and contained anti-growth concepts including eliminating the Approval Not Required (ANR) process, reducing the scope of zoning “freeze” protection under current law only to the particular subdivision plan that is submitted rather than to the “land shown on the plan,” authorizing the use of impact fees without limitation, and mandating inclusionary zoning without incentives. NAIOP educated lawmakers on the numerous provisions of the bill, which would have hindered housing production in Massachusetts.  We are very pleased this very flawed bill did not advance.

Housing Production Bill Left on the Table
NAIOP strongly supported H. 4290, which was filed by Governor Baker and given a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Housing.  That bill allowed cities and towns to adopt zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.  This would have been allowed in situations where the zoning change encouraged more concentrated development including the adoption of 40R “Smart Growth” districts or starter homes, reduced parking requirements, allowing accessory dwelling units, and reducing minimum lot sizes.  The bill was supported by a broad coalition of business groups, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the real estate industry.  We are disappointed that the bill did not receive a vote.  Governor Baker has encouraged the legislature to move the policy during informal session (now through December).  NAIOP will continue to work with the Administration and the legislature to promote policies that encourage the production of housing.

Vicarious Liability Bill (Wage Theft) Does Not Pass
NAIOP was part of an 18-member coalition of business groups opposing flawed wage theft legislation containing vicarious liability for businesses that employ entities that commit wage theft (S. 2546). It would have targeted innocent, law-abiding businesses and held them responsible for the actions of other businesses. This would have applied stop work orders and penalties to the lead company who would have had no way of knowing about such a violation.  The Senate passed the bill, but it was not taken up in the House.  NAIOP, which served on a working group with legislators and the proponents of the bill (labor interests), will continue to advocate for fair and balanced solutions to wage theft that go after those who are breaking the law, while opposing proposals that target law abiding businesses.

Balanced and Effective Approach to Climate Change Passes
NAIOP supported the environmental bond bill and climate change resiliency legislation (H. 4835), which passed both chambers and is now before Governor Baker for his signature. It directs state agencies to draft a comprehensive climate adaptation plan and evaluate the Commonwealth’s adaptive capacity to respond to climate change. The Plan will be updated every five years, ensuring a focus on climate change resiliency beyond the current Administration. NAIOP was strongly opposed to other climate change legislation (CAMP – S. 2196)  that would have required “all certificates, licenses, permits, authorizations, grants, financial obligations, projects, actions and approvals issued by a state agency or state authority” to be consistent to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) with a plan.  NAIOP opposed the language because “consistency” would have been open to interpretation and the term “maximum extent practicable” was not defined and therefore set the stage for legal challenges against projects.  We are pleased that the final environmental bond bill does not include this language and NAIOP looks forward to working with the Administration to develop this important plan.

Housing Bond Bill – Brownfields Tax Credit Extended
Earlier in the session, Governor Baker signed the Housing Bond Bill (H. 4536), which included one of NAIOP’s top legislative priorities – a 5-year extension of the Brownfields Tax Credit. The bill authorized $1.8 million in new capital spending for the production and preservation of affordable housing with an extension of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and an increase in the annual allocation to $25 million. For more information, read our blog post, Brownfields Tax Credit Extension Signed into Law.

NAIOP is grateful to Senator Rodrigues for his leadership on this issue and applauds the housing bond bill conference committee members (Reps. Honan, McGonagle, Hill and Sens. Boncore, Keenan, O’Connor) for championing the Brownfields Tax Credit, which increases housing, creates new employment, and enhances local and state tax revenues by restoring blighted properties to productive use.

Community Benefit District Legislation Falls Short of Approval
Legislation (H.4546) that would have authorized Community Benefit Districts did not receive final procedural support in the legislature after initial approval in the House and Senate. Community Benefit Districts (CBD) impose assessments on property owners, in addition to property taxes, to fund supplemental services. A CBD may be established only if the property owners in the district who sign the petition to create the CBD will pay more than 50 percent of the yearly assessment. Like last session, NAIOP opposed the CBD framework based on the issue that it would impose additional fees on property owners who may not have supported the creation of the district in the first place. Many other advocacy groups and legislators recognized the potential problems with the CBD framework and stopped the bill from becoming law.

Water Banking Fees Defeated
NAIOP strongly opposed Act Providing for the Establishment of Sustainable Water Resource Funds. House Bill 2116 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.

Job Site Roster Bill Defeated
Senate Bill 1019, An Act relative to transparency in employee benefits reporting in private construction, would have affected projects with 10 or more residential units or commercial projects of 5000 square feet or more by requiring that a roster of employees and independent contractors on a jobsite be publicly posted.  The legislation required a certificate of compliance with no mechanism for applications and issuance, and no timeframes.  Given the extremely fluid nature of a job site, combined with the project delays and costs associated with this legislation, compliance with such a requirement would have been nearly impossible.

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 2019 – 2020 session by meeting with members to determine how to best advance the goals of the industry.

Mass Municipal Association and Real Estate Community Join Together to Support Housing Choice Legislation to Create Much-Needed Housing Across the Commonwealth

Today the following statement was issued in support of An Act to Promote Housing Choices (H.4290):

The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, NAIOP—The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, join together to express our strong support for H. 4290, An Act to promote housing choices. In its current form, this important bill is a unique opportunity to increase the much-needed supply of housing in Massachusetts.

As reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing, H. 4290 represents an unprecedented consensus by the major stakeholders to advance housing development. This narrowly tailored bill addresses the state’s need for housing while respecting the important role municipalities play in determining whether new housing is built. It does so by eliminating one barrier to housing production – the need for a supermajority vote of Town Meeting or a city council to approve zoning changes for housing and smart growth planning.

To encourage cities and towns to adopt zoning that supports sustainable housing production, the Department of Housing and Community Development created the Housing Choice Initiative. That program rewards communities that produce new housing and adopt best practices to promote smart growth with grants and technical assistance. Passage of H. 4290 will make it easier for communities to achieve Housing Choice designation.

Unlike another legislative proposal now before House Committee on Ways & Means (H. 4397), which would rewrite the Zoning Act in ways that are complicated, controversial, and would hinder the production of housing, H. 4290 contains no mandates or other provisions that are opposed by all of our organizations.

According to the UMass Donahue Institute, “the challenge for Massachusetts going forward will be to address the housing, transportation, and infrastructure constraints that make it more difficult for the workers who will be needed to fill these positions to relocate to the state and meet the needs of growing employers. While this challenge is not new, the price of inaction is high and rising.” Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states in the country in terms of housing affordability. It is critical that we do not complicate or increase housing costs by enacting legislation that would further worsen the existing problem.

Together with the recently enacted Housing Bond Bill, H. 4290 can make a significant impact on the Commonwealth’s historic shortage of housing. We respectfully urge the legislature to pass this important bill before the end of the formal session.

 

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.