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.

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.

ViewPoint: A new stretch energy code is not justified

This OpEd appeared in the Boston Business Journal on June 3, 2016.

In March 2015, Governor Charlie Baker signed Executive Order 562, initiating a comprehensive review process for all regulations. Only those regulations which are mandated by law or essential to the health, safety, environment, or welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents would be retained or modified, making Massachusetts a more efficient and competitive place to live and work.

Agencies must demonstrate, in their review, that there is a clearly identified need for governmental intervention; the costs do not exceed the benefits; a regulation does not exceed federal requirements; less restrictive and intrusive alternatives have been considered and found less desirable; and the regulation does not unduly and adversely affect the competitive environment in Massachusetts.

Based on these specific criteria, the business community is concerned that the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is currently considering a new Stretch Energy Code as it develops the 9th edition of the statewide building code. Besides the fact that this Stretch Code undermines the statutory requirement that there be a uniform State Building/Energy Code, there is no good reason for it. This proposed energy code is unnecessary and fails the regulatory review standards, and the Baker Administration and the BBRS should not advance it.

The Stretch Energy Code was originally adopted in May 2009, despite strong opposition from the business community.  The code required commercial and residential construction in those communities that voted to adopt it to be approximately 20% more energy efficient than the statewide code. The new stretch energy code would require a 15% increase in energy efficiency over the current code. The Stretch Code has caused confusion among local building inspectors and developers.  Due to this and several other reasons, a new version of the Stretch Energy Code has never been adopted, even when the statewide code changed.  In fact, at the close of the Patrick Administration, the BBRS voted not to advance a new draft of the Stretch Energy Code.  However, in April 2015, this decision was reversed.

Massachusetts is already the most energy efficient state in the nation, with the most aggressive energy efficiency targets.  Furthermore, Massachusetts will be one of only a handful of states in the nation to adopt the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) statewide.  Since the Green Communities Act requires the adoption of the latest IECC (every three years), the Commonwealth’s position as a national leader in energy efficiency will be ensured even without a Stretch Code.  Anything beyond that is overly burdensome and creates a significant competitive disadvantage for Massachusetts.

It is important to note that there is no statutory requirement to adopt or update a Stretch Energy Code.  There is no mention of it in any statute, and it is only the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) policy that encourages the creation of this code.

According to DOER, the changes to the Stretch Code would take effect automatically in stretch code communities without any local vote.  Many municipalities had no idea they would be subject to an automatic upgrade.

The business community continues to support a uniform statewide building and energy code.  We believe a new Stretch Energy Code is unnecessary, will hinder economic development, and would impose an unfair and difficult burden on local building officials and the construction industry.  We urge the Baker Administration and the BBRS to eliminate the Stretch Energy Code, once and for all, and acknowledge the latest version of the IECC as the only energy code in Massachusetts.

David Begelfer is the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

Water: It’s Time for MassDEP to Take Control

Now is the time for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to be given delegated authority by EPA over National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) programs, along with the funding needed to adequately administer the program.

A NPDES permit is required for any discharges of pollutants from a point source into navigable waters of the US. As required by law, EPA or the state must set limits on the amount of pollutants that facilities may discharge into a waterbody.

To date, 46 states have been authorized to administer the federal NPDES permit program. Massachusetts is just one of four states in the nation (along with Idaho, New Hampshire, and New Mexico) where the federal government is in charge of the permit issuance, compliance and enforcement (with 2,990 NPDES permit holders in Massachusetts).

However, MassDEP is better equipped than EPA to concentrate on Massachusetts specific issues and develop permits with a more complete understanding of local conditions.

Currently, MassDEP jointly issues NPDES permits with EPA. Having MassDEP as the sole permitting authority, with EPA limited to an oversight role, would result in a more efficient permitting process. In addition, as the NPDES program continues to evolve in response to increased concerns over issues like nutrient loading and stormwater impacts, MassDEP would have greater control over policy decisions. These could be more effective with a program redesign, the heightened use of science, and coordination on managing all pollution sources in a watershed.

For this delegation to succeed, appropriate resources would be needed (estimated at under $10 million per year) to ensure a carefully coordinated approach to watershed management.

Massachusetts has an excellent national reputation as a leader in environmental protection, permitting, compliance and enforcement. MassDEP has implemented many successful environmental regulatory programs, with some being the models used by other states.  After years of discussion, Massachusetts needs to assume the responsibility for wastewater permitting by taking NPDES authorization over from EPA.

A Great Start for Economic Development Under the Baker/Polito Administration

BakerGovernor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito just filed the administration’s Economic Development bill with $1 billion to be invested over the next five years into economic development, housing and job training across the Commonwealth.

A core principal of this legislation is to take various existing programs and make enhancements to them so that they become more widely used, more effective, recapitalized, and more user-friendly:

  • MassWorks ($500 million proposed capital authorization): Reauthorizes a capital grant program that provides municipalities and other public entities with public infrastructure grants to support economic development and job creation.
  • Brownfields Redevelopment Fund ($75 million proposed capital authorization): Moves funding for the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Fund to the capital program, providing a reliable long-term funding stream for a fund that is the Commonwealth’s primary tool for facilitating the redevelopment of contaminated properties.
  • Housing-Related Tax Increment Financing: Supports housing production in town centers by reforming a seldom-used local-only smart growth tax incentive program, removing onerous regulations, and allowing communities to set their own affordability requirements.
  • Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) Reform: Supports the development of market-rate housing in Gateway Cities by allowing credits to support new construction, and by raising the formula that sets housing development incentives.
  • I-Cubed Reform: Reforms the I-Cubed infrastructure program by removing unnecessary program requirements (such as eliminating the per-municipality cap on the number of projects that may participate and raising the aggregate limit of funds from the I-cubed program that may be used in any one municipality from 31% to 50%) building flexibility into the program, and aligning program requirements with the demonstrated project pipeline.
  • Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) Reforms: Builds accountability in the state’s primary job-creation incentive program by strengthening the link between the issuance of tax credits, and job creation that would not otherwise occur; adds flexibility to the incentive program by eliminating obsolete formula-driven incentive categories, and by creating a new Extraordinary Development Opportunity designation.

In addition, the bill creates two important provisions:

  • Site Readiness Fund ($25 million proposed capital authorization): Advances regional job creation by creating a new fund for site assembly and pre-development activities (including site assessment and cleanup) that support regionally significant commercial or industrial development opportunities.
  • “Starter Home” Zoning: Incentivizes the creation of smaller, denser, and more affordable single-family homes by creating a new starter home option under the Chapter 40R smart growth housing program. These projects will also allow the municipality to be eligible for school reimbursements under Chapter 40S.
  • Parking Management Districts: Aligns local parking policies with broader economic development priorities by enabling municipalities to opt into creating demand-based parking fees, and allowing parking fees to support capital improvements in designated districts, like downtowns.

In addition, there are new programs with a Massachusetts Innovation Initiative, Workforce Development, and Economic Competitiveness.

We are very supportive of the bill, which contains many of NAIOP’s priorities. This legislation will be one of NAIOP’s top priorities for the remainder of the legislative session.