COVID-19 UPDATE: Municipalities Receive New Guidance for Project Review; Governor Baker Files Revised Budget Proposal; Eviction Moratorium Ending Oct. 17; Mayor Announces Housing Stability Pledge for Landlords

This week there were several actions taken regarding the state’s COVID-19 response.

NAIOP Advocacy Results in New Guidance, Proposed Legislative Fix

Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19, was enacted in April to alleviate challenges faced by municipalities as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. NAIOP, together with the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Home Builders and Remodelers of Massachusetts, worked to ensure that this legislation provided permit granting bodies with the authority they needed to conduct meetings and public hearings remotely.

Late last week, in response to concerns NAIOP and others have raised regarding certain municipalities’ reticence to restart public meetings, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) released official guidance for municipalities, urging them to conduct remote hearings on all applications for permits or approvals related to housing production, and reinforces that all remote hearings should be implemented in a fair manner for all types of housing, in particular referencing 40B projects.

Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration has included language in their proposed supplemental budget to end all municipal hearing delays as allowed by Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 on December 1, 2020. This proposed legislation is a direct result of NAIOP’s advocacy, and we will continue to monitor the language as it moves through the supplemental budget process.

Governor Files Amended FY21 Budget

On October 14, Governor Baker filed a revised budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. The revised proposal includes over $100 million to support economic development and small business efforts as the Commonwealth continues to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s budget proposes a total of $45.5 billion in gross spending, and authorizes a withdrawal of up to $1.35 million from the Stabilization Fund. In order to avoid further burdening businesses and residents during the ongoing crisis, the Governor’s budget does not include any broad-based tax increases and he has signaled he will veto tax hikes if pursued by the Legislature. 

NAIOP is currently reviewing the Governor’s proposal and will be closely monitoring the budget process.

Eviction Moratorium to Expire – New Resources Announced

The Commonwealth’s eviction moratorium, which applies to residential tenants and small businesses, will expire on October 17. Earlier this week, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive set of resources, known as the Eviction Diversion Initiative, to support residential tenants and property owners during the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. NAIOP is supportive of this comprehensive approach to working with owners and tenants to provide critical resources to ensure housing stability. 

The Administration is making a $171 million total commitment this fiscal year, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year. Learn more about these resources here.

Mayor Walsh Announces Housing Stability Pledge

Last week, Mayor Walsh announced the creation of the Housing Stability Pledge for landlords. The Pledge, aimed to deter residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, requires landlords to abide by the current CDC Eviction Order; engage with tenants to create a payment plan; accept rental assistance where available; and make rent adjustments for Section 8/MRVP families who are falling behind on their rent. This is an opt-in program for residential landlords located within the City of Boston.

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