Somerville’s Real Estate Transfer Fee

Dear Billy T and Somerville Speakup Line,

Please post this for all to see!


Attached you will find a rough DRAFT document that the Board Of Aldermen (BOA) continues to discuss and amend during our Legislative Matters Committee Meetings. Many of you have been following this process, but some I have recently learned are not yet aware.

In our efforts to assist our families and all constituents who are being “priced out” of Somerville, this Ordinance would impose a fee when a home or apartment building were sold.  Briefly, we are talking about potentially EXEMPTING all owner-occupied 1, 2, & 3 family homes. Also exempting any family trust transfers. Other proposed exemptions continue to be discussed. Some discussion has been looking to hold this Transfer Cost to developers who are flipping homes quicker than we can blink. However, as I stated above, the BOA continues to hold discussion on this Draft document. The monies collected would perhaps go ONLY to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

IF, after a Somerville Public Hearing on this matter the Board Of Aldermen choose to move forward on this, it must first be approved by State Legislature (Home Rule Petition). This has NOT been done in MA as of yet. Other districts have attempted in the past. Much more discussion will be held here in Somerville – then a public hearing will occur.

As a reminder, our meetings are both live steamed and/or viewable at any time via the video link on our City’s web page:

A Pissed Off Residents

3 thoughts on “Somerville’s Real Estate Transfer Fee”

  1. its difficult to keep rents down when expenses increase.

    The next time an apartment turns over, or there is a rent increase, property managers and landlords should mention how there were recent increases in things such as water/sewer, high property taxes, common electric, prop xfer tax, block rate water billing.

    As operating costs escalate it translates to higher rents. Maybe the idea to put the small landlord out of business. The small landlords in older wood framed buildings tend to have lower rents than the newly built big complexes.

    My question is – which pols who support these ideas own rentals and rent to middle or low income people?

  2. I agree with Matt. Every financial burden you put on property owners get passed to the buyer and/or tenants. Somerville just put another fee onto property owners, for simply processing the water bill a sneaky way to pull another couple hundred bucks out for the city. And now the proposal for the first right of refusal – this would force homeowners into a position where a sale could take 5 months rather than 5 weeks. The buyer likely would walk away and buy elsewhere, and the seller would lose the sale altogether. And they are promoting this initiative with the inciteful label of ‘affordable’, yet telling owners they will get market value (as defined by them?). This proposal would help people with income 80-100k, rather than focusing on building genuine affordable housing for those who need it. The city is out of control. We landlords supply the greatest percentage of rental housing, and seem to be under assault by the city. The 1st right of refusal is going to take rental units out of the market, meaning rents will go up. If the city wants to promote affordable housing, then more rental units, not fewer, would be the way to go.

  3. This is a clear attempt to side step proposition 2 1/2, which limits how much taxes the city can raise and the level of annual tax increases. If the city wants to fund more affordable housing they should do so within their budget. Not pass a stealth tax on the residents of Somerville. Let the residents of Somerville vote on this measure just as we did for the high school bonds.

    Studies have been conducted on localities implementing real estate transfer taxes. ALL home values decreases by the real estate transfer rate when compared to the surrounding areas. Even if only developers pay this tax, every resident that relies on their equity in their home or sells their home will feel the pain of a lower home value.

    Toronto saw a 15% reduction in home sales after implementing a transfer fee. How many local jobs are tied to the housing market? How many labors will be effected by decreasing the number of sales?

    By passing this tax, the board will be pushing development to other towns. Development is a double edge sword. Yes, it has pushed home values higher, but it has also increased the tax basis of the city and maintained the housing supply by rehabbing buildings. The board is rushing to get this in front of MA statehouse this April and not thinking about the unintended consequences. It is irresponsible and reckless on their part. They should not put their politics ahead of the interest of their constituents.

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