Somerville Real Estate Transfer Fee Will Be Quickly Expanded to be More “Inclusive”

By John Alan Roderick

Apparently, the Somerville (aka Moscow-on-the-Mystic) Real Estate Transfer Fee was reported out of the Politburo (aka Board of Aldermen) Legislative Matters Committee unanimously to be sent to the State Legislature in search of a Home Rule Petition.

I’ve read that the pro-forma proposal has been greatly modified to not include owner-occupants (like myself) and others who are not speculators or flippers, but merely people of means who scraped together down payments and managed to buy a home in Somerville.

While this may sound great at first, I am of the belief–and this is ONLY MY OPINION–that if/when this passes muster on Bacon Hill, the newly-minted local ordinance will be quickly expanded to be more “inclusive”. This has “Mission Creep” written all over it and I believe that, in the end, it will prove to be a counterproductive measure which will do more harm than good to the very people it is supposedly intended to help; the unwritten Rule of Unintended Consequences.

Therefore, on these and other grounds of principle, I remain vehemently opposed to this or any legislation which even in a hypothetical sense robs from the labors and wealth of the average homeowner who has had nothing to do with the current real estate speculative run-up in Somerville and who, ironically, are among the parties who provide, collectively, the preponderance of affordable housing remaining in the City. Taxation is theft. The power to tax is the power to destroy.

Sure. The Rodericks have been providing affordable housing for the past 62 years. I’ll be damned if someone is going to FORCE me to pay into a government agency against my will.

Regarding the Home Rule Petition; people need to understand how much power this gives to the local legislative body in crafting and modifying ordinances. Sure, the BOA came up with a modified version that exempts people like me. But that’s to get it through the Legislature. Once it passes there and gets back to City Hall, all bets are off. If, for some reason, the “projections” are not met, guess what?

Below is one of my favorite quotes about the dangers of big government…

“Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.” — Barry Goldwater

4 thoughts on “Somerville Real Estate Transfer Fee Will Be Quickly Expanded to be More “Inclusive””

  1. John well stated keep in mind that State Representative Connolly from Cambridge is also pushing it for a State wide initiative which will impact every city and town throughout the Commonwealth. While Somerville is pushing their own home rule petition simultaneously.

    Lets not forget those certain elected Somerville officials especially the Mayor who were firm against notifying the property owners throughout the entire process.

    There are so many homeowners, property owners and businesses that do not realize this is even occurring. Its pretty sad that the lack of respect toward the taxpayers of this City.

    Without a doubt this needs to be stopped at the State level. That is why it is important to share this on every venue possible. We need to get the word out to every friend, relative and politician that this is not an acceptable means to fund any cause by burdening one select group just property owners.

  2. There are dozens of ways to fund affordable housing. I personally do not agree that people have a given right to live where they want to. If so, then my right to live where I want to is the isle of kauai. Why am I not there??? Instead I am here in Somerville trying to fight off constraints on my property that I’ve worked more than full time my entire life for. This is my retirement asset. Between transfer tax and downzoning, maybe its tiime to sell now. IF we all sold, the new buyers would have huge mortgages – guaranteed to increase rents ACROSS the city. No one seems to be thinking these initiatives through including how it could affect every renter in this city. If the City wishes to fund affordable housing (and seriously, its a mistake to put the City in charge of these monies as there are a lot of shenanigans and unaccountability), why isn’t the city looking at a menu of options, not just turning to property owners. A quick short list of good options: Crack down on those property owners who are receiving the residential exemption and who do NOT live at their property (I could identify half a dozen in my neighborhood so imagine how many there are citywide at close to $2k a crack – permanent revenue the city knowingly allows slip through its greedy fingers); increase fines for slumlord landlords (I know of one who had 5K in fines and it was not enough for him to pay attention to his property. He received fines of the same offense again and again. In fact, taxpayers were paying to have the city team of services paying multiple visits to try and control this slumlord. Increase every subsequent same type of offense falling within the same year. This would improve quality of life for the neighbors. I had to keep rents low to recruit GOOD tenants to live next to this blight). Like other cities are doing TAX airbnb’s – those apartments are not only making profits – it means a unit that is taken out of the yearround rental pool). Charge a ‘luxury’ tax for high-end rentals and those who are happy to pay extremely high rent to live here for a year or two. So there are 4 quick suggestions, all worthy of generating substantial income, and even improving the neighborhood. STOP penalizing good and hardworking people. The greater fees you attach, the higher rents will go. The greenhorns on the BOA may be well-intended but are terribly misguided. The RB downzoning is the worst possible idea when everyone is in agreement about a housing crisis. As far as funding affordable housing, the more who contribute, the better income is generated. Stop turning to those people who are affordable housing providers. If WE get fed up and sell. new owners will have huge new mortgage payments and thats bad for everyone concerned. With these initiatives, private property is under siege by the city – the strangest thing is these ideas are outdated and counter-intuiitive to the purposes proposed. NYC UPzoned – take a page out of a successful initiative. The ideas are bad, and proven ineffective.

  3. Gary: Regarding people selling before the tax is implemented and thus driving up rents, etc. (which point you are spot on about, by the way); Like I said… the unwritten rule of unintended consequences.

    Knowledgeable people I’ve spoken with tell me that there is little chance of this passing on Beacon Hill, and perhaps that is the case. However, it shows both the degree of contempt AND the hubristic denial of vicissitude that our elected officials treat us with.

    Psalm 127 says that “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

  4. The exemption for owner-occupied properties was not added to the home rule petition until after some meetings including a public hearing, according to Alderman Hirsch’s op-ed: The fact that longtime Somerville residents were not immediately exempt places a very bitter taste in our mouths and further widens the “old school” versus “new school” divide. Other op-eds only added fuel to this fire. This piece of legislation could have been instantly lauded as a way to protect legacy residents while giving those who are passionate about our community a tangible avenue to home ownership and deterring the cash-hungry flippers to go elsewhere to make a buck. Instead, we have animosity and anger that really could have been avoided.

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