More Mass. communities push to tax high-end real estate transactions to create affordable housing

Finding an affordable place to live remains a big problem for many people across the state.

That’s why Boston 25 is Getting Real about the housing crisis and examining some of the proposals to try and fix the situation.

One idea picking up momentum is to allow cities and towns to apply a transfer tax on high end properties so they can create a pool of money to create affordable housing.

Eye-popping real estate prices on Nantucket are way out of reach for people who live and work there.

“It’s like winning the lottery to find a place you can afford,” said Tucker Holland, Nantucket’s Housing Specialist.

The numbers are so out of whack that the future of the island now hangs in balance.

“If you don’t have locals down the road, it’s going to take away from what makes Nantucket Nantucket in ways we can’t realize yet,” Holland added.

“What a transfer fee and luxury real estate tax does is it gives us a way to generate revenue right here in our community, against something that’s actually contributing to the problem that we’re facing,” said State Senator Julian Cyr who represents Cape Cod and the Islands.

This concept is gaining traction all over the state. According to www.realestatetransferfee.org, Arlington, Brookline, Boston, Cambridge, Concord, Chatham, Nantucket, and Somerville are among

local communities that have passed home rule petitions asking the state to give them permission to levy a surcharge.

For example, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu would like to add up to 2% on sales over $2 million.

The city estimates that would have raised about $100 million last year that could have been put towards affordable housing.

“It also will drive up the cost of real estate because those tax costs are going to be reflected in the sales prices of property,” said Greg Vasil, the CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.

He doesn’t think a transfer tax is the best way to create affordable housing.

“It’s only going to lead to a place where we don’t want to be economically. Costs are going skyrocket. Companies are going to want to leave here. It’s just going to be a mess. We’re just back to Taxachusetts.”

Cyr emphasized affordability issues are so bad that he can’t “convey more strongly at what a crossroads our community is at.”

He says if the workforce can’t afford to live on Cape Cod, vacationers won’t have much to do when they visit.

“We’re losing our year-round communities here on Cape Cod, on the islands,” explained Cyr. “If this is a place you love and like to visit, you need to help us sustain our communities. Otherwise, I feal we’re not going to have much of a community left here pretty soon.”

Holland said Nantucket first tried to get a home rule petition approved by the legislature in 2016.

At that time, the median price of a home was $1.5 million.

Today, it’s $2.8 million.

He says a household would need an annual income of $530,000 to finance a property like that.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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