Statehouse Passes Weak Expiring Use Bill
The watered-down “Tucker-Honan” expiring use bill was signed by Governor Patrick in late November 2009. Known as a Right of First Refusal, the bill gives the state, cities and towns the chance to purchase at full market value any “expiring use” building being offered for sale by its owner. It will also require owners to give two year Notice of Decisions to end HUD Contracts, adding a year to the current one year federal requirement. Owner lobbyists gutted an earlier version of Tucker-Honan that would have covered all at risk buildings in the state.
Right now, not a single building would be affected by the Right of First Refusal. Owners are not offering their buildings for sale, but instead are converting to market rents or refinancing with heavy government subsidies. For example, First Realty Management (FRM) and Beacon Properties are either converting buildings like High Point Village or threatening to “opt out” at Georgetowne and Blake Estates to leverage huge state subsidies to garner windfall profits. Right of First Refusal will also have no effect at High Point or the 5,800 other Massachusetts apartments that have already been lost to market rent, and will not save the 1,200 Boston apartments facing conversion today.
Support for True Tenant Protection. A couple of years ago, 42 Representatives and nine Senators—more than 25% of the legislature—joined Rep. Frank Smizik and Majority Leader Fred Berry in filing the Statewide Enabling Act to Save Affordable Housing, which would have allowed any city or town to regulate rents of expiring use buildings and require owners to renew expiring Section 8 contracts. The Cities of Boston, Salem, Quincy, Lowell, Lawrence and New Bedford filed Home Rule Petitions with the same provisions.
MAHT tenants have led the fight for this no-cost legislation since 1996. On May 5, more than 100 MAHT tenants packed the Joint Committee on Housing hearing on these bills. Thirty-two MAHT leaders testified in support, joined by allies from the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, the Massachusetts Disability Policy Consortium, theMAAPL anti-foreclosure coalition, nonprofit CDC’s and numerous legislators. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The Committee voted out only Right of First Refusal, killing any measure that would actually preserve at-risk housing or limit owner profits.
“We’ll Be Back!”
Because the passage of Right of First Refusal(Tucker-Honan) will not stop owners from converting at-risk buildings, MAHT will continue to demand legislation to Save Our Homes. Tenants have already secured commitments from Boston City Councilors to redouble efforts to pass the Boston Home Rule Petition.