Eldridge Votes to Preserve Affordable Housing and Protect Low-Income Tenants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BOSTON – The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to preserve the stock of publicly-assisted affordable housing units across the state and protect the rights of tenants by implementing earlier notification standards for property owners and establishing a non-partisan advisory board representing tenants, property owners, municipalities and preservation experts to work with the state in developing future regulations.

“Our state is currently in danger of losing tens of thousands of subsidized rental housing units at a time when more people than ever are in need of affordable housing due to the economic crisis,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), who was a co-sponsor of the bill. “I’ve been a longtime supporter of legislation to maintain the availability of affordable housing and protect the rights of tenants, and I was pleased to see this legislation pass the Senate today.”

The bill targets the state’s estimated 90,000 government-assisted rental housing units, including so called “expiring use” units whose affordability restrictions can end by owners prepaying their subsidized mortgages or not renewing their rent assistance contracts upon expiration. Massachusetts is at risk of losing more than 23,000 units by the end of 2012. Many of the residents in “expiring use” buildings are seniors or people with disabilities.

The bill was endorsed by the Massachusetts Asset Development Commission, which Eldridge chairs, this spring.

“Our communities are stronger when all families have access to affordable housing options. Because housing prices are so expensive in Massachusetts, however, too many families are priced out of communities, and the amount of affordable housing available is often not enough to meet the demands. This legislation will take us one step closer to ensuring that families of all economic levels can live in safe, clean, housing across the district,” added Eldridge.

The Senate legislation establishes provisions that will help preserve as many units as possible. It requires owners who want to sell affordable rental property, thereby ending its affordability status, to offer a right of first refusal to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) or the local municipality to purchase the property so that affordability can be preserved.

The bill implements a string of notification requirements also aimed at preserving affordability and protecting tenants. They include the following:

  • Written notice must be given at least two years prior to the affordability restriction’s termination;
  • Written notice of intent to complete termination must be given at least one year before termination;
  • Owners must give notice of intent to sell the property; and
  • Owners, upon notice of intent to sell, must make documents, including architectural plans, capital expenses and the number of vacancies available for review by DHCD to help determine property value and purchasing options.

The legislation further ensures the protection of tenants by preventing unfair rent increases for three years after the termination of affordability restrictions and forbidding no-fault evictions.

Finally, to oversee compliance with the bill and secure future safeguards, the bill gives DHCD authority to establish a 13-member advisory committee consisting of housing advocates, municipal representatives, developers and the real estate bar that will provide regulatory advice and recommendations.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further action.

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