Mass General Brigham Calls for Action on Housing Crisis
State’s largest private employer joins 70 other organizations statewide in support of a new transfer fee on real estate transactions to support and preserve affordable housing
Boston, Mass. (January 19, 2022) – In the face of a housing crisis that is making far too many communities unaffordable for their residents, including those in the restaurant and retail sectors, healthcare workers, teachers and public safety workers, Mass General Brigham announced today it is endorsing legislation allowing Massachusetts communities to levy fees on certain real estate transactions to support housing.
“Health and housing are inextricably linked, and research has demonstrated the connection between housing stability and health outcomes. The lack of affordable housing, and other social determinants of health, plague many neighborhoods disproportionately‒particularly communities of color‒leading to alarming health disparities. Failure to address these root causes during COVID-19 could further exacerbate these inequities,” noted Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, Chief Community Health Equity Officer, Mass General Brigham. “Not only is affordable housing a concern with respect to the social determinants of health of our patients, but it’s also a significant contributing factor to staffing challenges that our hospitals are facing. The lack of workforce housing is particularly problematic for employees in our Nantucket Cottage and Martha’s Vineyard Hospitals.”
The legislation will help to fight displacement and residential overcrowding, which has endangered public health in Massachusetts, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass General Brigham submitted testimony today in support of this commonsense solution to a growing public health crisis related to the lack of housing.
Mass General Brigham is a non-profit organization that is committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. Mass General Brigham is the state’s largest integrated academic healthcare system treating more than 1.5 million patients annually and employing more than 80,000 health care professionals.
- 1377 and S. 868 will help to solve the ongoing housing crunch by allowing municipalities and regional authorities to opt into a real estate transfer fee of 0.5 percent to 2 percent on higher end property sales to control housing costs, preserve affordable housing, and fund new housing. Each community will be able to determine if it wants to adopt the transfer fee in its city or town. The fee only applies to transactions over the statewide or county median single-family home price, to protect lower income home purchasers, and communities may choose a higher exemption threshold at their discretion. The community itself will determine both the fee percentage and threshold sale price and what exemptions to the fee should apply. Representative Mike Connolly is sponsoring the legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, while Senator Jo Comerford is the bill’s lead sponsor in the State Senate.
“Massachusetts is undeniably in a housing crisis and it is having a real and lasting impact,” said Tucker Holland, Nantucket’s Municipal Housing Director. “On the islands, the lack of year-round housing means we have emergency personnel who do not reside on the island, teachers sleeping on couches and a workforce that often is living in overcrowded apartments. This is dangerous to public health. The pandemic has brought particular and grave focus to this situation. Add to that challenges in keeping and recruiting health care staff and medical professionals when they are most needed. We need the legislature to simply give us permission to help ourselves.”
Recent research has demonstrated the connection between housing stability and health outcomes. In December 2020, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation released data showing that individuals enrolled in permanent supportive housing programs had significantly lower total annual average health care costs than a peer group of chronically homeless individuals. Similarly, a report put out by The Boston Foundation in June 2021 found the health of children and caregivers improved when they had access to stable housing – the average number of emergency department visits dropped from 2.3 visits to 1.3 over a twelve month period.
“First responders, public safety personnel, health care staff – all are required to keep our communities safe and healthy. Massachusetts will not be able to maintain its status as a leader in healthcare if people cannot afford decent, quality housing. In remote locations like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, affordable, year-round housing is essential to recruitment and retention of qualified staff to support and sustain the health of our communities,” noted Denise Schepici, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital President and CEO and Gary Shaw, FACHE, President and CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
“Housing is a key determinant of health. That’s why I’m thrilled to see Mass General Brigham endorse and support real estate transfer fee legislation. Municipalities need more funding to develop housing that is truly affordable. Mass General Brigham’s support brings us one step closer to this goal,” said Senator Jo Comerford.
“To address the affordable housing emergency, we need a comprehensive approach that includes smart housing production, strong tenant protections, and new revenues to support affordability. Our proposal for a real estate transfer fee will help generate needed revenues by giving municipalities the option to capture a small fraction of the wealth being generated by the real estate market,” Representative Mike Connolly said. “I’m thankful to the Mass General Brigham for recognizing that housing is essential to public health and for joining our growing statewide coalition for a real estate transfer fee.”
“The cry can be heard from every corner of the state, large and small, urban and rural: we cannot find affordable places for people to live,” said Pamela Schwartz, Director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness and member of the Transfer Fee for Affordable Housing Coalition. “This Transfer fee legislation is a critical response to this all-hands-on-deck situation. We must give our local communities the option to use it.” The coalition represents more than 70 organization across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that support this legislation.
About the Transfer Fee for Affordable Housing Coalition
The Transfer Fee for Affordable Housing Coalition is a diverse group of more than 70 community organizations, housing and planning agencies, municipalities and other groups that support legislation enabling municipalities to levy a transfer fee on high end real estate sales and use this money to create affordable housing in their communities. We support State-wide enabling legislation, as well as home rule petitions that would enable implementation of a transfer fee in those municipalities that have already approved this innovative source of funding for affordable housing. You can learn more about the coalition at www.realestatetransferfee.org.