Could Boston Cut Nantucket In Line For Housing Bank Legislation?

After years of campaigning by Nantucket’s affordable housing advocates for the island’s so-called housing bank legislation, it appeared the bill finally had some momentum toward passage this year.

Tucker Holland

But a new and potentially significant hurdle in the decades-long effort has emerged as new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has proposed a similar housing bank bill for the city. Nantucket’s municipal housing director Tucker Holland fears Boston could essentially cut Nantucket in line for such legislation, or even worse, preempt the island from establishing a housing bank altogether. 

Tucker and the Select Board will be looking for answers from the island’s legislative team in Boston – Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Sen. Julian Cyr – when they join the board’s meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m.

​”Where is leadership’s thinking on all of these bills, and what (is) the legislative strategy to ensure that if the Boston train is going somewhere this session, Nantucket and other communities that need the same don’t get left behind,” Tucker wrote in a message to town manager Libby Gibson in preparation for tonight’s meeting. “For Boston to get a transfer fee and Nantucket not (to) get one would be unconscionable.”

Nantucket’s proposed legislation, H4201, would establish a .5 percent transfer fee on all real estate transactions above $2 million to fund affordable housing projects on the island. The fee would be paid by the seller. 

The bill is one of a handful seeking legislative approval for a transfer tax to fund housing projects, including several that would apply statewide and allow municipalities to opt-in and establish a transfer tax of up to 2 percent. 

Late last month, Mayor Wu announced Boston’s own proposed transfer tax to create funding for affordable housing, a bill that was endorsed by the Boston Globe last week.

“It’s extremely clear the Boston train is going to go somewhere this session,” Holland said. “We need to be on that train. We cannot let it leave without us. So we need to understand how they (Cyr and Fernandes) are going to do their thing to ensure that Nantucket does not get left behind.”

But how could the island piggyback on the Boston legislation? 

“That’s the $64,000 question and I said to the Select Board members, you’ve got to ask these guys (Cyr and Fernandes)  that question on Wednesday,” Holland said. 

While some might argue that Wu and Boston winning approval for a housing bank could simply pave the way for Nantucket and other municipalities to get similar legislation passed, Holland wasn’t so sure. At best, it would delay Nantucket’s approval at a time when the island’s housing crisis continues to worsen. At worst, it would preempt Nantucket and other communities from getting one of their own, he said.

“Look what happened with the Land Banks,” Holland said. “We got ours, the Vineyard got theirs, but other communities did not. We can’t afford to wait two years, which is what it would be if it gets kicked to the next session. Two years from now, we might not have a police department (due to housing challenges). That’s not far from the truth.”

Holland is urging Nantucket’s year-round and seasonal residents to not only contact Fernandes and Cyr regarding support for H4201, but also reach out to Massachusetts Speaker Ronald Mariano and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz.

“Don’t let the legislature forget about Nantucket,” Holland said in a social media post. “We introduced the concept of a transfer fee for housing six years ago and because of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors’ opposition to our bill, it has not gone through. It would be unconscionable for the legislature to approve the Boston HRP without approving ours.”

More from Jason Graziadei

NFD At Ground Zero: The Story Behind The Photo

You may have seen this haunting image before. A lone firefighter from...
Read More