Why do ORS members support the Real Estate Transfer Fee?

Letter to the Somerville Board of Aldermen Regarding the Home Rule Petition - April 4, 2018

Dear Board of Aldermen,

Somerville and the entire Boston metropolitan area are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. The median sale price of a single-family home has risen over 300 percent since 1997. As the proposed Real Estate Transfer Fee home rule petition notes, 36 percent of renters are considered rent-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent. Many of the people who make Somerville a great place to live can no longer afford to live here: working- and middle-class families, service industry workers, new immigrants, artists, and musicians. Somerville is in danger of becoming a city where only the rich can afford to buy or rent a home—and in danger of losing its vibrant, egalitarian spirit.

Many current aldermen campaigned on ideas like the Tenant Right of First Refusal and community land trusts, and these were the ideas that spurred many members of Our Revolution Somerville to knock doors to support candidates. We’ve heard overwhelmingly from Somerville residents that housing affordability is the most important issue affecting them. All of the ideas proposed to increase affordable housing require funding. The Real Estate Transfer Fee could generate $6–9 million per year.

We understand and sympathize with the concerns of homeowners, since many of us are homeowners ourselves. However, we also believe that it's only fair that those of us who have benefited the most from Somerville's ever-increasing real estate market should pay a small amount toward initiatives that will help neighbors who are in danger of being displaced by the same "hot" market. We urge you to limit exemptions to those protecting vulnerable seniors and other property owners facing genuine financial hardship. In particular, we hope that you will not exempt property owners on the sole grounds that they have occupied their buildings for 20+ years. This exemption would significantly reduce revenue and would primarily benefit those who have already profited most from the skyrocketing real estate market.

Our Revolution Somerville endorsed its slate of candidates in a large part because of their willingness to fight for affordability. Support for the Transfer Fee will be a key criterion for us when we consider endorsements and voting records in the future. We ask that you stand up for the many Somerville residents who will never be able to purchase a luxury condo, but who contribute to this city, care for this city, and deserve a chance to continue to call it home.


Our Revolution Somerville

Public Hearing on Proposed Transfer Fee Home Rule Petition - April 4, 2018

Testimony from Rachel, an ORS Member

My name is Rachel. I live in Ward 2. I am a member of Our Revolution Somerville. Housing affordability is one of the key issues for Our Revolution Somerville in our fight to defend this community, and was a central issue in last year's election. This is an Our Revolution Vote.

I am here tonight in support of the Transfer Fee. As you said, Mr. Chairman, Somerville is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. I have been a renter in Somerville for the past 18 years. I hope some day soon I will have the good fortune to become a Somerville home owner. As a prospective buyer I would not be deterred by the 1% Transfer Fee. I support the Transfer Fee because I believe in the programs within the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that it will support.

I have read comments from members of this community protesting paying into a service they do not expect to ever themselves utilize. To that I ask: do you protest the taxes that pay our firefighters and our police force, because you do not believe your house will ever burn down or get broken into? Do you protest paying for streets to be maintained because you don't drive?

In my time in this city I have been lucky enough to have friends I could lean on when I fell on hard times, lucky enough to find housing within my limited budget, and lucky enough to have never needed to seek support from affordable housing programs. But I can't see the future, and fortunes can turn quickly.

I ask you to support the Transfer Fee because, while I hope I never need to use the affordable housing programming it supports, one day I might. Or you might. Or my elderly neighbor might. And sure as anything, when that day comes, we would each be thankful that the community we live in had chosen to pay fortune forward.