May Newsletter

This month’s newsletter will mostly focus on the important changes to the proposed transfer fee home rule petition that is presently before the Board of Alderman. There is a lot of misinformation out there on this issue. I want to help set the record straight and talk about why I support the transfer fee and this petition. But, first of all, I want to say a big thank you to Alderman Hirsch for her excellent revisions that have now been incorporated into the current draft of the petition. The newly revised version simply and elegantly protects Somerville resident homeowners while shifting the burden of the fee squarely onto developers and speculators, where it belongs.

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  1. Updates to the Transfer Fee Petition
  • Alderman Hirsch’s proposal, which the board has now incorporated into our working draft, exempts owner-occupant sellers from paying the transfer fee. All buyers who intend to occupy their new properties for 2 years or more will be exempt as well. This ensures that the burden of this minimal fee will not even fall on the people who actually live in the home they own in Somerville.
  • So who pays the transfer fee?
    • Developers, speculators, and absentee landlords!
    • If the person or company selling the property has not been an owner-occupant for at least two years, they must pay a 1% transfer fee on the sale. In addition, if the buyer/developer will not be living in the property, they must pay a 1% transfer fee. So, if a sale occurs between two developers/speculators/absentee landlords, there will be a total of 2% collected by the city. If the seller is an owner-occupant, but the buyer is a developer, then just the buyer/developer will pay 1%. And, if an owner-occupant seller sells to an owner-occupant buyer, neither of them pays any fee!
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Though we don’t yet have firm revenue estimates from the city, I expect that the revenue raised by this revised version of the fee will be roughly the same as that of the original plan. But, it accomplishes this while placing the burden where it belongs!
    • All money from the transfer fee will go to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund which is run by a board with good people on it, such as Alderman Ewen-Campen. To ensure their good work, I will also introduce a resolution in the future that asks that board to be audited yearly by an independent auditor that is not a city staff for better accountability and transparency. I heard in the testimony that people did not trust this board, and I want to make sure it is transparent and accountable to address those concerns.
      • The Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund (SAHTF) was created in 1989 by a City ordinance to preserve and create affordable rental and homeownership units in Somerville, and to carry out programs to directly assist homeowners and renters. All of its activities must benefit low to moderate income households (with incomes at or below 110% of area median income). Find out more about it HERE.
    • Owner-Occupants don’t have to pay this tax!
    • You can transfer your property to an immediate family member without having the pay the transfer fee as well!
    • These funds will enable the city to create dramatically more permanently affordable housing here in the city. The transfer fee is a necessary and important first step to help ensure that this generation’s working and middle class can call Somerville their home.
    • Without this transfer fee, the city will be merely paying lip service to affordability and anti-displacement efforts. Money is needed to actually make affordable housing plans a reality. We need to pass this petition now and advocate for its swift approval at the State legislature!
  • Another public hearing has been scheduled to permit the public to offer testimony on the latest version of the Transfer Fee Home Rule Petition. It will be at City Hall on Monday, May 7th @ 6:00pm. Please come out and voice your opinion. Let’s make developers pay their fair share!
  • You can read the full text of the current draft of the petitionby following this link: https://www.somervillema.gov/departments/proposed-transfer-fee-home-rule-petition




    2) Public Hearing on Affordable Housing in Somerville- Monday, April 30th

  • I was truly moved by the heart wrenching stories offered of people’s struggles to live and stay in Somerville. It was particularly disturbing how minorities and people of color are being squeezed by this affordability crisis in our city. We have to do a better job.
  • Regina Bertoldo, district homeless liaison for Somerville Public Schools, talked of the more than $200,000 per year spent to transport homeless students from temporary housing outside of the city back to their classrooms. Her testimony on the struggles of students who became homeless and were forced to sleep in the parks both saddened and angered me. How could we let this happen in our community where there is so much wealth and prosperity?
  • I wanted to thank all of the ordinary citizens and community experts that offered testimony. I promise to fight hard to find solutions that help with affordability.
  • Listening to the testimony offered at this public hearing really hit home with why we need the transfer fee as step 1 in taking action on affordability.
  • For more details, read this excellent article on the hearing.

 

     3) Spring Resistat meetings are here!

    • Stay informed with what is going on in the city and your ward/neighborhood. Below is the information offered by the city about Spring Resistat meetings:

 

  • Spring 2018 ResiStat Meeting Schedule

 

              Meetings run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments at 6 p.m.

                          Spring 2018 ResiStat Meeting Schedule

         Meetings run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments at 6 p.m.

 

  • Ward 6: Tuesday, May 8, TAB Building Senior Center Room, 167 Holland St.
  • Ward 5: Monday, May 14, Kennedy School, 5 Cherry St.
  • Ward 7: Monday, May 14, West Somerville Neighborhood School, 177 Powder House Blvd.
  • Ward 1: Wednesday, May 30, East Somerville Community School Auditorium, 50 Cross St.
  • Ward 2: Tuesday, May 22, Argenziano School, 290 Washington St.
  • Ward 4: Thursday, May 31, Healey School, 5 Meacham St.
  • Ward 3: Tuesday, June 5, Somerville High School Library, 81 Highland Ave. (enter through the Field House doors)

 

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Board of Aldermen invite residents to the Spring 2018 ResiStat Community Meetings, a twice-yearly effort to share the latest City news, data, and neighborhood updates directly with residents and gather their feedback. ResiStat is more than a great way to get an overview of what’s happening specifically in your neighborhood as well as citywide. The social time before and after the meetings also offer an easy opportunity to talk one-on-one with the Mayor, your Aldermen, and City staff and police—and to connect with your neighbors. (We serve pizza and kid-friendly, healthy snacks to make it more fun to come and chat.)

Refreshments will be served at a meet-and-greet before each meeting. Interpretation into Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole will be provided at every meeting. For more information about ResiStat, or with any questions, contact ResiStat Coordinator, Meghann Ackerman, at MAckerman@somervillema.gov or 617-625-6600 ext. 2120.

 

So many exciting things happening in our city. I am excited to be a part of positive change!

Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah

 

Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.