Mayor Walsh announces support for Community Preservation Act
April 27, 2016
Further affirming his commitment to ensuring access to quality housing and open space, in a city that values and preserves its history, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced his support for the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which could provide a significant revenue stream to support affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space initiatives. The proposal, which is currently pending before the City Council, could potentially be placed on the ballot in Boston in November 2016.
"Our city is growing and thriving, but success has brought challenges-housing costs being one of the greatest," said Mayor Walsh. "We've studied the impacts and benefits, and I believe the Community Preservation Act offers a balanced and timely strategy for helping Boston build affordable housing, invest in our parks, and preserve Boston's historic and inclusive character. I thank the City Council for taking this up, and look forward to working with them and our community partners in support of the Community Preservation Act."
Enacted in 2000, the CPA statute allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Community preservation funds are raised locally, through a surcharge of the tax levy against real property of up to three percent. Municipalities must adopt CPA by ballot referendum.
The statute allows for communities to exempt the first $100,000 of value for all properties, and the majority of new revenue would come from commercial properties.
The funds from CPA would provide a significant stream to support affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space initiatives. Communities can decide on the distribution of funds across the three areas covered under the CPA, as long as each area -- open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing -- each receive at least 10 percent of the total available funds.
In addition to funds raised by the surcharge, the CPA statute created a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the Department of Revenue. This fund provides matching distributions of funds each year to communities that have adopted CPA. The matching funds come from a surcharge on transaction fees at the Registry of Deeds and special appropriations by the State Legislature. In prior years, the match has ranged from 23 percent to approximately 50 percent. Last year, the match was 29 percent. Currently, 160 cities and towns across the Commonwealth have approved the CPA, and more than $1.6 billion has been raised to date for community preservation funding statewide.
New City revenue from the surcharge is estimated to be $16.5 million annually, and is expected to leverage millions more in state funding every year. The average homeowner would pay an additional $28 per year.
To determine which projects will receive funding, on adoption of the Act, Boston would create a Community Preservation Committee. This five-to-nine member board will make recommendations on CPA projects to the City Council. This committee would include at least one member each representing the interests of the Conservation Commission, the Landmarks Commission, Boston's planning department, the Parks Commission, and the Housing Cabinet.
"Thank you to Mayor Walsh and to Council co-sponsors Councilor Michael Flaherty and Councilor Andrea Campbell for their leadership in advancing the opportunity for Boston to capture much-needed funding for priorities that we share," said Council President Michelle Wu. "I'm proud to stand with them in support of the Community Preservation Act and ask voters to approve this mechanism for much-needed resources in November."
A specific CPA proposal is pending before the City Council. Following its adoption by the City Council, the proposal would then be put before voters in the next regularly scheduled municipal or state election. Alternatively, the question could be placed on the ballot without a Council vote, but would require a petition signed by at least five percent of Boston's registered voters, which would be certified by the Election Commission.
Since the CPA was enacted 16 years ago, 160 cities and towns in Massachusetts have enacted it.