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Nantucket, state-wide real estate transfer fee pulled from legislative session

Andrew Wolff

Massachusetts lawmakers have pulled legislation that would have allowed Nantucket to impose a real-estate transfer fee on multi-million dollar transactions to fund the development of affordable housing.

Lawmakers also pulled a bill that would have given any city or town in the state the option to impose a similar, so-called mansion tax.

The decision to pull the amendment to a large economic bill was met with understanding but disappointment from housing advocates.

Nantucket housing specialist Tucker Holland says he's optimistic the transfer fee for the island will be passed with a new legislative session and a new governor. He says the real-estate lobby worked hard to kill the legislation.

But Holland say's it's unfortunate the bill wasn't able to pass, with a median home price on the island now around $3 million dollars. He says it's nearly impossible for municipal and other middle class workers to live on the island — including firefighters, teachers and police officers. Having a transfer fee, he says, could generate a substantial amount of money for the town to be able to generate needed housing.

State senator Julian Cyr introduced the Nantucket transfer bill to the economic package that is expected to pass through both the house and senate just in time for the an end of session deadline coming up on July 31.

Cyr says that state senator Jo Comerford from western Massachusetts added an amendment that would give any city or town the option to introduce a transfer fee bill, which was also pulled.

But Cyr says that both articles would likely be vetoed by Governor Charlie Baker. He says that even if there were enough lawmakers voting to override Baker's veto, it would still be too late with the July 31 deadline.

Cyr, though, says he's optimistic the transfer fee bill will pass next session.

“I don’t want people to be discouraged," Cyr tells CAI. "I think people should double down on our efforts in telling our stories and talking about how so many of us are unable to afford a home here. I’m in that boat, as a millennial. I can’t afford a home here.”

Cyr says he’s hopeful a new governor with a fresh perspective in addressing the housing crisis on the Cape and Islands will help.

Several other communities are pushing for a real estate transfer fee to fund local housing initiatives, including all six towns on Martha’s Vineyard, and Chatham, Truro and Provincetown, as well as cities like Boston and Somerville.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.