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Election day victories in Massachusetts for affordable housing through the Community Preservation Act

Six cities and eight towns in Massachusetts voted to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on November 9. This was the most CPA adoptions in one election in the history of the program. Boston, Springfield, Chelsea, Pittsfield and Watertown each voted in favor of adoption with Boston having a 74% favorable vote. Billerica, Hull, Norwood, Rockland and Wrentham also voted in favor of adoption.

The CPA adoption process requires voters to approve passage of a local real estate tax override ranging from 1% to 3% of the property tax bill to generate funds to be used exclusively for affordable housing, green space, preservation of historic buildings and recreation. The CPA will provide millions of dollars for the support of affordable housing in Boston, which is projected to devote over $20 million to CPA activities.

According to the Community Preservation Coalition, the state-wide organization supporting community preservation efforts, 172 cities and towns have now adopted the CPA. To date, the program has raised more than $1.6 billion dollars to finance more than 8,100 open space historic preservation projects and the rehabilitation of more than 9,400 affordable housing units.

Renee Loth wrote a Boston Globe column last week highlighting how this support for the CPA program shows how voters can come together to increase their own taxes to fund governmental initiatives that they value.

Under the CPA, the local property tax funds raised from the surcharge are matched by a trust fund coming from state revenues. Last year, $36.29 million from the trust fund was split among 156 cities and towns so that each municipality received approximately a 30% match of what it collected on its own. The addition of eleven new communities may further reduce the trust fund match. “Certainly this does put the spotlight on the CPA trust fund and really starts the clock ticking on what changes we can work on with the legislature to accommodate the tremendous interest we see in the CPA particularly among cities,” said Stuart Saginor, Executive Director of the Community Preservation Coalition.

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