A pending bill in the MA state legislature would give tenants the first opportunity at buying the apartment in which they live before it goes on the market by putting a six-month hold on the sale.
The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) had passed the Massachusetts State House this summer as part of an economic development bill and is now in a conference committee.
MassLandlords, a trade group representing multifamily operators in the state, opposes the bill, arguing that it would place an economic burden on its members, many of whom are mom-and-pop property owners.
Supporters of the bill argue that TOPA would prevent massive displacement and preserve affordability from the economic turmoil following the COVID pandemic. They anticipate that Wall Street investors will flock to the market looking for bargains, driving up rents in the process.
MassLandlords Direct Doug Quattrochi argues, "Renters already have the right to make an offer to purchase the properties where they live - they same as anyone else. The point of this bill is to delay sales as long as possible so a non-profit can come in and buy it."
A D.C. lobbying group called the Small Multifamily Owners Association has also taken a stance against the bill, with founder Dean Hunter remarking, "The reality of the matter is it adds $25K or $30K per unit to a multifamily transaction. That cost is often absorbed by the landlord."
In response, one of the bill's supporters remarked ,"we think the bill has been crafted in a way that balances the interest of sellers and the interests of the community and the residents. Nothing in this bill would prevent an owner from selling his property at the full market value to whomever he wants.
The TOPA bill is modeled after a Washington D.C. law passed in 1980 that preserved more than 1,400 units of affordable housing between 2003 and 2013 at a fraction of the cost of building new units. Similar bills are being debated in Oakland, Sacramento and New York.
The future of the bill, and whether it has enough support to pass the Senate or be signed into law by Republic Governor Charlie Baker, remains unclear. A Baker spokesperson didn't return an email seeking comment.