Skip to Main Content
Resource · Case Study

Statewide REALTORS® Association Uses Municipal Information to Engage with Local Governments and Protect Homeowners

Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®

Massachusetts group relies on daily alerts to respond to hundreds of local policy issues that threaten homeownership and REALTORS®.

Back to resources listing

Local Housing Policies Squeeze Buyers, Sellers, and REALTORS

Housing is at the center of many public debates in Massachusetts. The state is facing a housing shortage, falling short of the existing need each year by about 20,000 units, but it’s common for municipalities to advance policies that restrict development or make home building or selling more expensive as they seek to resolve other issues in their communities.

A few of those issues include development moratoria, real estate transaction taxes (or transfer taxes), and green building requirements. Recently, many towns have been asking the state for special permission to pass things like transfer taxes and fossil fuel bans, even though both are prohibited in state law.

Key Issue: Transfer Taxes

Transfer taxes can add up to 2 percent to the cost of a home. With the median home price in Massachusetts at $550,000 in May 2021, that translates to an average increase of $11,000, which is enough to price out more than 23,000 households from the market, according to a study by the NAHB. “Especially for homebuyers on fixed income, an unanticipated cost of a few thousand is a situation that’s unsustainable,” says Catherine Rollins, manager of local public policy with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®.

Key Issue: Fossil Fuel Bans

Fossil fuel bans—which typically prohibit any new residential or commercial gas hookups and require
electric conversion for all major renovations—can severely limit new development and even make renovations impossible in many types of buildings Rollins says about 10 out of 351 towns in the state are going through processes to send these
petitions to the state legislature.

“We’re very concerned about these issues,” Rollins says. “They tend to originate at the city or town level. The more that make it to the statehouse, the more that the state legislature may think there’s broad support for it.”

Local Government Monitoring Software Enables Robust Local Advocacy

Until 2019, the association had no formal process for monitoring local government. The association relied on a network of volunteer members throughout the state to pass along their concerns about issues happening in their local communities.

This network had significant gaps, and issues often made it into law—or reached the state legislature—without the association knowing the process was underway. Now the association uses local government monitoring software from Curate to stay informed about dozens of issues across the state with daily alerts.

In a typical week, Rollins gets around 500 hits acrossthe state’s 351 municipalities—but the regional and topical filtering tools in the software make it easy for her to triage the most urgent issues.

“There were communities where we didn’t know what was going on with policymaking,” Rollins says. “With Curate, I can look at something in a town of a few hundred, where we may not have anyone living or working, but now I can get notified really quickly. This absolutely helps us with breadth and depth of knowing what’s going on.”

Sharing Municipal Information for Action

When Catherine Rollins, manager of local public policy with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® identifies a threat or an issue in the Curate platform the association would like to support, she shares the information with the local association and encourages them to send members to council meetings, write letters to the editor in local news media, or to meet with city staff.

Local Advocacy Leads to Better Policy Outcomes

The timely alerts from Curate have empowered the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® to develop more collaborative relationships with municipalities while also limiting or stopping many policies that would increase home prices or negatively impact REALTORS.

In one example, the town of Ipswich, Mass., put a development moratorium proposal on their town meeting agenda, where any registered attendee can vote on future town bylaws. A development moratorium restricts new housing construction for a period of time,  and it can threaten the livelihood of REALTORS® and raise home prices by limiting the housing supply. 

The association found the item on the meeting agenda through Curate, and set its local government advocacy response into motion.

“We wrote some op-eds and the town ended up voting against the development moratorium,” Rollins says. “The timing was super important—we had to have time to explain to folks why it’s not a good policy.”

In another instance, Rollins used Curate to find an opportunity to build goodwill with a municipality when she spotted a bylaw the association wanted to support. The town of Amherst announced plans to do a total rezoning of their downtown, which involves a significant amount of research and planning. The association wrote a letter to the committee working on the rezoning, as well as the town manager, letting them know they wanted to be a partner with the municipality and serve as a resource for the project.

“I love opportunities like that for relationship building, and for reminding folks that we have resources for technical policy, outreach, or whatever they need,” Rollins says. “When we can work collaboratively with a community, that’s fantastic.” Rollins estimates that Curate has allowed the association to catch dozens—if not hundreds— more issues at the local government level than they would have when relying on word of mouth.

That increased awareness of what is happening has helped the association educate members about the impact local policy issues can have on their direct business. Those educational efforts are helping to engage more members in government affairs activities, which strengthens the association’s ability to respond to policy threats at the local, state, and national level.

About Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®

Organized in 1924, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is a professional trade organization with more than 25,000 members. The association is the leading voice in Massachusetts real estate advocacy, working to protect its members, property owners, and the real estate industry. The term REALTOR® is registered as the exclusive designation of members of the National Association of REALTORS® who subscribe to a strict code of ethics and enjoy continuing education programs.

About Curate

Curate is a civic intelligence company providing local government monitoring software that tracks meeting minutes and agenda items from 12,000+ municipalities. Government affairs teams use Curate to gain more visibility into local government activities in order to monitor risk, advance key initiatives, and spot opportunities.

Ready to see Curate for yourself?

Back to resources listing