NAIOP Massachusetts Updates on COVID-19 + CRE
On March 10, 2020 Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency urging private sector employers, where possible, to limit or eliminate non-essential travel and larger meetings. To ensure member health and safety, all NAIOP in-person events will be rescheduled or held virtually until further notice. NAIOP Massachusetts would like to serve as a resource on issues affecting the CRE industry. We are in constant contact with state officials on this issue and we are actively working to find solutions that address both the long and short-term impacts of this crisis. Have an idea you would like to share or a challenge that needs to be addressed in response to this crisis? Contact NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou.
We will continue to update this site to provide the most recent and up to date information.
Construction Moratoriums & Guidance
State: On Tuesday, March 31, the Baker-Polito Administration updated the construction related guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance limits "essential" construction to housing and critical infrastructure activities. Under the revised list, private nonresidential construction is not considered essential (unless it falls within one of the specified exemptions). As of noon, April 1, only housing projects (including mixed use with housing, infrastructure projects and construction related to COVID-19 can proceed. On April 2, the state updated the FAQ page to answer questions on this issue. The state also issued supplemental guidelines to limit COVID-19 exposures on construction sites and additional guidance outlining the enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines. It specifically states that “for all private projects the primary enforcement responsibility rests with the city or town.”
Local: Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and numerous other cities and towns have issued a halt to all construction until further notice. Companies should maintain the crews necessary to make sure sites are “safe and secure.” In addition, effective April 2, Cambridge issued its own construction guidance.
Municipal Permits Tolled
On April 3, Governor Baker signed Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities & State Authorities Resulting From COVID-19. It addresses many challenges faced by local governments throughout the Commonwealth during this time and includes language that addresses the tolling of local permits and is supported by the Mass Municipal Association, NAIOP MA, and the Home Builders & Remodelers Association. The language, found in Section 17 provides necessary relief to cities and towns that, due to disruptions caused by the state of emergency, are unable to timely process and hear permitting applications. At the same time, these changes balance the needs of residents and developers by ensuring that their current permits are no impaired by the emergency declaration.
Commercial and Residential Eviction Moratorium Legislation
On April 9, the Senate passed S.2631, which prohibits all non-emergency evictions for small businesses and prohibits evictions and foreclosures for residential properties for at least 120 days after the bill is signed by the Governor. The legislation also prohibits late fees or any negative credit reporting for non-payment of rent if the lack of payment is due to financial impact related to COVID-19. Last Thursday, April 2, the House passed a different eviction and foreclosure bill H.4615, which also applies to commercial and residential properties. On April 9, the House did not concur with the Senate language so a conference committee was appointed, which will negotiate a final bill.
NAIOP recognizes the importance of helping small businesses who have been impacted by this crisis and we are grateful to the many members who have provided technical expertise on this issue.
State Permit Tolling
On Thursday, March 26, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order to suspend relevant permitting deadlines and extend out the validity of state permits. It applies to a wide range of state approvals and clarifies that all approvals shall toll during the State of Emergency. It shall remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency is terminated, whichever happens first.
Property Tax Update
As part of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, the municipal relief bill signed by Governor Baker on April 3, municipalities are allowed to extend the due date of quarterly taxes to June 1st.
The City of Cambridge announced it is extending the due date for Second Half Real Estate and Property Tax bills until June 1, 2020. In addition, interest and other penalties on late payments made on Excise Tax and water/sewer bills with due dates after March 10, 2020 will be waived if payments are made before June 30, 2020. It is our understanding that this applies to both residential and commercial.
The City of Boston has extended the due date for property tax bills in Boston until June 1st to give residents more flexibility during the ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19. It is our understanding this only applies to residential.
BPDA COVID-19 Response
The BPDA is postponing all BPDA-hosted public meetings regarding Article 80 development projects and planning studies until further notice. While projects will continue to be reviewed internally by BPDA staff, the public review process for both Article 80 development projects and the BPDA's planning studies is on hold until public meetings can be resumed. If you are a landlord or tenant of the BPDA's housing program, please visit the BPDA's housing page for information and resources. As the BPDA’s response to Covid-19 continues to evolve, please check this page or follow @bostonplans on Twitter for updated guidance.
Executive Orders & Guidance Issued Affecting Housing
A number of Executive Orders and guidance documents, were adopted the week of March 23.
Changes to Open Meeting Law:
On Thursday, March 12, an emergency order was filed temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available (such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, etc.). Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level.
SJC Postpones Trials in MA until May 4
On April 3, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an order postponing all state trials to May 4, at the earliest. All civil and criminal trials which were scheduled to begin on or before May 1 will be delayed “unless the trial is a bench trial in a civil matter and may be conducted otherwise than in-person by agreement of the parties and of the court.” The offices of court clerks, registers, and recorders will continue to work. These duties include scheduling and facilitating hearings, issuing orders, answering questions from legal professionals and the public, and performing other necessary tasks. All business except the filing of pleadings and other documents will be done virtually.
Land Court Issues Guidance for Remote Approvals
On March 25, the Land Court issued guidance regarding approvals by title examiners while the court remains open for emergency business only. The guidance can be viewed here.
E-Notary Legislation Filed
Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that does not allow for e-notarization. On Friday, March 20, SD2882, An Act Relative to Remote Notarization During COVID-19 State of Emergency was filed to allow for e-notarization until 3 days after the emergency declaration is lifted. The Real Estate Bar Association has been the lead on this issue, but NAIOP is supportive of the legislation and will be advocating for its passage.
Extension of Professional Licensure:
On Wednesday, March 18, Governor Baker signed a new emergency order to ensure that licensed professionals do not have their licenses or registrations lapse due to unforeseen problems with renewal during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, under this order, occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency. This order does not affect license extensions that have already been granted in earlier emergency orders.
Changes to Unemployment Insurance Signed into Law:
On Wednesday, March 18, Governor Baker signed (S 2599), which will allow workers to begin immediately collecting unemployment benefits. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development will also file emergency regulations allowing employees affected by the coronavirus to collect unemployment if their workplace shuts down with plans to reopen within four weeks.
BBRS Issues Guidance for Building Inspectors:
On Tuesday, March 17, the state Office of Public Safety and Inspections issued guidance for local building officials to identify options that would satisfy the inspector’s responsibilities in connection to administering and enforcing the state building code. Specifically, the state building code provides inspectors with the authority to accept reports from an approved subject matter expert per building code sections 104.4 and R104.4.
SJC Issues Order Extending All Statutory Deadlines to Apr. 21:
On Tuesday, March 17, the SJC issued an order extending all statutory deadlines to April 21. Specifically, paragraph 9 states “Unless otherwise ordered by the applicable court, all deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, or guidelines that would otherwise expire before April 21, 2020, are extended to that date.”
Changes to MEPA:
MEPA procedures have changed in response to COVID-19. and these changes will be in place until May 4, 2020, unless further extended. Among other changes, electronic submittals that are sent to MEPA@mass.gov by 5:00 PM on the submittal deadline will be accepted for publication in the next edition of the Environmental Monitor. Check out the MEPA web site for more information.
Statement from Eversource on Services During COVID-19
Eversource wants to reassure the development community that we are currently well prepared to continue providing safe, reliable energy and essential services while also safeguarding the health and well-being of our employees and the communities we serve. Connecting new customers is considered an essential service, therefore, here at Eversource: Our Customer Service and Engineering teams are working remotely, taking orders and designing and engineering your project. In an effort to maximize safety, joint site meetings are suspended and replaced with conference calls and virtual meetings. Individual site visits will continue where necessary.Construction will continue where permitted by local cities and towns, and Eversource field crews will continue working on projects. However, outage requests are being evaluated on a case by case basis.Outdoor meter installs will continue. Indoor meter installs will be evaluated on a case by case basis.Eversource will continue to require any and all State and Municipal Inspection requirements to move forward with energizing your facility.
For more information Eversource’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Eversource website.
Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website.
In addition, please check out the following resources, which are frequently updated, for information on this rapidly changing situation:
CARES Act - Resources for Small Businesses
President Trump Signs $2 Trillion Federal Relief Bill
On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), It will provide critical relief as businesses and individuals strive to manage the economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill includes, among other things, an aggressive loan program for small businesses, many of which are commercial real estate tenants. It is designed to help them meet their financial obligations and keep their employees on payrolls over the next few months. The loans, which are forgivable, will provide many of our tenants with needed liquidity to keep them operating during the crisis. NAIOP Corporate has been actively representing the industry on Capitol Hill and in-depth summary of the bill can be found here.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Ongoing Blood Shortage & Need for Blood Donation Sites
As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus has caused the cancellation of blood drives across the Commonwealth. There is an urgent need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Donating is a necessity to supply the hospitals with the blood our neighbors require. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state. Identifying donation sites is vital to meet the demand as we go forward. Your local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products.
To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808.
Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund
On April 6, Governor Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker announced the launch of the COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund. It is designed to support organizations assisting Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, frontline health care workers, and other essential service providers. Donations are needed and encouraged.
Boston Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund
The Boston Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund was created to support Black and Latinx-owned small businesses during this difficult time. The Business Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund’s (BECEF) will provide no interest bridge loans and crisis response support teams to Massachusetts-based Black and Latinx businesses with revenues of at least $250,000. The BECEF will initially be seeded by the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation ($250,000), The Berkshire Bank Foundation ($200,000) and The Boston Foundation ($500,000) and there is a goal of raising an additional $4 - $9 million. If organizations or individuals are interested in contributing to the COVID-19 Impact Fund, please reach out to Orlando C. Watkins, Boston Foundation Vice President of Programs, at (617) 338-2291, or Glynn Lloyd, FBE Executive Director at (617) 828-4228.
Post Updated April 9, 2020 at 5:58PM