TOPA provides a chance for tenants to remain in their homes instead of being evicted when a building is being sold. With property turnover on the rise in the post-COVID economy, TOPA allows cities and towns to use this tool to preserve affordable housing and prevent the type of displacement experienced in the prior recession. Less displacement means less overcrowding, homelessness, school year interruptions, and lost employment.
How does TOPA prevent displacement?
This bill is one of many solutions we need to prevent the displacement of vulnerable tenants. It lets municipalities establishes a right to purchase, that tenants may exercise. With an opportunity to purchase, tenants who may otherwise have to leave their homes have an opportunity to remain in place. This further stabilizes the neighborhood and can preserve the housing as affordable.
How would TOPA benefit cities and towns in different markets?
TOPA would let cities and towns help existing residents remain in their homes, and save the public and personal resources expended when people are displaced. In areas where the market is more forgiving, and there is greater opportunity for tenants to purchase, TOPA is important to put into place in advance of market-driven speculation. In areas with "hotter" housing markets, TOPA is important to give tenants a fair shot at purchase, especially where competing buyers are more likely to be outside investors.
Would the bill require all municipalities TO implement topa?
No. As “enabling legislation”, the TOPA bill does not require municipalities to do anything. TOPA would go into effect only in cities and towns that choose to adopt it.
How can low or even middle income tenants possibly afford to buy properties at market prices?
Where market price is out of reach for existing tenants, there are organizations tenants can work with that can access public and private funds to acquire properties designated for preservation and long-term affordability.TOPA also allows tenants to assign their rights to a non-profit organization or local housing authority, or to partner with an affordable housing developer to purchase and operate the housing.
Would TOPA prevent owners from transferring property to their children?
No. TOPA exempts owners who transfer or sell property -- regardless of size -- to immediate family members at or below the assessed value of the property.
Would TOPA require owners to sell at a below-market price?
No. TOPA does not restrict purchase price of the property. In order to exercise their right, tenants have to match the third-party purchase price. Nor does TOPA impose special hardships on owners seeking to sell their property. Its timeframes are typical of a normal real estate market in which properties are purchased with a combination of cash equity and debt.
Will TOPA impede small property owners who need to sell their properties quickly?
No. TOPA explicitly exempts properties owned by "small property owners.” Properties owned by persons who live in Massachusetts who own fewer than seven residential units in the municipality are exempt from TOPA. For others, entities engaged in working with tenants to preserve properties for affordable housing often have existing partnerships with lending institutions and municipalities that enable them to move efficiently through the closing process.
Where has topa been successful elsewhere?
TOPA was enacted 41 years ago in Washington D.C and has successfully preserved thousands of units of affordable housing. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute found that between 2002 and 2013, an additional 1,400 units of occupied rental housing were preserved in D.C. using TOPA.
Across the country 8-10 cities, counties, and states have TOPA legislation pending or in place.
Here in Massachusetts, we have had a tremendously successful Right of First Refusal program since 1986 for residents of mobile home parks. Chapter 140, section 32R of the General Laws gave mobile home owners a right of first refusal to buy the land on which their homes. Under that statute, thirty resident-owned mobile home cooperatives, comprising 3,500 homes, have been established.