FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a Massachusetts law that allows participating cities and towns to create a dedicated fund for important projects that can greatly enhance a community’s character and quality of life. 177 cities and towns have adopted CPA since 2001. In order to participate, communities must pass a CPA referendum by popular vote.
CPA will provide the City with a dedicated source of funding for projects that enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods, projects that will make our community a better place to live and work in. Often, Framingham has relegated projects such as these to the “bottom of the list of priorities” when deciding its annual budget. Having CPA ensures that, in the future, when needs and opportunities present themselves, Framingham has the funds to take action.
The City’s CPA funds are kept in a restricted local Community Preservation Fund. Projects must fall into one of four categories and meet specific criteria that apply to each.
- Acquire, create, or preserve open space in the city.
- If CPA funds were used to acquire or create an open space parcel, the funds may also be used to rehabilitate or restore the open space.
- Acquire, preserve or restore historic property in the city.
- That property must be significant to the history, archeology, architecture, or culture of the city.
- Acquire, create or preserve recreational land.
- CPA funds may also be used to rehabilitate or restore recreational space.
- Acquire, create, preserve or support housing for low- to moderate-income individuals.
- Additionally, if CPA funds were used to acquire or create the community housing the funds may also be used to rehabilitate or restore the same.
Community Housing is one of the four project types that CPA supports. The others are open space, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation. CPA requires that at least 10% of funds be spent or reserved for Community Housing projects. Likewise, a minimum 10% must be committed to Open Space / Outdoor Recreation and a minimum of 10% for Historic Preservation.
While CPA funds can support the creation of new affordable units or could be requested as an additional funding resource for a locally approved project, they are more typically used to help make existing housing stock more affordable, to help community residents to afford their housing, and to preserve existing affordable housing. Housing projects that have been supported by CPA cities and towns include:
- Down payment assistance to support income-eligible residents
- Rental assistance programs for residents in times of financial hardship
- Preserving existing affordable rental housing by helping to fund agreements that extend expiring affordability restrictions on privately-owned affordable housing, to allow the municipality to continue to meet its 10% affordable housing commitment.
- A request by a Housing Authority for funds to acquire a home that is for sale, to fix it up, and then to lease it out at a permanently affordable rent.
- Alternatively, a Housing Authority proposal to sell the renovated home to an income-qualified household at an affordable price.
- A proposal to enable some number of units at a local assisted living facility to be permanently affordable for low-income seniors.
The goal of all such Community Housing projects is to address local needs to make housing more affordable and to affect the long-term well being of local residents.
Projects recommended for funding each year will go through an open process of the Community Preservation Committee, with final funding decisions being made by the City Council. All proposals will be well vetted, recommended with community input, and selected taking into consideration documented need and other competing Community Preservation opportunities.
The money will come from two sources.
The first is a small surcharge of 1% on Framingham real estate tax bills. All low-income property owners and moderate-income seniors are eligible for a total exemption from the surcharge. In addition, for all taxed properties, there is an automatic exemption on the first $100,000 of property valuation. The 1% surcharge will provide approximately $1,500,000 annually for Framingham projects.
The second source is a match from the state Community Preservation Trust Fund, which is supported by fees collected at the Registry of Deeds and occasional appropriations by the state legislature. Since CPA was enacted in 2000, Framingham’s residents, like residents of other municipalities across Massachusetts, have paid these title transfer fees to the Registry of Deeds. Framingham residents paid an estimated $3,000,000 for these Registry fees over nearly 20 years. This money, subsequently transferred to the state Community Preservation Trust Fund, was distributed as part of the state match to cities and towns that had adopted CPA. None of these funds came back to Framingham. In January 2020, the legislature raised these Registry fees by 150% to increase the matching funds available to CPA communities. Distributions from the CP Trust Fund will vary from year to year. The average over the last decade has been over 25%.
A 20% state match for Framingham’s proposed 1% surcharge would add about $300,000 to the City’s Community Preservation Fund each year. Combining the match with the $1,500,000 raised by the local CPA surcharge, an estimated $1,800,000 will be available for Framingham CPA projects in the first year.
A stand-alone Community Preservation Committee (CPC) manages the Fund. The CPC is composed of a representative from the City’s Conservation Commission, Historical Commission, Planning Board, Park & Recreation Commission, and Housing Authority. The Mayor can appoint up to four additional citizens as members, for a potential total of nine.
This CPC, with input from the public and others, evaluates community needs and priorities, creates a long-term plan, and recommends eligible projects for funding. All CPA funding appropriations must be approved by the City Council. Both a CPC recommendation and City Council approval are required for funds to be used for any purpose.
The annual selection process for local projects is large prescribed by the CPA legislation. It is a multi-step process that includes planning, research, analysis and recommendations, and, finally, project selection by the elected City Council.
Planning and Research. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) that has responsibility for administration of the Community Preservation Fund (CP Fund) will study the City’s needs, possibilities and resources with respect to community preservation. It will develop a long-term plan for the CP Fund, taking into account anticipated annual revenues and information gleaned from consultation with municipal boards and commissions, specifically the Conservation Commission, Historic Commission, Planning Board, Park Commissioners, and Housing Authority. This plan will be updated periodically to reflect new needs and opportunities and past accomplishments.
As part of this effort, the CPC must hold one or more public informational hearings on Community Preservation needs, possibilities, and resources. It will also solicit proposals from the community for potential CPA-eligible projects that meet the City’s needs and criteria. Most CPA cities and towns have a formal project application process for each funding cycle.
Recommendations. For each funding cycle, the CPC recommends individual projects with specific funding levels to City Council. The CPC also recommends set asides or reservations of CP Fund revenues for future years. CPA legislation requires that, in each fiscal year, the City will spend, or set aside for later spending, not less than 10 per cent of the annual revenues in the Community Preservation Fund each for open space, for historic resources and for community housing.
Only proposed projects that are eligible under the CPA law can be considered and recommended. The CPC may recommend that some funds be set aside for a specific purpose for future years. All recommendations must include their anticipated cost.
Selection. As Framingham’s legislative arm, City Council has the responsibility under CPA legislation for final project selection. After receiving recommendations from the CPC, City Council decides which of the recommended projects to support and at what funding levels. City Council can reduce the funding level of a recommended project, but cannot increase it. Again, as noted above, in each fiscal year, the City Council shall spend, or set aside for later spending, not less than 10 per cent of the annual revenues in the Community Preservation Fund each for open space , for historic resources and for community housing. Further, the City Council shall also act on the CPC’s recommendation for an appropriation from the CP Fund for CPC administrative and operating expenses, which under law cannot exceed 5 per cent of the annual revenues in the CP Fund. CP Funds cannot be appropriated for municipal personnel expenses and other non-CPC expenses.
(More complete detail can be found in the Massachusetts CPA Law)
State matching funds will fluctuate. Over the last ten years they have averaged about 25% of the local collections. The law requires a minimum annual match of 5%. A 20% match to Framingham’s local surcharge would give Framingham an additional $300,000 in the first year.
The source of state matching funds is the Community Preservation Trust Fund, which was created by the CPA legislation. The Trust Fund is supported by a special-purpose CPA surcharge on Registry of Deeds transactions state-wide. Effective January 1, 2020, the Massachusetts legislature upped these surcharges 250% to create a bigger match for local projects as the number CPA communities increases.
The state recently issued a projection for the state match for the current year of 25 to 35%.
With the 1% surcharge and the exemptions allowed, 67% of Framingham’s residential properties will pay less than $50 each year for CPA. That is less than $12.50 on each quarterly tax bill. Eligible low-income property owners and moderate-income seniors will pay no surcharge on residential tax bills. Actual surcharge payments will vary according to each property’s valuation and tax bill.
The local surcharge can only be changed by another local CPA referendum. Once the voters adopt CPA provisions, we are bound to them for five years. After that, voters must approve any changes. Among the 177 municipalities that have adopted it, to date none have withdrawn.
The surcharge will not appear on our tax bills until after July 1, 2021.
Open Space, Outdoor Recreation, Community Housing
Marist Fathers of Boston. This 28-acre parcel on Pleasant St. included an athletic field, residential buildings and dining facilities, and farmland. It could have been preserved as open space, used for outdoor recreation, and, potentially, repurposed for community housing. Instead, it was sold to a developer to construct high-end housing.
Open Space, Outdoor recreation
Millwood Golf Course. The City’s Master Plan identified this 60-acre privately held golf course near Callahan State park as a priority parcel to protect. Framingham had right-of-first-refusal to buy the property if it ever came on the market. But when it came up for sale, town government could not muster the will to appropriate the funds for the purchase and a developer acquired the property to build adult restricted housing.
Village Hall (1834). Village Hall, once the Meeting House on the Centre Common, survives today as a venue for community events. For many years, it was in need of rehabilitation to meet current building standards (fire suppression, electrical, ADA compliance) and to fix years of deferred maintenance. Time and again, Town Meeting delayed approving these repairs due to the expense. Finally, in 2016, with the building on the verge of being closed, repairs costing approximately $2 million were approved, and the work was completed soon after. If CPA been in place, repairs could have been accomplished much sooner and at lower cost.
Rugg Gates House (ca. 1785). One of the few eighteenth century homes surviving in Framingham, this property was taken and demolished by MassDOT to expand an onramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike at exit 12.