Help communities make key investments in community preservation, affordable housing, and climate change resilience: Voice your support for the Community Preservation Act
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a tremendously popular and successful partnership between the state and local communities.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Act, cities and towns "opt-in” to create their own local “Community Preservation Fund.” The Fund is dedicated to protecting open space and developing outdoor recreation opportunities, preserving historic places, and creating affordable housing, with the funds coming out of a property tax surcharge of 3% or less. Local funds are matched by a state Community Preservation Trust, which comes from fees collected at the Registry of Deeds on real estate transactions.
What some communities may not know is that the CPA can also be a key source for funding resilience projects in towns and cities facing climate change impacts through projects including rain gardens, coastal buffers, flood plain protection and restoration, and tree-planting in parks and playgrounds.
The Trustees has long been a supporter of CPA, working to increase state match funding and helping with local adoption efforts. Recently, The Trustees supported the 2016 Boston adoption.
To date, 175 communities in the Commonwealth have adopted the CPA, covering 60% of the state’s population. Across all of Massachusetts, more than $2.1 billion has been raised for community preservation through CPA since its inception in 2000.
It’s a reliable source for preserving what the Community Preservation Coalition (CPC) refers to as “a community’s character and quality of life.”
The state is not keeping up with the demand for CPA, and you can help!
CPA started out with a 100% match from the state, but as a recent editorial in The Boston Globe points out, the CPA is so popular it’s becoming impossible for the state to keep their end of the bargain. According to the CPC, only a 17.2% match was provided by the state last year.
To increase the state match, the legislature is considering a measure to increase the statewide fees that fund the match. The proposed jump would generate an additional $36 million for the CPA Trust Fund each year, bringing the state match up to 28%.
The community assets that the CPA funds, such as accessible open space and stormwater-absorbing green parks, will only become more vital as our state and local governments prepare for a turbulent future with rising sea levels and more frequent and intense storms. The CPC has outlined 11 unique ways the CPA can help combat climate change by: absorbing carbon; saving energy and reducing greenhouse gases; and protecting against flooding and rising sea levels.
With important climate-adaptation, community resilience-focused projects planned in the near term—including a Trustees effort to preserve open green space on Boston’s shrinking waterfront—these funds will not only conserve our lands, but also protect them and the people who live and work nearby.
At a recent housing forum Governor Charlie Baker told a group of activists it was “obvious there needs to be an adjustment,” after 18 years without an increase, and pledged to sign an adjustment if and when it lands on his desk. We’re nearing the tipping point. A vote on the fee increase has passed the House and is before the Senate next week, and an affirmative response would get the bill to Governor Baker’s desk.
What can you do to help? Voice your support by going to www.savecpa.org and click on the ACT NOW button - this will bring you to a page where you can automatically send a letter to your state senator urging them to support increased CPA funding in this year’s budget.
Your voice can help to keep our history alive, and our future bright.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the CPA and the projects it has funded so far, visit: https://www.communitypreservation.org/
Jennifer Ryan, Director of Policy for the Trustees of Reservations, is a trained conservation biologist and passionate advocate for natural resource protection and connecting people to the land and great outdoors. Jennifer joined The Trustees after serving as Legislative Director for Mass Audubon for six years. In her role with The Trustees she spearheads advocacy initiatives that support the organization’s mission to protect and promote iconic natural, historic, and cultural places of Massachusetts. Jennifer works to inform and engage Massachusetts residents and visitors to protect these special places, using the organization’s wide array of statewide scenic, natural, agricultural, and cultural sites as a platform.