The Community Preservation Act does not prohibit use of CPA funds for projects on privately- owned property. However, the Anti-aid Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution DOES prohibit the use of public funds to private entities for private purposes. Public funds are generally prohibited from being used for private purposes. It is possible in some situations to grant of public money to private organizations, including CPA funds. Any expenditure of public funds must be used to advance a public purpose. A variety of federal and state programs provide historic preservation grants to private non-profit organizations, but typically the public purpose is served by the acquisition of a historic preservation restriction.
- The CPC may require a historic preservation restriction as a condition of funding preservation projects on private properties to satisfy the Anti-aid Amendment. The deed restriction transfers to the new owner should the private entity sell the building, protecting the public investment in the property.
- A project may also require written agreement that guarantees public access to a building or that the CPA investment to be repaid should the private building be sold.
- CPC would consider seeking a written legal opinion on CPA funding for any private projects before making a recommendation.
CPA funds may be able to fund a project on private property, but only if the project is advancing a public purpose, such as the municipality acquiring a deed restriction, providing public access to the property where there was none before, or some other public benefit recommended by municipal counsel.