Letter to the Editor:Boston Globe North Opinion for 4/10/16:Should Somerville expand its citywide affordable zoning requirement to 20 percent?


Alderman Jack Connolly 

As a native Somervillian and a lifetime resident, home, and business owner, no one that I know, citizen, business person, or casual political observer, is opposed to affordable housing here in Somerville: The City would likely be a gold-medal contender for the Housing Diversity Olympics. The citizen-proposed Inclusionary Zoning petition to increase the rate for affordable housing units from 12.5% for structures of eight units or more to 20% for structures of six units or more (a 38% increase) is not in the best interest of Somerville just now prior to long-overdue zoning reform; Here’s why:
Recently, the city of Somerville hired a respected expert to conduct an economic analysis of the Inclusionary Zoning increase to 20%, who concluded that the increase “could have the opposite effect the city wants by creating a situation where residential development is slowed resulting in the production of fewer residential units including affordable units.”
Presently, the City is looking at a complete zoning overhaul of all of the current zoning ordinance, which goes back to 1990. It defies the bounds of comprehension to me to pull this Inclusionary Zoning discussion out of the weave of very intricate requirements needed to sew this complex new zoning tapestry together for decades to come.
Our abutting communities such as Boston (15% on site) and Cambridge (15% with density bonus) are not near the 20%. Such an increase will be a disincentive for developers to work in Somerville, especially in light of the additional expenses and taxes for development that includes: increased permitting costs; a community preservation act surcharge; commercial linkage fees that already go toward affordable housing; and the proposed job linkage fee, not to mention the skyrocketing costs of property acquisition and/or land costs.
The latest edition of Boston Magazine advised that real estate in Somerville appreciated by 29% in 2015, among the highest in the state. It is not likely that this rate is sustainable in this somewhat mature real estate cycle, or that interest rates will stay low forever; And let’s not forget the questionable status (delay possible?) of the Green Line Extension coming into Somerville, for which a decision by the MBTA is expected this May.


​Let’s get the comprehensive Somerville zoning overhaul done, which will include a thorough vetting of the Inclusionary Zoning increase proposal as part of, and not separate from, the complete re-zoning package: Why put that at risk with a rushed, solo half measure?


Boston Globe North Opinion for 4/10/16:Should Somerville expand its citywide affordable zoning requirement to 20 percent?
Mark Niedergang
Ward 5 alderman  

I’ve lived in Somerville for over 30 years. I love this city, especially its fantastic mix of people from different backgrounds. Not only do we have cultural and racial diversity, we have socio-economic diversity. I love having relationships with people who do all kinds of work — laborers, tradespeople, social workers, teachers, cooks, servers, artists, doctors, lawyers, software engineers — we’ve got them all.

But perhaps not for much longer. Like parts of Boston, San Francisco, and many other cities, Somerville is experiencing rapidly rising real estate values and rents that threaten to forever change its character.
To continue reading Boston Globe article please click on link below: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2016/04/08/should-somerville-expand-its-citywide-affordable-zoning-requirement-percent/NPhSV1uKiEkdeXFR8aqqXK/story.html

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