Somerville Speakup Line:FRIT Dodged the Bullet But Taxpayers Took That Hit Again

Dear Billy T and Somerville Speakup Line,

FRIT should be paying more towards affordable housing. Losing the 20% promised to those counting on the units, then dropped to 12%, then 6%, then told the units will be scattered throughout the city (I’m guessing under the control of SCC), is what taxpayers are upset about.

This is no way to run a city. I advocated for affordable housing to be built at the former Powderhouse Community School location.

Few residents of Ward 7 wanted it.

I’ll add that Mr. and Mrs. Short never said a word as I see they are always front and center to be advocating for affordable housing just as long as it’s not near their home on Packard Ave. and Tufts.

And when the owner of Marsala initiated a neighborhood meeting to ask if he could build more affordable units in his building in Teele Sq., Mr. Short had the gaul to ask the long time business owner and generous landlord, (who provided parking), how much he was planning to charge the new tenants like it was his business.

I find it comical that both try to claim they are for the less fortunate when they both could spare their $10k without concern. There are many homeowners that cannot afford to spare one dollar after all the shake downs enforced by this mayor with help by his loyal subjects.

Why don’t others like the Short’s who have so much to say about how the rest of us should spend our money, start a charity fund and all those homeowners who think $10k isn’t a lot of money donate even more.

NIMBYISM at it worst.

By the way— PHCS would have been a perfect site for affordable housing but the reason they didn’t want it is because it wouldn’t generate enough money.

From what I know of past meetings— how much money do you think a community theatre for young adults will create at this site?

How about a barbecue pit?

More start ups, an outdoor bike school, a playground for Tufts childcare center (not labeled that way but their center is a few steps away), an outdoor gym for adults and movie screen— all labeled as Community Area, while Tufts Administration Building occupies the adjacent property.

The blame goes directly to the city administration.

The director of planning ran these meetings for over a year at TAB. I attended every meeting after work, so did many homeowners.

It was all set up to force us to agree on whatever Tufts wanted. I was the most vocal because I worked for Tufts for 8 years and it was no vacation in the Bahamas.

Working in academia for over 20 years I learned a great deal about their so called “being a good neighbor”, equates to— it means give me more.

They wanted over 200 underground parking spaces under TAB for their change of plans from administrative offices to creating evening classrooms for Engineering or Elliot Pearson Child Development.

The change was due to their leadership balking at the notion they would have to leave Ballou Hall for Holland Street. So they presented a project that would mean we would be flooded with 200 additional commuters in our neighborhoods and Teele Sq. Anyone who has tried to get out of Cameron Ave., at 5:00 pm understands the nightmare traffic jam.

So when advocates for affordable housing complain that homeowners won’t go along with the transfer tax— ask the mayor and aldermen who voted for the PHCS site project and the hotel going at the burned out fire pit of former Hawks cleaners— why wasn’t more done to ensure affordable units were built at those two locations, and other locations around the city.

This is on the mayor, the board and the developers.

We working class homeowners should not have to shoulder this one.

I have provide you just two examples because they are in my Ward which I closely followed. How many more were handled with similar outcomes?

The mayor knew there was nothing in it for him as affordable housing and others in board positions to make a difference went along.

At least one hundred of affordable units could have been built at the PHCS. But the neighbors on Packard Ave ., didn’t want it. Because they said it would drop their home values. Other remarks were made which I’ll leave you to ponder. None of it good.

Some argued who would be eligible for units if for affordable housing….. that’s when the arguments began. There also lies a clear division among those who feel entitled to affordable housing within the artist community and those who must rely on it as a matter of survival. I wondered if the artists would be willing to share.

A Somerville Taxpayer Caught in the Line of Fire

5 thoughts on “Somerville Speakup Line:FRIT Dodged the Bullet But Taxpayers Took That Hit Again”

  1. Agreed. No matter if or how more revenue is directed towards Affordable Housing, why would anyone feel confident in giving the city control over those funds? I know I don’t given the track record, and their current intentions to stimey property owners with various proposals that will damage our property values. Namely the rezoning – or I should be more accurate… DOWNzoning of our RB properties to NR. For anyone unfamiliar with this rezoning, NR is restricting creation of more rental housing in Somerville’s densest neighyborhoods. RB allows 3 units versus 2 units. Affordability and demand for rental units being a constant issue, with many multis being reclassified downwards as NR, the potential to build a 3rd unit is eliminated. This rezoning HURTS renters and owners alike!! This proposal damages: 1) the prperty owner’s right to add a 3rd unit which devalues his property by hundreds of thousands of dollars 2) Encourages illegal units, which are unsafe 3) prevents creation of additional rental units which could ease the affordability problem by some measure 4) reduces additional property taxes for the City (this would be forfeiture of permanent tax dollars for the City) 5) permitting for 3rd units would bring in additional revenue for the City. Our residential neighbors are already a mix of 2 and 3 families – there is no issue of ‘changing the character’ of the neighborhood. There is not a single reason DOWNzoning makes sense.
    As a property owner who rents to my tenants at 60-70% of market value, and my property is not mortgage free, I suggest that all who think affordable housing is worthy of funding, also be contributors. Investors who collect highend rents, persons who run their property as air bnbs, should be taxed (not just short term investors who are flipping). Some investors hold and collect rents, other people use their ‘residential’ property as a business (air bnb). Air BNB should be permitted, inspected and taxed different from strictly long-term residential rental use. Renters who rent one bedrooms at $2000 or 2-3 bedrooms at $3000, can equally afford to pay a ‘luxury tax’ of 1% of a 12-month rental. These renters typically are passing through in a year or two and have a strong desire to live in porter davis. 1% of a 3000/month rental is $3,600 which could be split between owner and tenant. While surely there are low income folks in Somerville, there is also great wealth to tap into and some renters fit that profile. There are more affordable rentals outside the city, so it’s a choice not a necessity to pay these luxury prices. Do not expect long term property owners who invested and live here, who bought when Somerville was a risky proposition (known as Slummerville), to pay the carrying costs without participation by everyone who came here when Somerville became the hot destination. If affordable housing is a worthy endeavor, then everyone needs to contribute to the pot in a more equitable fashion, and should be willing to.

  2. Excellent points, Ann. Based on my personal experience as a homeowner and professional experience, my theory is this—

    The administration is going to continue to create financial hardships for homeowners who refuse to sell as they keep building luxury condos.

    Those condos will be made for students, bought by parents as investments while neighboring colleges don’t have to provide campus housing. Some proponents at the meeting complained we would otherwise become a city of only wealthy inhabitants— rich and poor maybe, not just wealthy. I don’t believe section 8 housing would only go to those qualified.

    There are others involved who I suspect are manipulating the process to their own advantage. If a person has a trust fund for instance, should they qualify for subsidized housing? That’s a theory floating around. Some people think they are clever and “know how to work the system”, as it’s referred to.

    None other than the non-profits who are experts. Just take a look at those who have in healthcare, academia and religious groups.There gain is our loss. Let’s have some much needed transparency shall we?

    Student loan debt has reach over $1 Trillion Dollars. Those who defaulted on loans have settled in Europe, leaving parents as co-signers to pay their obligations. I’m wondering if that’s why we see so many young adults looking for subsidized housing? Maybe instead of electing a disciple that does not produces a paycheck, pick one that does? Not everyone can be Andy Warhol or Sylvia Plath.

    The colleges discovered it’s too expensive and avoid projects entirely, so the condo associations and city can deal with any future liabilities student housing would bring.

    I’m sure there will be multilayered third parties to manage any issues that arise so those who created the mess won’t have to.

    Other categories of condo owners will be faculty and administrators, maybe the very people responsible for creating the redevelopment projects. I recall a post I read about the former mayor of Boston giving away luxury condos to developers. It would not surprise me to know others in the construction field getting a few free condos or other gifts.

    Like our properties, they will be the gift that keeps on giving, at the sacrifice of working class families who earned the homes and should never have to deal with this nightmare some refer to as progress.

    Let’s ask the wealthy suburbanites of Belmont, Newton, Wellesley and Brookline to give up their homes because we need a change. How do you think they would react?

    Since when has our town been made the capital of wayward college grads with enormous student debt who need rent controlled housing? That’s exactly what affordable housing is in this case and worse, it’s subsidized by federal and state funding which again is paid by taxpayers. Just because they refer to it as affordable housing does mean it’s created to help those who cannot afford.

    Does everyone understand that because what looks shiny and bright on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s great on the inside? Ask city officials how many of the development projects were later found to have cracked and unstable foundations, faulty wiring and plumbing, leaks, mold and later uninhabitable, costing condo owners thousands in legal fees to find the contractors skipped town. Where does this fall? On our city taxpayers.

    By then, money grabbers will be long gone, so will the politicians who allowed it.

    Also ask the aldermen which colleges they work and are affiliated. That’s not by coincidence.

  3. 400 people signed a petition against the transfer tax. How many people who signed the petition received a call from their alderman or the the alderman at large?

    1. How many were able to speak at Wednesday’s meeting?
      Those who signed the petition should continue to write letters and send them to the legislature as well as Governor Baker. This continued taxing and lack of transparency is out of control and must come to an end.

      There is a public meeting on Monday 4/9. I encourage all homeowners and business owners who are opposed to attend.

      Here are the details of the meeting:

      Legislative Matters Meeting – Committee of the Whole

      When: Mon. Apr. 9, 6pm
      Location: Aldermanic Chambers, Somerville City Hall

      During this meeting the Aldermen will deliberate/discuss the Home Rule Petition. All are welcome to attend, however this is a public meeting and not a public hearing. There will be no public testimony taken. There “may” be a vote on this legislation or it could be discussed further on
      Wed. Apr. 11.

    2. That’s a good number of signatures considering the lack of exposure and notification about the transfer tax. The city just did two city wide mailings of quarterly tax bills and water bills. If the BOA were responsible to their constituents, rather than keeping this proposal under the radar, they could have mailed notification to every single property owner at zero cost. I attended the closed BOA meeting where the transfer tax was discussed. It was clear to anyone in the room that most of our elected officials were already in support of implementing this new tax – and this was before public testimony. Time to elect people who will represent all of us.

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