LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Two immediate questions to the city and assessor’s office:
1) Devaluing my property by removing my current right to add a 3rd unit, how does the city plan to reassess for that lost value? I assume my taxes will be reduced proportionately to its diminished value.
2) When will the City direct mail owners and explain to multifamily owners in RB so they will understand the consequences and impact?
Downzoning RB (3 units by right) to RA (2 units only) is an issue that will unite renters & property owners. 2000+ two-family properties are RB zoned. The majority will be downzoned to RA, eliminating the right to add on 1500-1700 rental units. This financially damages RB 2 unit property owners, detracting hundreds of thousands from our property’s worth + potential sale price.
I am a longtime resident/homeowner of a 2 family in Winter Hill in RB zoning. Most of Winter Hill across Broadway towards 93 is RB zoned. WH is the last frontier in terms of investment/development. WH has had no marketer like ESom; WH lacks a square, a large intersection, a T stop. WH has not benefited from value escalation like other areas. Under this zoning WH property owners will be hit the hardest. This property is my retirement fund. By right, I could add a 3rd unit and intended to-a safe rental built with permits and providing revenue & taxes. Abutters include a 3 family across the street, triple decker next door, 2 6-unit properties within a block. Allowing a 3rd unit will in no way ‘change the character’ of the neighborhood. With the proposed downzoning, I will not be able to build that 3rd unit, or sell that potential-a tremendous loss of actual value. The RA/RB report concluded there was little, if any, difference in neighborhoods, multis so intermixed that no differences exist in neighborhoods. Why not zone all the RA RB and help everyone? After public comments, the stringent proposed edits meant to impede developers, actually would financially impact me, the little guy, the most. We RB zoned should retain our right to add a 3rd unit absent massive restrictions and special permits.
Given Som is predominantly rental property, the ratio of absentee owners ie the majority, have not only not been informed, they’ve had no input. Many property owners like myself don’t realize the huge consequences of the downzoning.
In 1990 and earlier rezoning, there was no such proposal to lower density. The demand for rentals have been increasing in just about every major city in the country. In view of today’s demand for rental units, downzoning amounts to a catastrophic proposal. As demand continues to increase, rents on existing inventory will continue to increase without relief. Major zoning changes come along once in a lifetime, IF that; the City is failing to meet the threshold of responsibly informing the constituency. Why not support an inclusive process? Homeowners have a lot at stake and deserve to be given a voice. Two recent mailings of tax bills and water bills would have been an ideal vehicle. Great timing amounting to a missed opportunity to have mailed this information to all property owners.
The downzoning of RB to NR damages all parties as follows:
1) By prohibiting existing two families from adding a rental unit, you are forcing all new rentals to be either new construction, or built in a new hot developing parcel. These rentals would be likely rent for double the rent of a unit added to existing housing stock;
2) At a count of more than 2000 RB homes, the potential is loss of 1500-1700 rental units – badly needed to ease some of the demand, as well as provide housing for 70+% of Somerville renters
3) The proposed edits are prohibitive, restricting height, footprint, etc. Owners will be encouraged to divide larger units, or worse, add an illegal unsafe unit. The restrictions are overreaching and are hardly better than a full elimination.
4) City revenue – an added unit would require permitting fees = income for the City.
5) City revenue – an added unit would create a higher assessment and permanent additional tax revenue for the city, forever.
The downzoning is contrary to the best use of these 2 families currently zoned RB in creating rental units at more reasonable rates. It’s financially damaging to most who own those properties, absent compensation. The city is overreaching and infringing on my rights as a private property, and hurting renters, owners, and the city coffers in doing so.