Somerville, MA – Somerville Stands Together is celebrating the launch of talks between Somerville’s newly-elected Community Benefits Negotiation Committee and Union Square developers US2. The committee consists of 15 residents, elected by their neighbors, who will represent residents concerns in negotiations with real estate developers. This is an important victory for the working people of Somerville, who see a growing disconnect between City Hall and Somerville’s progressive values. Now, for the first time, Somerville residents will have a formal seat at the table to ensure that as the city continues to grow, Somerville is a city that works for all of us.
Somerville Stands Together, a group of labor, community and social justice organizations, stands in support of Union Square neighbors as they negotiate for good jobs, affordable housing and responsible development that doesn’t displace longtime residents. The Community Benefits Negotiation Committee, born from the Union Square Neighborhood Council, will make sure community benefits agreements between Somerville city government and developers provide real value to residents. The Negotiation Committee will fight for a significant increase in affordable housing, good jobs with community standards for residents, and the highest safety standards possible on construction projects.
The Board of Alderpersons approved the Union Square Neighborhood Council’s application to become the first-ever Community Benefits Negotiation Committee on July 9th. This followed the Board of Alderpersons (BOA) previous vote to allow community groups to apply to be recognized by the city as the official neighborhood body charged with negotiating on behalf of the public as the Community Benefits Negotiation Committee.
The launch of negotiations between the Community Benefits Negotiation Committee and Union Square developer US2 is a watershed moment in the city’s real estate development process and a tremendous win for Somerville residents who have been fighting to have their voices heard. It marks a significant break from the status quo — when the Mayor and the developer, alone, finalized development deals with no public input or accountability.
The upcoming billion-dollar Union Square project will deliver profits larger than the entire Somerville annual city budget to a wealthy out-of-town developer. Somerville has an opportunity to create shared economic prosperity if the project is done right: that means lifting up the entire community, not merely lining the pockets of private developers.
Somerville Stands Together urges all Somerville residents to support the Community Benefits Negotiations Committee, and to hold developers accountable–since City Hall has proven time and again it will not do so. Somerville hopeful that these negotiations will serve as a model for responsible development across the city and the Commonwealth at large.
“Developers can no longer ignore the needs of the neighborhoods where they are seeking to profit off prime real estate,” Somerville Stands Together organizer Penelope Jennewein said. “We are very hopeful that the Community Benefits Negotiation Committee will successfully negotiate for a development deal that respects Somerville’s progressive values.”
Somerville Stands Together is calling on elected officials and all developers to commit to Somerville values. This means:
• providing good union jobs
• maintaining and expanding affordable housing
• responsible development – including high safety standards and protection of the environment