Somerville Speakup Line:Aldermen’s Bright Ideas

Dear Billy T and Somerville Speakup Line,

The aldermen and their bright ideas and proposals they want to place on people’s private property makes being a small landlord untenable. They and everyone in the city is screaming housing crisis, yet no one is engaging property owners about adding on units of housing.

There are plenty of homeowners in RB zones that could add a unit of housing, that could be created quickly and cheaply. If Mayor Joe wants rental units, why doesn’t he reach out to property owners and offer a no- or low-interest loan to create hundreds of rental units? If you want to work on solving a housing crisis, why are property owners/landlords not being engaged??? You might want to start talking with people who own property and can effect change rather than sit around with volunteers deciding on how to enact initiatives on those of us who are landlords.

Rents for a unit added onto existing property, that does not have a huge upfront acquisition cost, will create a more affordable rental unit. The alderman have no right to put constraints on small property owners. Their ideas are hurting long-time Somerille property owners who invested and stayed here in the city when Somerville was not the desirable place it is today. If Somerville’s density is so terrible that downzoning is justified, please tell me why it is that everyone wants to be here? They’re willing to pay high rents just to be here.

The reasons provided for downzoning are not based in reality. At the same time, the city is still looking to allow greater density but only under their rules and special permits, ADUs, taking away the prospect of a small property owner adding a unit and later selling as condo units. I am a small property owner – what the city wants to do takes real value away from my property. The more the City trys to force initiatives on small landlords, the more long term landlords will get fed up and sell that property.

Has anyone given thought to that scenario? Because every multi-family that gets sold, and which likely had more affordable rental rates, as it gets sold, gets a big fat new mortgage which results in moderate rents becoming expensive rents. Which helps no one – certainly produces the opposite effect of what is desired. For every multi-family that gets sold it either gets converted to condos or held as an investment. The prior owner may have paid $350k for the house. The new owner is paying $1m which translates into high rents. Condo conversion is not the evil its made out to be. If buyers were not buying the product, there wouldn’t be as many condo conversions.

Like it or not, brand new condos sell, to first time buyers – it is a home ownership opportunity. But Somerville is and will continue to be predominantly rentals – given the transcient nature of this city. The city proposals interfering with personal properties is anti-rental housing. Demand for rentals continues to increase at a higher rate than demand for home ownership. The Board is intent on creating ‘low income’ housing and home ownership, when the vast majority of people in Somerville are desparately in need of more rental units. Yet no one cares. No one is working on helping ease the rental market for the masses. You can’t see the forest for the trees. The trees are your special interests – without regard as to what makes the most sense for the most people.

Landlords are getting fed up with not being represented and with initiatives being shoved down our throat. For the most part, long term owners have been providing affordable housing, and now the city wants to penalize the very people who have helped, and could help more. There recently were 37 multi-families on the market. At least some of these property owners were fed up and getting out of the rental business, thanks to the anti-landlord, anti-rental attitudes of the BOA and this Mayor.


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