City of Medford Working with 40B Applicants and External Partners to Expand Affordable Housing Options

Amended
Mill Creek Project to be presented to public at upcoming Zoning Board Meeting

Changes include
redesign of building exterior, reduction in density, creating first-floor commercial space and shuttle service to MBTA station

(MEDFORD, MA)—The Mayor’s office and City of Medford’s Office of Planning, Development and Sustainability continues to evaluate the 40B projects that have been granted Project Eligibility by
MassHousing and would like to provide an update to residents on the status of the applications, the City’s appeal of “Safe Harbor” status, and ongoing planning to address housing needs more comprehensively throughout the City.

Project History

In March 2020, after receiving three consecutive 40B applications totaling over 1,000 units, the Medford Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) claimed safe harbor status, which if established gives the City more permitting authority
over 40B applications. A community is eligible for safe harbor from Chapter 40B if 10% of its year-round housing qualifies as Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) eligible and/or 1.5% of the total land area of the municipality zoned for residential, commercial
or industrial use is comprised of SHI eligible housing. The City’s safe harbor claim was informed by land area analysis completed by city staff with expertise in GIS and zoning.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) initially determined that Medford does not meet the required threshold of land area dedicated to SHI qualified housing. The City is
appealing the decision and the case is currently being heard by the State of Massachusetts Housing Appeals Court (HAC). Until a decision is reached by the HAC,
the 40B applications are on hold. While the appeal case proceeds, City planning staff and the Mayor have maintained contact with the 40B applicants and continue to encourage project modifications to address community
and City staff concerns.

Recent Updates
Through ongoing communication and negotiations, Mill Creek, which originally proposed a 400-unit multi-family building at 4000 Mystic Valley Parkway, has proposed significant project changes, including a reduction in total units to 350, redesign of the building’s exterior, and the inclusion of ground floor commercial to make the building a more active contributor to what is a growing mixed-use district. The Medford ZBA considered these changes at a recent board meeting, held in Executive Session as it pertained to an open legal case, and voted to agree to remand the project application back to the ZBA for public hearing and review.

“Medford, like every other community across Massachusetts, is feeling the impacts of the housing crisis, and we have been working hard
to create more housing – especially affordable housing – that also fits within our community’s broader needs. I am thrilled and thankful that all five members of the ZBA are willing to reconsider this project, and also thankful to Mill Creek for working with
us to move the project forward. We look forward to hearing from the community at large on this project as we continue to address housing needs across our city,” said Alicia Hunt, Director of the Office of Planning, Development, and Sustainability.

The Mill Creek project will include 25% affordable units with no public subsidies and the parties are evaluating possibilities to increase the number of units at lower levels of affordability under 40B.
In addition, Mill Creek will propose to include further sustainable design improvements to the project, including providing traffic mitigation measures, such as a shuttle service to the Wellington MBTA station, using permeable pavers for the required fire
access route, and ensuring that energy usage is at or below that required by the current stretch code. The developer is also considering improvements to a City-owned open space parcel directly adjacent to the project. The ZBA, City planning staff, and Mayor
support bringing these proposed changes to the public for input and
view the revised project as an opportunity to increase housing supply and affordable housing in an area that is near transit and other amenities and is well suited for higher density development.
Mill Creek’s updated application will be posted to the City website for review and feedback as soon as it is received by the ZBA. The public can contact the Office of Planning, Development and Sustainability to provide feedback or ask questions.

Advancement of the Mill Creek project will allow the City to improve upon the percentage of units qualifying on the SHI, which can provide an alternative method to reach safe harbor from future 40B projects.
After filing an updated application with the City for the revised project, the Mill Creek project will be subject to a public hearing process, which will include the participation of Medford residents and technical review by third party experts.

The City will continue to engage with the two other 40B applicants, Davis Company and Combined Properties, and remains open to alternative proposals from each that address community and City staff concerns.
Davis Company is planning to host a community meeting in mid-July to review their 40B application with residents. The City will share information about this meeting once it is scheduled. Residents interested in participating can reach out to the Office of
Planning, Development and Sustainability.

Affordable Housing in Medford
In addition, the City continues to work toward addressing affordable housing supply in Medford through means other than the 40B comprehensive permit process. The City’s ongoing Comprehensive Plan includes housing as a focus area and will be making recommendations supported by action steps for 30-year goals. A final draft Housing Production Plan outlining goals and strategies for addressing more immediate housing needs has also been developed and has been submitted to City Council for review and approval. Formally accepting both plans will contribute to Medford’s 40B safe harbor claim with respect to future 40B applications and help housing developers better understand what kind of proposals the city is interested to see, and in what locations.

The City is also working with the Medford Housing Authority and other mission-driven developers to bring more affordable units to Medford across the city at a wider range of affordability levels than are
provided under 40B. These projects have the ability to provide additional affordable housing, and better address needs of veterans, elderly and the disabled.

“Increasing the availability of affordable housing, and housing in general, is a major focus of my administration and the City’s planning department,” said Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn. “The initial work we did in early 2020 to assert safe harbor status, which took many departments expertise in order to get done in time, has given the city the ability to bring our 40B developers to the negotiating table in order to make sure we are working towards our goals and needs/what works for Medford and our neighborhoods.”

The City welcomes thoughts and comments on the proposed projects and process which can be sent to
ocd@medford-ma.gov or residents can call 781-393-2480.

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