Proposal applies to six-plus units, 12% at affordable rate
A number of local officials and housing activists spoke in favor of a new inclusionary zoning ordinance at a public hearing before the City Council last week. There were several people who raised concerns about the ordinance, including local Attorney Gerry D’Ambrosio and developer Jamie Russo, who said the best way to address the lack of affordable housing is to increase the amount of market rate units in the community. The City Council referred the ordinance to a future Zoning Subcommittee meeting for further discussion before taking a final vote on the issue.
The proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance would apply to new development of six or more units, requiring that 12 percent of the units be offered at an affordable rate of 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The focus would be on making the units available for Revere residents, with 70 percent of the units, the maximum allowed under state statute, offered up for local residents. In return for affordable units, developers would be eligible for zoning and parking relief for their projects, as well as the waiving of some fees. Developments of up to 12 units could make a cash payment to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund in lieu of building the affordable units.
“I think this will allow us the opportunity to increase the housing production and to reach the deeper levels of affordability that we need to maintain Revere as a working-class city,” said Juan Jaramillo. “Unfortunately, many people in this room may have been forced out of the city, or have had family members forced out of the city, because they can no longer afford it. This proposal really goes above and beyond to ensure that we have on-site units, that we are allowing for multimodal transportation by incentivizing lower construction limits on the parking, and it also supports many of our smaller developers, many of who are from Revere.”
Debbie DiGiulio, the city’s Director of Elder Affairs, also spoke in favor of the ordinance. “A house gets sold in Revere, and the seniors have to look for another apartment, so they are looking for something affordable, and as you all know, there is nothing affordable in Revere,” she said, “so a senior is looking for senior housing, or they stay in their house … and they are not able to afford costly repairs, unable to keep the outside of their home up, unable to make the house accessible.”
While there is senior housing available in Revere, DiGiulio said, the list is long to get an available unit. “We will all be seniors soon,” she said. “On behalf of seniors, [we] need to consider what’s best for a vulnerable population.”
Lor Holmes of the Revere Housing Coalition stated that due to historic increases in rents and home prices Revere is threatened with losing entire generations of working families that have always been the lifeblood of the city. “This is why it is so critical to add to our supply of affordable housing, as much as possible and as quickly as possible,” Holmes stated. “I believe there is widespread understanding of this need and support for action on affordable housing now.”
D’Ambrosio said that rents are much too expensive in Revere and throughout the country. “Suggesting that a 15 percent affordability rate is going to fix the problem is just ignoring the problem,” said D’Ambrosio. “Why do we have this problem? I think any legitimate intellectual endeavor will tell you that our zoning laws in this state are overly restrictive.”
At the heart of the issue, D’Ambrosio said, high rent prices are a result of supply and demand. “The more housing that you add, the lower your rents are going to be,” he said. “The more restrictive we are with our zoning laws, the fewer the units that will be built.”
Russo said the restrictions put in place by the inclusionary zoning ordinance would hamper him and other local developers from building in Revere.