The City Council could soon consider one of two proposed inclusionary zoning ordinances that would increase the amount of affordable housing in the city. Mayor Brian Arrigo and representatives from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) held a public forum on March 2 to discuss the proposals.
“I’m really excited about seeing some recommendations and moving forward in terms of how we get the ball of inclusionary zoning over the goal line,” said Arrigo. “It is something that is obviously a priority for me and my administration.”
Inclusionary zoning is a city policy that says that any time new housing is built in the city over a certain number of units, a certain percentage of those units have to be affordable for low- to moderate-income families.
“In any given year, you are not necessarily producing a ton of affordable housing, but once the city has it in place, over time, it will just keep adding affordable units,” said Alexis Smith, a housing and land use planner from the MAPC. “It is a long view policy that relies on private development with little to no public subsidies.”
In Revere, where rents are higher than in surrounding communities but median income is lower, Smith said, there are 12,205 low-income households, while the city only has 1,780 deed-restricted affordable housing units. In putting forth recommendations for an inclusionary zoning policy to the city, Smith said the MAPC also considered feedback from Revere residents, officials and real estate professionals. That feedback showed there was slightly more support for maximizing the number of affordable units as opposed to a policy that would make units affordable to deeper income levels.
Of the two policy options presented by Smith at last week’s public forum, one creates units that are more deeply affordable for lower income individuals by providing property tax relief to private developers. The second option required a mix of low and moderate affordable units and does not provide for property tax relief. In both cases, the recommendation is for 15 percent of units to be affordable in any new residential development of six or more units. However, developments of six to 12 units would be able to make a payment in lieu of providing the affordable units. Both options would provide parking and zoning relief for developers building residential developments with the affordable units.
The property tax relief for the deeper affordability option would only be for the affordable units; the tax relief would not apply to the market rate units, Smith said. That option would also need to be approved by the state legislature because it is providing property tax relief. The option that provides affordable units for a mix of low- and moderate-income families only needs municipal approval by the City Council.
Both options would give preference to current Revere residents for the affordable units.
More than 150 communities in Massachusetts have adopted some kind of inclusionary zoning ordinance, but those ordinances vary depending on the needs of the individual community, Smith said.