The week of May 9th was momentous at SCC and in Somerville. On that Monday night, the Somerville Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a change to the inclusionary zoning ordinance that will require developers of new housing in Somerville to provide 20% of the new homes as affordable, up from the old requirement of 12.5%. With the pace of recent development, and the anticipated continuation of that pace over the next 10 to 20 years, this new ordinance will help create over 500 additional affordable homes!
Be sure to check out the footage from WGBH's Greater Boston segment, featuring SCC CEO Daniel LeBlanc, on skyrocketing rents in Somerville and some solutions being instituted by SCC and its members.
That same afternoon we learned that the final count of applications for the lottery for the 35 new affordable apartments at our 181 Washington Street development was 3,400 – that’s three thousand four hundred! On the one hand, it’s gratifying to experience such high demand and interest in this new development we’ve worked so hard to create. On the other hand, it’s sobering to then recognize that only one in 100 applicants will get a new affordable place to live, telling us how much more work we have to do.
Finally, on Wednesday we learned that our team that submitted a bid to work with the Somerville Housing Authority to redevelop its Clarendon Hills property – Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), Gate Residential and SCC – was selected to partner with SHA. When we consider that Somerville has approximately 3,400 units of restricted affordable housing today, and that around half of those are public housing units managed by Somerville Housing Authority, this opportunity to help revitalize and preserve 216 of those apartments at Clarendon is critically important to all of us who value Somerville’s diversity.
So what does this all mean?
Well, for those of us on a quest to establish our community as “everyone’s Somerville” it means that we need to:
- Preserve every affordable home we already have in Somerville, as the Clarendon example illustrates.
- Keep building as much new “purpose-built” affordable housing, such as 181 Washington Street, as evidenced by the 3400 applicants for that development.
- Continue capturing as many homes off the private market as we can to provide affordable housing options for a range of household incomes.
On this last point, our inclusionary housing victory is a great start! But it only impacts the new housing that will be built in Somerville. The next frontier for us is to capture some of the existing 34,000 housing units for affordability into the future. The days of finding cheap apartments on the private market in Somerville are over, as the thousands of people who have tried and keep trying will tell us.