Arlington Redevelopment Board - Oct 3rd, 2022
Meeting held in the Community Center first floor conference room. Materials were available from https://arlington.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=1702.
Docket 3712 - 80 Broadway
The applicant has requested a continuance until Nov 7th, in order to allow them to refine their application. New application materials should be available by October 20th.
Motion to continue passes, 5--0.
Affordable Housing Trust Action Plan
The board receives a presentation on the draft Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) Action Plan.
(Karen Kelleher, AHTF Board) Ms. Kelleher says this effort included seven trustees and several people who helped support the work. The board recently had a meeting with affordable housing developers that work in the area, and a dozen of them showed up. It's likely that there is the development capacity to do more in Arlington.
Ms. Kelleher explains how the AHTF Board tried to be inclusive in their outreach efforts, specifically their efforts to approach people who'd directly benefit from having more affordable housing in town. They're hoping to revise the plan based on feedback, and submit it to the Select Board later this month.
The board heard a community desire to help those with the greatest need, along with a desire to help people across a range of income levels. This led them to consider a wider range of housing solutions.
The action plan consists of three major strategies, each with action items and five year goals. Ms. Kelleher notes that the AHTF has little money, and little power to effect these changes directly; they'll rely on collaboration with other groups in town. The three strategies involve: preserving and modernizing existing affordable housing, creating new affordable housing, and building the financial strength of the trust.
Arlington has approximately 1,200 affordable units, and many of these have maintenance needs. We'll need to understand the housing stock we have and what the physical needs of the various properties are. Part of preservation will involve gathering an inventory, understanding the capital needs, and looking for opportunities to upgrade and modernize. One of the action items is to create a plan for preserving what we already have.
(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson asks if the preservation plan would include homes owned by the Arlington Housing Authority.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says the intent is to include the housing authority, and to help them leverage state funds.
Based on projects in town, the board found that each unit of affordable housing constructed in Arlington requires a $400--500k subsidy, and that figure doesn't include operating subsidies for very- and extremely-low income housing.
(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau asks if the board generally thought in terms of units.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says the point was to show the public how much subsidies are needed to build affordable housing.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if they looked at how these subsidies worked with market rate inclusionary zoning.
(I missed Ms. Kelleher's answer)
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says that Mass DHCD awarded $435M in subsidies for affordable housing projects during the first eight months of 2022, but Arlington didn't apply for any of these funds. We need deals in the pipeline in order to apply for these grants.
Ms. Kelleher says that the Housing Corporation of Arlington's (HCA's) Downing Square project cost $26M to build. 4% of that money came from the town, 13% came from mortgages, and 83% came from state and federal subsidies.
(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery asks who the developers that are receiving these subsidies are.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says it's a combination of for-profit and not-for-profit developers. Some of them are big organizations, and some are small. She says the draft plan suggests having some of these developers pursue projects in partnership with the HCA.
(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that, in her experience, these developers are usually looking for projects with 30--35 units, or more.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks that one of Arlington's challenges is finding land for projects at that scale. He says that Arlington doesn't typically get 30--35 unit projects.
(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis asks if DHCD has a statewide strategy for how these subsidies are awarded.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says most of the awards have gone to projects in gateway communities, and in the Greater Boston area.
Ms. Kelleher says there are two main forms of subsidies: state and federal subsidies, and getting developers to pay for it (e.g., 40B and inclusionary zoning). The second strategy hasn't produced many units in Arlington; about 3--4/year on average. She notes that state and federal subsidies apply to rental projects; there aren't state and federal subsidies for ownership units.
The trust's consultant spoke with several affordable housing developers, and they all wanted basically the same thing: sites, funding, permits, alignment with the community, and community support. Consequently, some of the plan's action items include establishing a more predictable permitting process, piloting local funding strategies (e.g., for affordable ADUs), and putting out a developer RFQ. The board set a goal of permitting 100 affordable units in the next five years. They wanted to set a higher goal, but felt that 100 was an achievable number. If achieves that would 3x the rate at which we've permitted affordable housing over the last 35 years.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks who would own the RFQ.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says they haven't specifically thought of ownership, but she is interested in the idea of a joint RFQ.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks about the AHTF Board's feeling with respect to the current market and rising interest rates.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says that higher interest rates are likely to increase the amount of subsidy needed, but there are more federal and state subsidies coming in. She doesn't think this will materially affect the plan's goals.
The third strategy is to build the financial strength of the trust. Ms. Kelleher informs the board that the state legislature ended their session without taking up our home rule petition for a real estate transfer fee. She hopes to see it passed during the next session, and notes that about 60% of survey respondents supported the transfer fee.
Ms. Kelleher believes there are other opportunities that the town could pursue, such as taxes on short-term rentals, taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana, in-lieu of payments under inclusionary zoning, and perhaps private giving strategies (but not in a way that would interfere with giving to the HCA).
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the board looked at how the percentage of inclusionary zoning required affects the cost diversity and the price of market-rate units.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher thinks there a need to look at our inclusionary zoning bylaw, and how to get more production out of it. This will require a careful study of the market.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau thinks that gas stations could be feasible sites for affordable housing development, especially with the transition to electric vehicles.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher suggests the AHTF board might add that as an option to explore.
(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema says she's heard from several developers that redevelopment incentives in Arlington aren't enough to build affordable housing.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thinks the ATHF board had a good process for putting their plan together. He suggests that the Planning Department might consider adding a staff person to oversee affordable housing development, similar to our Economic Development Coordinator position.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says she heard that from affordable housing developers as well.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there's a balance between the need for affordable housing and the need to preserve commercial parcels. He says that 1165R Mass Ave was a great project, but it took up a large commercial parcel. He thinks the Russell Common parking lot could be a site for affordable housing development.
Mr. Benson is interested in finding a way whereby single-family home builders contribute to the AHTF. He spoke with a lawyer who felt that a home rule petition would be necessary, in order to create a linkage fee.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks a question about real estate transfer fees and linkage fees.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher explains that transfer fees apply when a property is sold, and linkage fees apply when a property is redeveloped. Some communities have submitted home rule petitions to establish linkage fees.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if anyone in the legislature is championing this idea.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says that Senator Friedman, and Representatives Garballey and Rodgers all support it.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks about 40B vs 40R.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says the AHTF board didn't do much of a dive on 40R.
(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that 40R provides a cash stream for each unit built, and it goes hand-in-hand with the school subsidies in chapter 40S. She says these laws provide a number of carrots for residential development.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema notes that 40R could be part of the strategy for complying with MBTA community requirements.
(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis suggests that the AHTF board discuss 40R with their consultant.
(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak believes that 40B can still be a tool for facilitating affordable housing developments. He notes that one of HCA's properties was developed under 40B, in order to request a waiver from minimum parking requirements. 40B helped to facilitate one of HCA's projects.
Mr. Revilak appreciated the plan's comprehensiveness, the concrete goals, and how it broke things down in a very nuts and bolts kind of way. He thinks the goal of 100 affordable units in five years is achievable, noting that Cambridge's Affordable Housing Overlay permitted over 350 units the first year it was in effect.
Mr. Revilak is less concerned about the balance between affordable housing and commercial development. He acknowledges that only a small portion of Arlington's land is zoned for business. Things are this way because, back in the 1970's the Redevelopment board proposed a new Zoning map that eliminated much of the commercial districts, and town meeting voted to adopt that map. He thinks that commercial zoning and development is a separate conversation, and orthogonal to the issue of affordable housing production.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery has been pondering the plan's goal of establishing a sustainable funding source. She's not sure what options we'll have if the legislature doesn't pass our home rule petition. She thinks that's a huge item to solve for.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says that one town meeting member suggested increasing the amount of CPA funds allocated to affordable housing. Other options include bonding, and increasing cell tower fees. She says the board would like to speak with the finance committee about this.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau appreciated seeing concrete steps in the plan, and he's surprised about the number of survey respondents that were supportive of having more housing.
ARB Rules and Regulations
This agenda item is for the board to discuss proposed changes to their rules and regulations.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the draft reflect changes suggested at the ARB's retreat. A change on page 7 would potentially require EDR applicants to provide a sketch-up model. There's another set of changes related to the solar energy systems article from the last meeting, but they may need to wait until the AG gives an opinion on that article. Finally, there's language added to cover applications for family child care.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau wants to ensure that applicant's sketch-up models are in a format that can be incorporated into our sketch-up model of the town corridors. He suggests tabling the solar changes until we hear from the AG.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says our solar energy systems article was modeled after Watertown's, as were the proposed regulations.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema points out that Watertown is a city, so changes to their laws aren't subject to Attorney General review.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks about the difference between "child care" and "family child care".
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says they're two separate concepts under state law.
ARB 2023 Schedule, and Schedule Leading to 2023 Annual Town Meeting
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if there are any differences between this schedule, and the one we used for the last town meeting.
(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the current proposal adds a section for preliminary hearings in October and November. Otherwise, it's mostly date changes. She notes that the number of hearing dates will depend on the number of warrant articles submitted.
(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau appreciates the chart on the last page.
The board approves the schedule, 5--0.
The board amends and adopts minutes from their September 12th meeting, by a vote of 4--0--1 (Ms. Tintocalis abstained, as she was not present that evening).
No members of the public wished to speak at tonight's open forum.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like to schedule time to discuss zoning articles that the ARB might propose for the next annual town meeting.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak has an item of new business. Winchester is having a special town meeting in November, where they'll consider an ADU article. Their planning board is organizing a panel discussion on ADUs and he's been asked to participate.
Meeting adjourned at approximately 20:50.