Housing Plan Implementation Committee - Dec 2nd, 2021

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/26107/18.

Draft Housing Production Plan

The draft housing production plan was released on Monday. Ms. Lynema asks committee members if they have any feedback to offer.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher thinks its valuable to have all of the data that's collected in the plan. She hopes we can continue to engage with diverse members of the community. She's grateful for all of the work and participation that went into the draft, and for the work done by the consultants and planning department.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden thinks this is the worst housing plan she's ever seen. She says it's nothing more than a brochure for 40B developers to maximize development in town, and that 40B is not a happy prospect. She says it's disgraceful and will be damaging to the town. The town's greatest need is for low-income housing, and there's very little we're able to do there. She believes that meeting 40B's statutory limits would be a useful start, and it would be very bad if 40B developments brought more students into the school system.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he hasn't had time to give the report more than a cursory glance, and he apologizes for that. He expects to read the draft and provide written feedback over the next week or so. He did appreciate the maps starting on page 54, which show some of the individual zoning districts in isolation. He knew that the R3 district was small, but the map makes is clear just how tiny it is.

Mr. Revilak says he disagrees with Ms. Worden's portrayal of 40B. He served on the Zoning Board of Appeals during two 40B permits, and sees the law as a useful tool.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher thinks that 40B is a tool, and we can proactively use it to take a proactive focus on affordability. Arlington granted two 40B permits in the last six months, with each adding over 30 units of income-restricted housing. 70--80% AMI are teachers and municipal workers that can live in our community. Suggesting that this type of housing is not responsive to the needs of our community is simply not true. Ms. Kelleher hopes that we can reach common ground, and develop a vision for a diverse community.

Regarding public housing, Ms. Kelleher respects Joann Preston's focus on low-income housing. This week, the state will approve ARPA funds and $115M will be available for public housing. She says this kind of opportunity won't come around again for a long time, and hopes the Arlington Housing Authority will try to seek some of these funds.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says that 40B developers do not have a good track record. She claims there were excess profits from a 40B project on Brattle Street that were not returned to the town.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema notes that Ms. Worden has said this in the past. She asks if Ms. Worden she has any evidence to support this claim.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says it was on a Select Board agenda. She believes that the best way forward is to purchase existing units and make them affordable. She says it's horrific that the town manager is promoting 40Bs.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says there isn't a single strategy that will solve Arlington's affordability problem. She notes that the housing production plan is being created according to DHCD regulations. As such, it's concerned with housing for a range of needs, and not exclusively focused on affordable housing.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher says she'd like to celebrate the 48 new units that just became available from the Housing Corporation of Arlington. She hopes we can pause to appreciate that work.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says that the Arlington Housing Authority was very generous to the Housing Corporation of Arlington when it was starting out.

Ms. Lynema asks if there are any comments from the public.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says the plan lacks an analysis on how more housing would impact the public school system. He thinks the plan needs to look at how additional housing would affect existing neighborhoods. He thinks the plan lacks clear goals. He asks how many units would be required to reach 10% with 40B projects, and then proceeds to answer his own question by saying 6000.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak disagrees with Mr. Seltzer's last statement. He says that around 5-1/2 percent of Arlington's housing is on the subsidized housing inventory (SHI), and that the shortfall is 900-something units. In a 40B rental project, all units can be included on the SHI, even the ones that aren't income restricted. So if Arlington were use 40B projects to meet the 10% statutory threshold, we'd only need 900-something units. He stresses that the goal should be on meeting actual housing needs and not simply satisfying a statutory threshold.

(Note: Under Arlington's inclusionary zoning bylaw, the 6000 figure would be in the ballpark. But 40B is a very different regime.)

(Kristin Anderson) Ms. Anderson asks what kind of diversity we're trying to bring to Arlington, and what income levels are associated with affordable housing.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema says the income limits are set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but are summarized in the plan.

(Kristin Anderson) Ms. Anderson wants to know what the actual numbers are.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak goes to HUD's website to look up the actual numbers. Arlington is part of the "Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA-NH HUD Metro Fair Market Rent Area". It's a large area that covers over 100 communities in six counties. The 2021 median family income for this area is $120,800. Low income housing is based on 80% of the median family income, and the dollar amount varies according to family size. For a family of four, it's an income of $101,050; for a family of 1, it's $70,750; for a family of two it's $80,850 and there are different amounts for other household sizes. Mr. Revilak will provide Ms. Anderson with a link to this information.

(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin says there are two places in the plan that mention "misinformation". He asks for examples.

No one has an example on hand to offer.

(Joann Preston) Ms. Preston says that Ms. Kelleher didn't include the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) as one of the panelists for the affordable housing developer roundtable. She says that the AHA has the largest set of affordable housing in Arlington, and that the plan needs to address maintenance in affordable housing. Ms. Preston says she's become a convert to public housing. She says the average rent of an AHA tenant is around $400/month, and 40B rents are more expensive. She asks people to think more proactively about public housing. The AHA does section 8, which works wonderfully. The vouchers are given to private individuals; they pay one-third of the rent and the rest is paid by the federal government. If vouchers were tied to specific projects, then the voucher holders wouldn't be able to take them anywhere they wanted. Most of the non-white people in Arlington live in public housing. Ms. Preston thinks we should have more public housing in Arlington if we want to see more diversity.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher agrees with Ms. Preston regarding the benefits of public housing. The creation of public housing requires deep subsidies that Arlington doesn't have. She suggests that Ms. Preston and the AHA board apply for the ARPA funds that are about to become available.

(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston thinks that the ARPA funds are only available for certain categories of expenses, and can't be used for capital improvements.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher believes that the ARPA funds will be awarded competitively.

(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston doesn't think so.

December 16 ARB Meeting for Housing Plan Presentation

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that the ARB's December 16th meeting will be dedicated to a presentation on the draft housing production plan, and the board could potentially adopt it at another meeting. She's like to work on prioritizing efforts, and incorporating any elements that might be missing.

Approval of Meeting Minutes

The committee approves minutes from their Nov 4th meeting, 2--0. (Mr. Revilak was not present, and could not vote).

The committee approves minutes from their Oct 21st meeting, 2--1 (Ms. Worden voted in the negative).

Meeting adjourned.