Housing Plan Implementation Committee - Feb 3rd, 2022

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/28903/18.

Approval of Minutes

The committee approved minutes of their Dec 2nd meeting, as amended.

Housing Plan

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt informs the committee that the Arlington Redevelopment Board unanimously adopted the Housing Production Plan at their last meeting. The next step will be to present the plan to the Select Board for adoption. She asks if committee members would like to comment on the plan.

(Steve Revilak, HPIC) Mr. Revilak said that he an ARB member Eugene Benson submitted a number of comments and suggestions; he was happy to see them reflected in the second draft.

(Jonathan Nyberg, HPIC) Mr. Nyberg says that we're considering the plan, and not the specifics. He appreciates all of the time and effort that's gone into developing the plan.

Mr. Nyberg moves approval of the housing plan. Mr. Revilak seconds.

(Patricia Worden, HPIC) Ms. Worden says that the plan the ARB voted on might not have been available to the public.

(Karen Kelleher, HPIC) Ms. Kelleher says the plan identifies three challenges: impediments to creating affordable housing, housing choice, and organizing structures. These are real problems for the community, and the community is asking for solutions. The plan also advocates funding, leadership, and regulatory reform. She says we won't be able to move the dial without tackling these issues.

She doesn't agree with every strategy in the plan, but believes it's a good start. Affordable housing has to compete with our other priorities. When we build consensus around a goal, we can do something positive.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says that hundreds of people participated in the master plan, but not this one. She says the plan promotes 40B and disregards the master plan. She thinks that MBTA community zoning is a bad choice, and notes the plan recommends units for families with children. She asks "where does that leave the environment?".

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to remark on the real estate transactions listed in this week's Arlington Advocate. There are seven. Two of these are one-bedroom condos in the $400,000 range; everything else is over a million dollars. Sometimes there are condos in converted two family homes in the $700--800,000 range, but none this week. Mr. Revilak mentions this as a grounding remark about what kinds of housing are available in Arlington today.

(Johnathan Nyberg) Mr. Nyberg wishes that Ms. Worden's remarks weren't always so negative. He wishes she'd propose solutions instead. He thinks it's important to define what affordable housing is. For some families, that could be a $500,000 two-bedroom condo. For others, it could be a $1.1M dollar half-duplex. He says that people over 60 might not be around in 20 years, and wishes more young people and millennials attended these meetings.

(Len Diggins, HPIC) Mr. Diggins chuckles, and says he hopes he's got more than 20 years left. He's the Select Board's representative on this committee, and says he'll take any advice on how to get more affordable housing. He's open to all points of view.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says she's been constantly saying we should address the need for affordable housing by buying buildings and renovating them. She says that 40B is too much density and would be a disaster. She says that the Arlington Housing Authority has done great works, and that Ms. Kelleher supports developers.

The committee votes to approve the housing production plan, 3--1 (Ms. Worden voted in the negative).

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden says she'd like to make a dissenting statement.

(Jonathan Nyberg) Mr. Nyberg says he agrees with Ms. Worden's suggestion about buying and renovating buildings. But that requires money, and Ms. Worden never has any suggestions about where that funding could come from.

There's some back and fourth between Mr. Nyberg and Ms. Worden. Mr. Nyberg asks Ms. Worden about how to fund the purchase and renovation option she's suggesting, and Ms. Worden basically says "someone in the town should go and find the money".

(Kelly Lynema, Assistant Planning Director) Ms. Lynema points out that there are members of the public with their hands raised. She'd like to take comments from them.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says he was offended by Mr. Nyberg's remarks to Ms. Worden. He believes that Ms. Worden was a pioneer for affordable housing in Arlington.

(Jo Ann Preston) Ms. Preston would like to second what Mr. Seltzer said. She says the public would be shocked if there were a video recording of this session. Ms. Preston says she spent a week writing comments about the housing production plan, and they resulted in few substantial changes. The report says that the Arlington Housing Authority hasn't pursued new housing development in a long time. Roofs, windows, and other repairs need to be done and we're just trying to keep up. She says she's so upset that her work was totally ignored. She thinks the ARB voted on significant changes that the public hadn't seen. She insists that the derogatory comments about the housing authority be removed. She's sorry this committee would vote on a plan that hasn't been vetted by the public.

(note: The Housing Authority's 2022 annual plan to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development contains a listing of all of their properties; the newest development was built in 1983. I have to think that "hasn't pursued new property development in a long time" is more likely to be a statement of fact than a disparagement.)

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt acknowledges that she received a 10 page letter from Ms. Preston, and responded to it point by point.

(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher summarizes what she recalls about the drafting process, and submission of the report to the ARB. She asks Ms. Lynema if that's correct.

(Kelly Lynema) Ms. Lynema concurs with Ms. Kelleher's description.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden believes the plan was not shown to the public before it was adopted by the ARB, and the Select Board should be made aware of this.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says she'll prepare a document containing the dates of each step in the process, and submit it to the Select Board for their consideration.

(Patricia Worden) Ms. Worden continues to object to the Housing Production Plan, the committee's vote, and the process by which the plan was created.

There's a motion to adjourn, which was seconded and adopted.

Meeting adjourned.