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2.19.20 ADU Discussion Moves to Public Hearing in Salem

On February 13th, the Salem City Council renewed discussion on by-right Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) with a new 2020 ADU Ordinance.  In 2019, a proposed ADU Ordinance failed final passage 6-5 for lack of a super majority.

The 2020 ADU Ordinance includes two new programs to create Affordable Housing. If a property owner agrees to rent their ADU as a 60% Area Median Income (AMI) Affordable Housing Unit they can receive a property tax exemption and utilize a low-interest loan program for construction.

The Salem City Council unanimously voted to have a joint public hearing on the new ordinance.  A date has not yet been scheduled at this time.

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2.19.20 Peabody Voices Opposition to 40B Development

Neighbors and city officials have voiced their opposition to a proposed development of 133 condos at the site of the former J.B. Thomas Hospital site. 

Hemisphere Development Group LLC. Is looking to develop the site under Chapter 40B.  Since Peabody does not meet the state minimum of 10% Affordable Housing stock under 40B, the development is not required to meet all local zoning regulations if at least 20% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions.  The development is proposed to include 34 Affordable Units, which would be 25%. Hemisphere had submitted a different, 110-unit senior condo plan to the city last year but withdrew it amidst opposition.

February 18th was the deadline for comments to MassHousing.  Peabody is reported “to have hand delivered … to MassHousing a packet of about 50 letters and a petition with more than 500 signatures opposing the project.”

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2.13.20 Salem Returns to ADU Discussion


Tonight, the Salem City Council has on their agenda the new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance and the 2019 ADU Ordinance failed final passage 6-5 for lack of a super majority.

The proposed ordinance would allow for the construction of an ADU by-right between 350-800 square feet with 1 dedicated off-street parking space and up to 2 bedrooms.  The property owner would also be free to choose their tenant. 

Introduced into this version of the ADU Ordinance are two new programs.  If an owner offers their ADU as a 60% Area Median Income (AMI) Affordable Housing unit they can receive a property tax exemption and utilize a low-interest loan program for construction.

There are still some restrictions: short term rentals are prohibited and at least one owner of the property must use the property as their principle residence.  There are also waivers and special permits that can be obtained to ease some requirements, like lower the parking requirement or increase the dwelling size.


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2.12.20 Moving Away From Debit to Income

In a letter to members of Congress, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathy Kraninger said the bureau has decided to propose an amendment to the Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule that would move away from debt-to-income ratios in mortgage underwriting.  The amendment would implement other measures for underwriting like pricing threshold.

Debt-to-Income ratios are a trending topic with the QM Patch set to expire in January 2021.  The QM Patch exempts GSE-backed loans from abiding by the full scope of the Qualified Mortgage rule, specifically the debt-to-income cap of 43%.  Privately backed loans however are still required to abide by the 43% cap.

The National Association of REALTORS® has expressed support for a QM Patch extension and has signed onto a letter sent to CFPB Director Kraninger which makes a “recommendation that the Bureau implement a QM definition that relies on measurable underwriting thresholds and the use of compensating factors for higher risk mortgages rather than either a pricing-based QM definition that uses the spread between the annual percentage rate (APR) and the Average Prime Offer Rate (APOR) as a proxy for underwriting requirements (the “APOR approach”) or a hard cut-off at either 43% or 45% DTI.”  This would mimic what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently use with the QM Patch.

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2.11.20 Danvers Votes for Rezoning

On Monday night at a Special Town Meeting, Danvers voted to rezone the Downtown Corridor.  The zoning change is not an overlay but a change in the zoning bylaws themselves. The new zoning will allow for the creation of live/work, mixed-use developments in the downtown, especially along High St near Route 128 which was previously zoned for industrial.

The goal of the rezoning is to create predictability in development and focus on allowing a mixture of land uses to create a more vibrant, walkable, and livable downtown.  There are development guidelines included to create a standardization of facades, building treatments, and signage.

An amendment of “no action” was proposed during the meeting but not adopted.  The final vote required a two-thirds majority and was passed without the need for a roll call.

You can read more about the Special Town Meeting here.

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2.10.20 Essex Considers Mixed-Use Downtown


The Essex Planning Board is preparing a new zoning bylaw to create a mixed-use zoning district downtown. The concept has been shown support by the Board of Selection, the Economic Development Committee, and the Essex Housing Coalition. The most widespread trend in zoning for multi-family housing has been to adopt mixed use zoning.

After completion of the proposal by the Planning Board a public hearing will precede the Town Meeting in May.  Since the change pertains to zoning bylaws it will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

You can read more about the Essex proposal here.


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