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5.17.19 Rep. Vargas Testifies in Favor of Zoning Reform

State Rep. Andy Vargas testified before the Joint Committee on Housing this week in favor of reforms which would allow local governments to revise zoning laws through a simple majority vote.

Vargas told the committee that the current Massachusetts law, unusual among most other US states in that it requires a supermajority to revise zoning legislation, makes it easy for affordable housing developments to be stifled because of zoning issues.

Vargas testified that currently a minimum wage worker in the Merrimack Valley must work around 84 hours a week in order to afford a market rate one bedroom apartment. He said that with housing inequality so rampant, adding more affordable options to the market is a necessity.

This week, Vargas and Housing Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Honan filed a bill setting a housing production goal of 427,000 new units by 2040, with a focus on transit oriented development. This comes at the heel of Governor Baker’s unveiling of the new “Housing Choice Community” designation, given to cities including Haverhill which commit to boostin housing production.

Read more about Rep. Vargas’ testimony at 97.9 WHAV.

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5.17.19 Lynn Councilor Voices Opposition to Garelick Farms Zoning Proposal

Ward 2 City Councilor Rick Starbard came out against a proposed zoning change which he says would allow the developer currently in talks to purchase the former Garelick Farms site to turn the area into a “junkyard.”

Boston real estate firm A.W. Perry has said that the deal they signed to purchase the property is contingent upon City Council approval of a change to the zoning ordinance which would allow the use of the property for light industry and mixed use development including housing and small businesses. The property is currently zoned to allow only the manufacturing of dairy products. The developer has stated that the light industry plans for the property are simply a means to generate income from the development while the issues facing the mixed-use development are worked out.

Starbard believes that the proposed light industry uses of the property don’t fit into the city’s plan for the waterfront, which has already led to the denial of other proposed light industry projects in the area. The ordinance process is expected to take several months, and must take into account the proposed housing and hotel plans’ proximity to a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Starbard has expressed his desire to continue opposing the light industry use of the property, stating that  “If they’re going to look for a zoning change to allow these uses and once the sewer treatment plant goes away, they’ll pop up a hotel, it won’t be in my lifetime.”

Read about the debate over zoning in Lynn at the Daily Item.

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5.14.19 Event: Danvers Public Schools REALTORS® Breakfast

Selling a home in Danvers? NSAR members are invited to attend a REALTORS® Breakfast with Danvers Public Schools on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The breakfast meeting will cover issues of importance to REALTORS® working in Danvers including the Danvers Public Schools Strategic Plan, the Smith School building project, new Flex Zones, and Elementary School Assignment Areas.

The breakfast will run from 8am to 9am in the Danvers High School Library at 60 Cabot Road in Danvers. This is a great opportunity to learn about how Danvers Public Schools is working to become a safer, more inclusive and more modern environment for local children to learn and grow. The breakfast is hosted by Danvers Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Dana and Assistant Superintendents Keith Taverna and Mary Wermers.

View the event flyer here.


 

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5.13.19 Zoning Push In Salem Sparks Response from Governor Baker

Changes in zoning policy meant to support increased housing in Salem, which failed in the City Council last winter, are being reconsidered. On May 9th, the Salem City Council took another look at a proposal to create a "Municipal and Religious Overlay District" (MROD), drafted as a response to calls to develop two Archdiocese-owned properties and a former senior center and turn them into homes.

The proposal received a 7-4 vote in favor in February, but failed lacking the required supermajority. Two weeks later, a second vote also failed for the same reason, meaning the proposal could not be considered again until the following calendar year.

The proposal presented on May 9th was different enough from prior plans to circumvent the rules barring further consideration, presenting a plan to allow “special permits” allowing developers to get around the zoning restrictions previously preventing the development of the properties in question. The City Council voted with no apparent votes in opposition to send it to the Planning Board to schedule the hearing.

Governor Charlie Baker stated in response to the debate in Salem that he believes that the housing crisis is due to an insufficient amount of housing production in Massachusetts. He is backing a bill that will allow towns to switch to a majority vote for zoning changes, which doesn’t specifically require any affordable housing be included in a project, but the Governor believes more housing at any price point will solve the inventory problem and bring prices down.

Read more about the zoning changes in Salem here. Learn more about Governor Baker’s push to ease efforts to make zoning changes here.

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5.10.19 Housing Watch: Apartments and Office Space Coming to Downtown Lynn

According to ItemLive.com, Bernhardt Zeisig, a Canadian developer, is rehabilitating the currently vacant 113-119 Broad St. building in Lynn, purchased for $600,000 last August. He plans revitalize the space with 18 market rate small loft and studio style apartments targeted at young professionals looking for easy access to the commuter rail. 

Additionally, the developer purchased the building at 614 Washington St. in Lynn for $925,000, which he plans to continue renting to the current tenants while updating the vacant upper floors to lease as office space. 

More on this project available here.

 

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5.9.19 Haverhill to Use $800,000 Grant to Help Homeowners in Low-Income Neighborhoods

The City of Haverhill announced Tuesday night that it will spend $800,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant money for “neighborhood stabilization.” The City’s plans include helping to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes, enforcing building codes, undertaking demolition where necessary, helping first-time home buyers and improving streets and sidewalks.

As an “entitlement community,” Haverhill receives money from the federal government to put towards improvements to the city. Most of the money will be targeted towards low-income communities, including the Mount Washington and Acre neighborhoods. Other projects include the construction of a public coworking space in the Mount Washington neighborhood. 

City councillors were critical of the lack of an increase in funding this year, given the growth of the national budget. Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan called the amounts “embarrassing” and a “disgrace.” 

Read more about neighborhood stabilization in Haverhill at WHAV.

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