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GA Blog: Salem

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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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4.9.19 Next Salem Housing Forum is April 23rd

Over 200 people attended the Salem Housing Forum on March 5th. As a follow up to that discussion, on April 23rd a Salem Housing Workshop on Inclusionary Housing and Accessory Dwelling Units will be held.  The forum will focus on discussion of the city's housing challenges + review these two potential tools to help meet housing needs.

Many young adults, working families and seniors are struggling to find adequate, affordable housing in Salem. This has an impacts the entire city and threatens the character and livability of our community. Many municipalities have local laws requiring a percentage of new affordable units as part of any new development (inclusionary housing). In addition, cities/towns are increasingly looking to utilize existing housing stock to enable in-law units to help address their housing needs (accessory dwelling units).

 These options and a look forward to continuing an important dialogue on housing needs and tools that can put in place to help address this in Salem takes place on April 23rd at the Community Life Center, 401 Bridge Street.  6pm-8pm





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3.15.19 Housing Watch: Salem's Proposed Adaptive Reuse Zoning Overlay Fails in Final Vote

From The Salem News

"Five city councilors shot down an overlay zoning ordinance Thursday night, even after being given a way to continue work on the ordinance to address concerns.

With the rejection of the zoning package aimed at reusing school and city buildings for housing, it can't resurface until at least January of 2020. In the meantime, the future of a construction project in the old senior center building on Broad Street is now in doubt.

The proposal would have created a “Municipal and Religious Reuse Overlay District,” which established rules for developers to work under when developing certain properties in Salem that are owned by the city or religious institutions."

From The Salem Gazette

"In a five-to-six vote Thursday night, Salem City Council defeated a proposed zoning overlay ordinance that would have allowed for the redevelopment of underutilized and vacant municipal and religious buildings in Salem.

On the reconsideration of first-passage for the Municipal and Religious Adaptive Reuse Overlay District, At-large councilors Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and Domingo Dominguez, Ward 4 Councilor Tim Flynn and Ward 7 Councilor Steve Dibble voted in the dissent, At-Large Councilor Thomas Furey, Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy, Ward 2 Councilor Christine Madore, Ward 3 Councilor Lisa Peterson, Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel and Ward 6 Councilor Beth Gerard in the affirmative.

The vote arrived two weeks after at-large councilors Elaine Milo and Arthur Sargent, Ward 7 Councilor Steve Dibble and Ward 4 Councilor Tim Flynn voted against the matter during the City Council’s Feb. 28 regular meeting.

Neither in the Feb. 28 meeting nor in Thursday night’s meeting did the much discussed and highly vetted proposal capture the supermajority vote - eight out of 11 - needed for first passage. That vote means the zoning changes can not be brought before the City Council until its 2020 session - what many who support the ordinance see as a setback for what they describe as an issue that needs addressed without delay: Salem’s housing crisis."

Governor's Proposed Housing Choice Bill Supported by REALTORS®

Last night's failure to pass the Adaptive Zoning Overlay emphasizes the importance of Governor Charlie Baker's proposed Housing Choice Bill, which is supported by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, that would make it easier for cities and towns to relax zoning restrictions to facilitate the construction of new housing. Under the new bill, the vote in Salem last night would have succeeded given that a majority of the City Council supported the overlay. Under current state law, a super majority is required of municipalities in order to pass local zoning changes. 

Read more about the Governor's Housing Choice Bill here


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3.6.19 Housing Watch: NSAR Members Join Hundreds at Salem's Community Housing Forum

NSAR members joined a few hundred residents at last night's Community Housing Forum in Salem hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). The nearly two-hour long forum featured data to illustrate the housing crisis facing Salem as well as tools the city may use to address the issue and asked residents to weigh in.

Several of those tools discussed included accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law apartments), condominium conversion caps, rental subsidies and inclusionary zoning.

To meet housing demand and avoid Salem residents getting priced out of their community, 2,725 more housing units would be needed by 2030 according to MAPC. 

Read more about the Housing Forum at The Salem News

Click here for a deck of Concern and Response cards produced by the City and MAPC regarding housing issues in Salem!

Salem Community Housing Forum

Hundreds of Salem residents gathered at the Community Life Center for a Community Housing Forum on Tuesday, March 5th hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and MAPC.


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3.5.19 Meeting Notice: Salem Community Housing Forum Tonight at 7:00pm

Tonight, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) will host a Salem Community Housing Forum from 7:00 - 8:30pm at the Community Life Center (401 Bridge St). The forum which will feature a community discussion on inclusionary zoning, housing needs and affordability in Salem. 

More information available at the Facebook Event.

This event comes in the midst of a community debate over what level of housing affordability should be included in a proposed Municipal & Religious Adaptive Reuse Zoning Ordinance that is up for another vote before the full Salem City Council next Thursday, March 14th at 7pm. The ordninance fell one vote shy of the supermajority needed for passage last week. Read more about the ordinance here. 

Additionally, Governor Charlie Baker has renewed his push for housing production calling for the State Legislative to send his proposed Housing Choice Initiative to his desk this legislative session. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® supports this bill which would lower the requirement for local zoning changes to a simple majority for municipalities.


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3.1.19 Housing Watch: Adaptive Reuse Zoning Proposal Defeated in Salem; Up for Reconsideration at March 14th City Council Meeting

Last night, the proposed Municipal & Religious Adaptive Reuse Zoning Ordinance was defeated in a 7-4 vote before the Salem City Council. Eight votes, or a super majority of the Council as required by state law to enact local zoning changes, were needed for passage. This ordinance would provide a permitting pathway for the reuse and redevelopment of underutilized municipal and religious properties in Salem for potential housing opportunities.

Amendments to the ordinance to increase the affordability requirement from 10% to 20% and to reserve housing exclusively for Salem residents were voted down, while the Area Medium Income (AMI) requirement was lowered from 80% to 60%. Despite that change, the ordinance was voted down after 9 months of debate. 

Prior to adjournment, a motion to reconsider was filed by Ward 6 Councillor Beth Gerard. That means the ordinance will be placed back on the agenda for a vote at the next Salem City Council Meeting on Thursday, March 14th at 7:00 P.M. at Salem City Hall. 

Click here to read NSAR's letter of support for the Municipal & Religious Zoning Overlay District. NSAR Salem Town Monitors David Friedberg and Cynthia Nina-Soto along with other NSAR members from Salem have attended and spoken at many of the public hearings on this ordinance.

In the meantime, a Salem Community Housing Forum is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 5th from 7:00 - 8:30pm at the Community Life Center (401 Bridge St) in Salem which will feature a community discussion on inclusionary zoning, housing needs and affordability in Salem, hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). 

In a related note, Governor Charlie Baker's proposed Housing Choice Initiative before the State Legislature, which is supported by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, would lower the requirement for local zoning changes to a simple majority for municipalities. Governor Baker reiterated his support for the housing production bill earlier this week.


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