Race-based Inequality of Economic Opportunity

This is our national challenge for the next 25 years, according to Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, Executive Vice President/Chief Strategy Officer for MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth’s economic development and finance authority.

Fuhrer prepared this slide presentation for a meeting with regional affordable housing experts and developers in November, 2020. Part 1 looks at projections for the financial markets and issues in tax exempt financing and how such financing can help provide more affordable housing for poor people.

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Municipal Affordable Housing Trust:

A Guide for Arlington

The Massachusetts Housing Partnership put together this 2018 guidebook, v.3, to help municipalities adopt Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund (MAHT) legislation to suit the specific needs of each municipality.

Arlington is considering the acceptance of enabling legislation in the November 2020 Virtual Town Meeting to create the Town’s own MAHT. This will enable the Town to create a vehicle for receiving and spending funds to assist low and moderate income individuals and families to move toward greater housing stability. The MAHT does not provide money, but it does provide a place where the Town can receive money from a variety of sources to be used for furthering affordable housing. Examples include payments from developers, contributions from bequests and, if approved, a real estate transfer tax on the sale of higher priced homes in Arlington.

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Housing Developer Math

Dave Weinstock, an Arlington resident interested in affordable housing wondered about the concept of “developer math”. The math involved in planning an affordable housing projects is a problem that needs to get solved in order to have anything built here in Arlington, or anywhere. This topic comes up frequently in community discussions about the need for more housing.

Questions are raised around:

  • 1- Why build so many units vs. smaller buildings
  • 2- Why parking is costly and inefficient use of land
  • 3- Why can’t more affordable or all affordable units be built?
  • 4- The cost of subsidizing affordable units and how that may translate to higher rental rates/costs, etc.

Dave found a great Architecture and Development firm in Atlanta (Kronberg Urbanists + Architects, based in Atlanta GA) that lays out a nice presentation, includes sample proformas, and real life scenarios that may help us understand this piece of the puzzle better when evaluating any project and how developers may be incented to build certain types of projects or do certain types of work.

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Consider the Schools: Add More Housing

Jennifer Susse authored this letter on January 20, 2020. Ms. Susse is a member of the Arlington School Committee and a Town Meeting Member. She closely follows the costs and demographic trends of school enrollment and of Town finances.

I write in support of efforts to increase housing in Arlington, both as a resident and as a member of the School Committee. I support these efforts not in spite of their potential effects on our schools, but because of their potential effects on both schools and town.

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What Is Impact on Arlington School Costs of More Housing?

Does Arlington need more housing? If yes, will more housing result in higher school costs? There is a perception that more housing means more school age children and more school age children will strain the capacity and expand the budget of the Arlington Public Schools.

Prelimary reviews suggest that more housing would not strain the APS capacity for a variety of complex reasons. These reasons include: school age children do not always go to APS; by the time new housing came on line, the school enrollment, now growing, will have begun to decline; Arlington needs more diverse kinds of housing, not just family housing; the 283 units of housing that came on line through Brigham Square and 360 contributed more in property tax revenue than they cost in school enrollment costs…. by over $980K in 2019. Read this for more information.

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Will More Arlington Housing Raise Town Costs For Schools?

Prepared by: Barbara Thornton with the capable assistance of Alex Bagnall, Pamela Hallett, Patrick Hanlon, Karen Kelleher, Steve Revilak and Jennifer Susse.

As Arlington considers new zoning and other policy decisions to increase the amount of affordable housing in the town, a concern has been raised about the threat of greater costs to the Town’s budget from new people with school age children moving into the town. The concern: additional children in the public schools costs the town more than the additional new property tax revenue the Town collects from the new housing.

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Real Estate Transfer Tax Funds for Affordable Housing

The City of Somerville estimates that a 2% real estate transfer fee — with 1% paid by sellers and 1% paid by buyers, and that exempts owner-occupants (defined as persons residing in the property for at least two years) — could generate up to $6 million per year for affordable housing. The hotter the market, and the greater the number of property transactions, the more such a fee would generate.

Other municipalities are also looking at this legislation but need “home rule” permission, one municipality at a time, from the state to enact it locally. Or, alternatively, legislation could be passed at the state level to allow all municipalities to opt into such a program and design their own terms. This would be much like the well regarded Community Preservation Act (CPA) program that provides funds for local governments to do historic preservation, conservation, etc.

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Three Prong Perspective on New Housing Development

Issues of supply, affordability, and equity all contribute to an ongoing housing crisis in Massachusetts. Among U.S. metro areas with knowledge-based industries, metro Boston ranks near the bottom in housing production and near the top on development costs. Due to the latter, production of new affordable housing units has scarcely increased over the past decade. And largely decentralized authority over land use regulations, by 351 cities and towns, does little to foster uniform housing equity standards.

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New Housing Offers Fiscal Benefits to Communities

A study by Elise Rapoza and Michael Goodman shows that new housing construction in MA does not have an adverse affect on municipal or school budgets. And when it might, state funding covers the difference. This study contradicts the often heard argument against new housing development, especially multi-family housing, because it, the argument claims, it will have a negative fiscal impact on communities.

In the aggregate, development of new housing offers net fiscal benefit to both municipalities and the state. Additional analysis validates a second study which found that increased housing production does not predict enrollment changes in Massachusetts school districts. In the new study, a distinct minority of municipalities did incur net fiscal burdens—burdens that the net new state tax proceeds associated with the development of new housing are more than sufficient to offset.

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