Housing & Arlington: Community Discussions

Beginning last July, 2020, the Town of Arlington and community groups in the town are sponsoring a number of webinars and zoom conversations addressing the need for affordable housing programs in Arlington. Several factors contribute to the Arlington housing situation: diversity of housing types, prices, diversity of incomes, availability of housing subsidies, rapid growth in property values that greatly exceed the rate of growth of income.

But racism, both historic and current, continues to stand out as a significant force contributing to the difficult housing situation.

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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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Arlington Housing Prices- Out of Reach

Arlington Housing Prices are Out of Reach
Arlington Housing Prices are Out of Reach
Arlington is an Economically Diverse Place
Arlington is an Economically Diverse Place
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Accessory Dwelling Units

Accessory Dwelling Units (aka “granny flats”)

The following information was presented to the Arlington Redevelopment Board in October, 2020 by Barbara Thornton, TMM, Precinct 16

This Article  proposes to allow Accessory Dwelling Units, “as of right”, in each of the 8 residential zoning districts in Arlington.

Why is this zoning legislation important?

Arlington is increasingly losing the diversity it once had.  It has become increasingly difficult for residents who have grown up and grown old in the town to remain here.  This will only become more difficult as the effects of tax increases to support the new schools, including the high school, roll into the tax bills for lower income residents and senior citizens on a fixed income.  For young adults raised in Arlington, the price of a home to buy or to rent is increasingly out of reach.

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Why Should Arlington Have an Affordable Housing Trust Fund?

Arlington has an opportunity to set up an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide more housing stability for its low and moderate income residents. The vote will occur in the Town Meeting starting Nov. 16, 2020.

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Arlington has an opportunity to set up an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide more housing stability for its low and moderate income residents. The vote will occur in the Town Meeting starting Nov. 16, 2020.

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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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Multi-family Housing By Right

For Arlington’s Nov 2020 Special Town Meeting, my colleague Ben Rudick filed the following warrant article:

ARTICLE 18: ZONING BYLAW AMENDMENT/IMPROVING RESIDENTIAL INCLUSIVENESS, SUSTAINABILITY, AND AFFORDABILITY BY ENDING SINGLE FAMILY ZONING

To see if the Town will vote to amend the Zoning Bylaw for the Town of Arlington by expanding the set of allowed residential uses in the R0 and R1 zoning districts with the goal of expanding and diversifying the housing stock by altering the district definitions for the R0 and R1 zoning districts; or take any action related thereto.

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Arlington 2020: the Cost of Low-Density Housing

This is the second in a series of “Arlington 2020” articles. The first article looked at the number of one-, two-, and three-family homes and condominiums in Arlington, and how that housing stock has changed over time. This article will examine changes in the value of those properties. We’re going to look at “value” through the lens of property assessments, so we should start with an explanation of what property assessments are and how they’re used.

A property assessment is simply the Town Assessor’s best estimate of what a property is worth, based on market values. The assessor’s office inspects properties every ten years; during intervening years, assessments are adjusted based on sale prices of similar homes in a given tax neighborhood. For all practical purposes, assessed values tend to trail market values by two years. In my neighborhood, property assessments are spot on — my house was assessed at $501,000 in 2020; during 2018, sales of similar homes in the neighborhood ranged from $495,000 to $520,000.

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The 1988 Fair Housing Report

I recently came across a report from Arlington’s Department of Planning and Community Development, titled “Overview of Affordable Housing Challenges and Opportunities”. The report begins:

Greater Boston’s revitalization is provoking an unexpectedly severe housing challenge in Arlington. Throughout eastern Massachusetts, growth in regional demand has caused housing prices to soar. Additionally, Arlington’s neighborhood stability and recently improved accessibility makes the town particularly attractive. While this is an initial boon for property owners, it harms others.

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Arlington’s Industrial District Survey

During the last few months, Arlington’s Department of Planning and Community Development and Zoning Bylaw Working Group have been conducting a study of the town’s industrial districts. The general idea has been to begin with an assessment of current conditions, and consider whether there are zoning changes that might make these districts more beneficial to the community as a whole.

To date, the major work products of this effort have been:

The survey recently closed. I asked the planning department for a copy of they survey data, which they were generous enough to provide. That data is the subject of this blog post.

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