City of Somerville Seeks Ways to Maintain Affordable Housing

shutterstock_146949359A recent report released by the Metropolitican Area Planning Council in partnership with the Somerville Community Corporation and the City of Somerville has found that extending the Green Line into Somerville is likely to increase rents dramatically. The report, which was released after two years of study, has the mayor taking certain actions to address the many concerns within the report.

According to the report, rental prices in Somerville are likely to increase by as much as 67 percent. Even those homes that are simply within walking distance of the new T stations are likely to see an increase of anywhere from 16 to 25 percent. Many of the single, two-, and three-family homes in the area  are also likely to be converted into condos, with the report estimating as many as 475 households being affected by this change. As a result of these condo developments and rental increases, some of the lower-income residents are at risk of losing their homes. Some of the conclusions within the report were based on what happened after the Red Line stations opened in Porter and Davis square in the 1980s.

To address concerns regarding housing, Mayor Joseph Curtatone has set a goal to create 6,000 new housing units within the city. According to the report, adding 6,300 new housing units are necessary to maintain the city’s current level of affordability. Part of this plan may involve converting 272 subsidized rental apartments to market-rate housing before 2020. Most of these units are in areas where the Green Line stations are expected to pen, such as near the new T stops at Washington Street and Union Square. This extension is expected to be completed in 2017. Another stop is expected to become open in Gilman Square, Ball Square and Lowell Street in 2019. Yet another should be be opening up just over the Somerville line in Medford on College Avenue in 2019.

The mayor is also placing some affordable housing requirements on new developments within the city. These requirements are above the state benchmarks. To further assist with this process, the city recently passed the Community Preservation Act, which is designed to raise revenue for affordable housing.

While there are concerns regarding housing affordability, the Green Line extension does provide Somerville with the opportunity to pursue sustainable development. Theoretically, the extension also means that residents can become less reliant on automobiles. Historically speaking, however, when transit investments are made in certain areas, higher-income families who own automobiles tend to move in and lower-income families tend to move further away.

Residents who are interested in learning more about this issue or who want to assist with developing strategies to help keep the city affordable may wish to attend the third in a series of forums scheduled for March 4. The forum, which is hosted by the Somerville Community Corporation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, will take place at Argenziano School at 6:00 pm.

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