Somerville Condo Conversion Debate

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Somerville has experienced political issues this week in regards to condominium applications. Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang stated that “City officials have not been properly enforcing laws governing condominium applications.” According to Niedergang, recent changes in the application process for converting a multi-family property to condominiums, it has come to light that the proper laws were not previously being enforced. In a recent Somerville Times article, Niedergang criticized the housing board’s process, and as a result, city officials stated that they are “committed to enforcing city laws intended to protect tenants.” On January 25, a review board meeting was conducted, and city housing director Michael Feloney said the board would “refine” its practices based on consulting with city attorneys. He also told the Journal that “There were questions and concerns raised regarding practices, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can.” Feloney refused to provide the Journal with condo applications when requested in order to see that they have been filed, citing lack of time to review them and that a request should be made through the Freedom of Information Act. Subsequently, the Journal requested through FOIA and was not given an immediate reply.

In order for rental units to be removed from the rental roll, property owners are required to obtain approval from the three-person team that comprises the Condo Review Board. Previously, when the board granted permits to applicants, it would do so during meetings. According to Feloney, now the board plans to hand out certificates of approval to developers who have not yet supplied the board all of the required documents, and only upon receiving all of them will they release a permit.

Building owners who wish to gain approval to turn rental units into condos must, according to city law, present a copy of the condo’s mater deed to the review board. They must also provide an engineering report showing the present condition of the building along with a sworn affidavit that tenants were given ample notice to vacate the property. Niedergang supports this new process but says that it still does not provide adequate protection to tenants.


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