Housing will take center stage at this year’s Annual Town Meeting on Monday April 4th. In the months leading up to Town Meeting, the Select Board, the Community Housing Council, and the Year-Round Market Rate Rental Housing Trust have been working jointly to bring a slate of housing related articles before the voters. Town Manager Alex Morse facilitated two housing workshops between the three boards in October and December of last year, resulting in a broad array of articles to address the housing crisis and promote community and affordable housing development.
Among them is an article to reallocate the Room Excise Tax to allocate the largest share to housing efforts. Other articles include enacting an impact fee on professionally managed short-term rental units, exploring the feasibility of housing development at various Town-owned properties, amending the in-lieu fee to further incentivize the addition of affordable units in private development projects, and amending the inclusionary zoning bylaw to allow for four-story development in the General Commercial Zone if dedicated to community and affordable housing.
Furthermore, Town Manager Alex Morse and Select Board, in partnership with the Open Space Committee, are sponsoring an article to purchase 288A Bradford Street. The Town will work with the Open Space Committee to dedicate part of the property to open space and conservation, with the other part aimed for community housing. Town Staff are currently negotiating a purchase and sale with the property owner. The purchase is dependent on successful negotiations and the outcome of the appropriation vote at Town Meeting.
Below is a summary of the ten housing-related articles on the Town Meeting warrant:
1. Reallocation of the Room Excise Tax
This article changes the existing distribution of the Room Occupancy Excise Tax to redistribute new revenues created by the expansion of the tax to short term rentals to create a recurring funding source for housing. This recognizes that short term rentals have an impact on housing and that the funds received should be reinvested to mitigate that impact on housing inventory and availability. The redistribution sets aside 30% of all room occupancy funds (traditional lodging + short-tern rentals) to housing, which the Select Board will split between the two existing housing funds, Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) and Year-Round Market Rate Rental Housing Trust (YRMRRHT) based on a review of annual funding priorities. All three boards unanimously supported this proposal. Factoring in other investments to housing from the general fund and the sewer fund as part of the current allocation, at least 100% of the actual annual dollar amount of short-term rental revenue (approximately $2.2M) will be going towards the Town’s housing efforts.
2. Accept Provisions of MGL Ch 64G Section 3D, Short-Term Rental Tax relating to the Local Option Community Impact Fee for professionally managed Units
This article accepts the provisions of the Short-Term Rental Tax that allows municipalities to impose a community impact fee of up to an additional 3% of occupancies of units which meet the definition of a professionally managed unit. This surcharge targets anyone who owns multiple units which they rent for short term occupancies. The intent is to discourage the “warehousing” of apartments for short term rentals, where developers purchase several units for the distinct purpose of renting them short-term, thereby removing them from the inventory of seasonal or year-round occupancy. This fee does not apply to licensed businesses, owners who rent a single unit nor someone who rents one or two units from a property listed as the owner’s primary residence.
3. Acquisition of 288A Bradford Street as a joint open space/conservation and affordable housing development
The Town seeks to purchase this property from the current owner and redevelop it as both open space land and land to develop affordable/community housing. The agreed upon purchase price is $1,475,000 with an additional $100,000 being appropriated to handle due diligence costs, the cost to relocate two existing tenants, demolition and site preparation, and the cost to do a housing feasibility analysis on the portion of the land to be developed as housing. The buildable area of 288A is approximately 29,000 square feet (not counting the open space). The as of right zoning for that area is 15 units, and under inclusionary zoning, up to 45 units could potentially be built.
4. Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Inclusionary In-Lieu Fee Amendment
This article would increase the inclusionary housing in-lieu fee, or the amount a private developer would pay instead of including deed restricted housing within their development. The fee is discounted for the creation of 1-3 units to not disincentivize smaller developments, but it increases progressively at 4 units or more so as to encourage the actual creation of new deed-restricted units. This is consistent with the premise of the bylaw that one deed restricted unit should be created for every 6 market rate units. The in-lieu fee should be reflective of the actual construction cost of providing the unit.
5. Non-binding Resolution: Reduction of lanes within Route 6 between Conwell and the National Seashore Boundary for the Development of Housing and other Municipal Uses.
This article is a non-binding resolution to inform the Select Board if the Town Meeting body is comfortable with a proposal to reduce the lanes of Route 6 between Conwell Street and the National Seashore boundary for the development of housing and other municipal uses (parking, sewer leaching areas, bike paths, etc.
6. Development Consultant for Route 6
This article would transfer $60,000 from free cash to hire a development consultant to assist with the assessment of planning, engineering, wetlands delineation, flood storage capacity, and endangered species habitat analysis to determinate the suitability for development of affordable and community housing and municipal uses on the Town-owned property within the Route 6 right-of-way.
7. Development Consultant for the Veteran’s Memorial Community Center
This article would transfer $150,000 from free cash to hire a development consultant to assist with the assessment of financing, cost estimating, site planning to determinate the suitability for development of affordable and community housing and municipal uses on the Veterans Memorial Community Center site. The existing Council on Aging, Recreation Center, Wee Care Program and other municipal services will be rebuilt in a more compact footprint, allowing housing to be developed on the remainder of the site.
8. Development Consultant for 30 Creek Road
This article would transfer $30,000 from free cash to hire a development consultant to assist with the assessment of a wetlands delineation, flood storage capacity, and endangered species habitat analysis to determinate the suitability for development of affordable and community housing and municipal uses on the Town-owned property located at 30 Creek Road.
9. Development Consultant for Fire House #2, 189 Commercial Street
This article would transfer $75,000 from free cash to hire a development consultant to assist with financing, cost estimating, site planning, architectural design and other related actions and development options up to and including entering into one or more development agreements for housing uses on the Town-owned property located at 189 Commercial Street.
10. Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Inclusionary and Incentive Zoning Bylaw. Incentives for Development including increasing the building height to 4 stories in the General Commercial Zone
This article intends to incentivize the creation of affordable and community housing units through the inclusionary bylaw by allowing the Planning Board to waive certain dimensional regulations, including building stories and building height and to allow housing developments in the General Commercial Zone to increase to four stories.