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Jonathon Feinberg: A new Lynn we can all live in

As a Lynn resident and an organizer with the New Lynn Coalition, I was proud to stand with more than 100 Lynners at Lynn United for Change’s rally Monday night at City Hall.

Their message was clear: We need development without displacement, and 20 percent of the units at the Beacon Chevrolet site should be affordable to Lynn residents. How often do your family, friends, or neighbors share their concerns about housing costs?

Owners and renters face rapidly increasing housing costs, pushing good people out of the city. The federal standard for housing affordability is that 30 percent of a household’s income should go towards rent or mortgage and taxes. Last year, 19,625 Lynn households were reported to be low- or moderate-income, according to a Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development study. That’s more than half of the city’s households. Moreover, 40 percent of Lynn’s households earn under $35,000 per year.

Cost-burdened means you are paying more than 30 percent of your household income for housing. Today, 44 percent of Lynn homeowners and 52 percent of renters are cost-burdened households. Since Lynn’s housing is about half owners and half renters that means 48 percent of our city is cost burdened by housing.

What’s worse, 24 percent of homeowners and 33 percent of renters spend more than half of their income on housing. That’s  more than a quarter of the city’s households.

To afford the $2,200 per month rents proposed for the Beacon Chevrolet site at the 30 percent threshold, renters would need an annual household income of $79,200 after taxes. More than two thirds of our city’s households could not afford these two- bedroom units.

In The Item‘s article referenced above, Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn Director James Cowdell talks about bringing in people with disposable income to spend money in our city so homeowners don’t have to bear so much of the burden.

Consider this: if Lynners were only paying 30 percent of their household incomes on rent and mortgages, they would have more money to spend at local businesses, which in turn increases the number of local jobs and expands the economic base while making Lynn a safer city full of opportunity for all.

The New Lynn Coalition, which includes Neighbor-to-Neighbor and Lynn United for Change who have done extensive work on housing, is proposing an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. This would require a percentage of new developments be affordable to Lynn residents who live and pay taxes here. This would help prevent the widespread displacement and overcrowding we see.

New Lynn Coalition helped initiate the development of a new mixed-use, mixed-income housing development on lower Washington Street, the only new housing complex to have broken ground since the debate over Lynnway developments hit the public. The project represents a different way to build in Lynn. With the support of AFL-CIO pension funds and tax incentives, this development is being built with union labor, and the developer is donating a portion of money to Lynn Community Enrichment Program at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute that exists thanks to a partnership between New Lynn Coalition and the Lynn School Department.

We are in dire need of good housing stock, family-supporting jobs, and a safe and bright future for our city. If we only build for the speculators from Boston and beyond, we are doing a disservice to our community and to our future.

We all want to see a New Lynn. But these developments are leading us down the road to two Lynns, separate and even more unequal.

I thank those protesters on the Lynnway for standing up for us all, and for a New Lynn.

If you support an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance let the candidates know.

Jonathon Feinberg is an organizer with the New Lynn Coalition.

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