Local Government and Politics, News

Peabody committee trims affordable housing requirement

PEABODY — It took a City Council subcommittee less than an hour to recommend gutting the city’s 12-week-old affordable housing regulation.

In a unanimous vote, the five-member Industrial & Community Development Committee reversed the panel’s April vote to require developers reserve 25 percent of any housing built for low- and moderate-income earners in a handful of parcels on Route 1 and at the Northshore Mall.  They voted to reduce the mandate to 20 percent.

Curt Bellavance, Community Development director, said the department’s goal is to get housing built, including luxury, market rate and low-cost units. 

But if developers are mandated to make 25 percent of the units affordable, it was unlikely they could make the numbers work and get construction financing. 

Originally, he said, the city sought a 15 percent requirement, but the council opted for 25 percent. 

“We are looking for a compromise to get it to 20 percent,” Bellavance said. “It’s a way to get more housing in the city.” 

Jaclyn Corrivear, a Lynn Street resident who has been fighting construction of a Verizon Wireless cell tower in her neighborhood, said reducing the number would hurt potential homeowners because not everyone can afford the high home prices in the city.

“For many people, homeownership is a dream,” she said. “Reducing the affordable requirement would be detrimental.” 

City Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning Martin noted the council lowered the maximum height of construction in the new districts to four stories. She asked Bellavance if he supported the lower limit.

He said he had no problem with five-, six-, or seven-story buildings.

But Ward 5 City Councilor Joel Saslaw said he doesn’t want tall apartment buildings across the city. He said a 25 percent requirement would discourage developers and get zero housing built.

“I hope my fellow councilors agree,” he said.

City Councilor-at-Large David Gravel said it’s time to stop thinking that making a profit is a bad thing. 

“We can’t legislate our way to a perfect nirvana,” he said. “If we don’t make it predictable for developers to build, if you don’t make it reasonable, they won’t build.”  

The revised rule goes to the Planning Board and a public hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

 

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