The following letter was sent by the Charles River Regional Chamber to City Council President Mark Sideris and Planning Board Chair Jeffrey Brown:
Dear President Sideris and Chair Brown:
The Charles River Regional Chamber and the Watertown development community share the city’s commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing and applaud last year’s establishment of the Watertown Affordable Housing Trust.
We also support the city’s goal of creating more affordable housing through linkage fees.
However, we respectfully caution the city to be thoughtful about implementing the linkage program given the serious economic headwinds — including rising interest rates, material shortages, weakening demand for life science and office space, layoffs in the tech sector, a labor shortage in the building trades and a looming recession — before us.
Watertown’s linkage fees will inevitably be competitive with fees in Cambridge and Boston. But we fear projects in Watertown will be at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring communities that don’t require linkage payments.
We also worry about the impact the high cost of development might have on another one of our shared goals: The revitalization of Watertown Square.
Finally, our developers here take great pride in the many public amenities that have accompanied recent developments. Please understand that our ability to underwrite community givebacks will be offset by the demands of a linkage program.
Addressing our housing crisis is both an economic and moral imperative. We’re committed to partnering with the city on establishing the right path forward and look forward to working together in support of Watertown’s economic and cultural vitality.
President, Charles River Regional Chamber