Has Watertown already fully or partially complied with the MBTA Law? How can I get involved in making Watertown Square a more attractive and vibrant city center? Watertown has been a leader, along with Boston, Cambridge and Everett in permitting more than half the multifamily housing units in the Greater Boston area, according to “Greater Boston Housing Report Card”…The Boston Foundation. Watertown is cited in a 2019 Boston Globe article entitled “NIMBY? Not These Cities and Towns.” As a matter of fact, Watertown may have already complied with its housing zoning mandate for the MBTA Law, because, in reality, that is the point of the MBTA Law … to zone for more housing.
To the editor of Watertown News. There is clearly a profound shortage of affordable housing nationwide and here in Watertown. At the same time there is a huge number of empty storefronts everywhere. What is being done to convert at least al portion of those vacant commercial properties into residences? It seems an obvious solution — most storefronts are in areas served by mass transit so would suit individuals or families who can’t afford or don’t want cars.
Is There Any Other Way? – What other Strategies can we use to add to Watertown’s housing stock? People, there just has to be a better way or a combination of better ways for us to provide affordable housing and grow our community. Here are just four possible approaches:
1) One way that we could add significantly to affordable housing units in Watertown would be by banning STR’s (short term rentals … AirB&B’s) in Watertown. There are hundreds of them in Watertown.
I have a quick transcript from a Watertown Affordable Housing Trust meeting, where Brett Buehrer, Senior VP of O’Connor Capital Partners (New York) is discussing plans that his company has for a very large apartment building on Main Street, where the Post Office is currently located. There is an initial discussion with the Trust. Buehrer comes back a few minutes later to discuss something that he “forgot.”
Affordable Housing Trust Meeting October 16, 2023:
Brett:We’re making progress with the Post Office. I was wondering if you guys would be willing to write a letter to the Post Office in support of affordable housing. We’re working to relocate them and hopefully bring them back into a new building.
The following information was provided by WestMetro HOME Consortium:
Since 1992, the City of Newton has received over $35 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Program through the WestMetro HOME Consortium for the development of affordable housing in Newton. Because Newton is not individually eligible to participate in the HOME Program, in 1991, the City spearheaded an effort to form a consortium under the newly enacted Program. Brookline, Waltham and Watertown joined Newton in this effort. Since that time, the Consortium, through Newton as the lead member, has received and distributed over $35 million in HOME funds to its members. The Consortium has provided grants and loans of HOME funds to for-and non-profit developers and directly to low-income households to create over 550 units of affordable housing.
Watertown Housing Authority Executive Director Michael Lara. Michael Lara, the executive director of the Watertown Housing Authority, has been voted as the president of a statewide affordable housing organization. In this role, he will advocate for preserving, protecting, and expanding public and affordable housing in Massachusetts. Lara has been leading the Watertown Housing Authority since July 2019, after former Executive Director Brian Costello retired. Lara has served on the board of MassNAHRO (National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials) since November 2020, and in June, he was elected as the organization’s 31st President.
The City Council approved a linkage fee on large developments that would be used to create affordable housing in Watertown. The ordinance also spreads the fees into two payments and the City can consider offers of housing units or land in lieu of the fee. Before they deliberated and voted, the Council heard from people advocating for changes to the proposed ordinance. Charles River Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman, who represented multiple developers who do business in Watertown, asked to delay the start of the fees until 2024, and phase in the amount starting with $5.56 per sq. ft.
Note to reader: There has been a lot of talk recently in Watertown about the need for more affordable housing. One thing everyone in Watertown can do to help build more affordable housing is to attend the City Council Meeting on 4/11 at 7:00 PM and voice their support for proposed linkage fee ordinance that would raise money for affordable housing by applying a modest fee to new large non-residential developments in the city. While there is some debate about the exact fee amount (below is a copy of our letter to the City Council outlining the case for a $15/sqft fee), the most important issue to make sure the linkage fee is implemented as soon as possible, so we do not lose out on any more funds for affordable housing.
Dear City Council President Sideris and City Councilors Gardner, Feltner, Piccirilli, Izzo, Airasian, Bays, Gannon, and Palomba:
We applaud the City Council’s efforts to promote affordable housing, first by establishing the Watertown Affordable Housing Trust and now by working with our state delegation to establish a linkage fee to directly fund affordable housing development. As the council considers enactment of the linkage fee, we urge the council to adopt a linkage fee of $15 per square foot, which our technical analysis below shows is in line with recent increases in residential construction costs not measured by the original Nexus study published last year. The Nexus study published last April recommended the council consider a linkage fee in the range of $9.44 to $11.12, which balances raising revenue for affordable housing while maintaining Watertown’s competitive position in the commercial (mainly focusing on life sciences) development space.