LETTER: Residents Ask Council to Increase Linkage Fee to $15/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.

Developers of Life Science Projects Make Case to Ease the Impact of Linkage Fees

Elkus Manfredi ArchitectsA view from Water Street of the life sciences building being built by Boston Development Group at 66 Galen St. Developers working on life science projects in Watertown say the proposed linkage fees, being considered by the City Council, could put the City at a disadvantage compared to communities not charging the fees, and it comes at a bad time. They propose some changes to how they pay the $11.12 per square foot, which has been earmarked to create affordable housing. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 11, Councilors will discuss and are scheduled to vote on the linkage fee rules. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Watertown has already received approval from the State Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker to charge up to $18 in linkage fees.

UPDATED: Committee Will Consider Which Community Preservation Projects to Support in 2023

The Community Preservation Committee will deliberate over the proposed projects for 2023, and vote on which ones to recommend to the City Council for final approval. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) makes recommendations on how to spend the funds raised after Watertown passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 2016. The money can fund projects in multiple areas: historic preservation, affordable housing, and open space and recreation. In February, the CPC heard six proposal for projects to be funded. On Thursday, March 30, at 7 p.m. the Committee will discuss the proposals and vote on recommendations.

Watertown Group Hosting Discussion on What’s Happening With Housing in Watertown

The following announcement was provided by Watertown Citizens for Peace Justice & the Environment:

Finding affordable housing has long been an issue for everyone in Watertown. We invite you to join us on Wednesday, March 15 online from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for a presentation of current efforts to address it. Louise Enoch will speak about the goals of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) including support of Boston Public Housing. Mary Skinner will sketch the discussions of the Refugee Support Group subcommittee on Affordable Housing. 

Tony Palomba will update us on affordable housing legislation before the Watertown CityCouncil. 

Josh Rosmarin will present a new organization that he, Dan Pritchard and Amy Plovnick arehoping to establish in Watertown. This would undertake affordable housing advocacy as isbeing done in nearby communities. 

There will also be breaks for questions and answers.

See How Much the City Proposes Charging New Developments to Fund Affordable Housing

Watertown City Hall

The City of Watertown recently received approval from the state to charge linkage fees on new developments to raise money to create affordable housing. A zoning amendment has been proposed that would set the fee to be paid by new developments. The special legislation approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in December allows Watertown to charge up to $18 per square foot on projects over 30,000 sq. ft. The exact amount must be set by amending the Watertown Zoning Ordinance.

State Legislature Allowing Watertown to Charge Developer Fees to Fund Affordable Housing

Wikimedia Commons / ChensiyuanMassachusetts State House. City officials will be able to charge new developments a fee that would go toward creating affordable housing in Watertown after receiving approval from the state level. The City Council requested special legislation to be passed that allows them to charge linkage fees of up to $18 per square foot for commercial projects over 30,000 sq. ft. that require zoning relief.