The following is a letter we emailed to the Somerville Planning Board the evening of , regarding Federal Realty’s request for a waiver on their development in Assembly Row.
To the Somerville Planning Board:
On behalf of Somerville YIMBY, we would like to concur with the Somerville Community Corporation, the Welcome Project, and Our Revolution: We think that the 20% requirement should not be waived.
Somerville YIMBY—Yes In My Back Yard—is a group of Somerville residents who advocate for smart growth that benefits everyone. We’re a part of a nationwide movement to increase the amount of housing available to people in cities that have suffered from gentrification and expensive market rate housing. We believe that our cities and towns are great places, and we should welcome people who want to be here by building them places to live. We believe there is a desirable, achievable balance between subsidized, moderately-priced market rate, and high-end development that can satisfy residents and businesses in a mutually beneficial way.
Even as a pro-development group, however, we believe that Somerville should not set a precedent by making inclusionary zoning minimums optional. Affordable housing units are an important resource that keeps Somerville the diverse and welcoming community we love.
We acknowledge the complex economics of new construction and the Assembly Row project, and that Federal Realty has been a good partner in making Somerville a better place to live and work. Somerville needs additional housing of all types, and it does not serve anyone’s interests to block or delay its construction.
In other situations, the conflict between inclusionary zoning requirements and profit margins might be solved with an increase in the floor area ratio (FAR) of the development. However, there is a legal limit to the size of the Assembly development.
Therefore, we urge the Planning Board, Federal Realty, and concerned citizens to explore alternative solutions which both create more housing and meet inclusionary zoning requirements at the same time. These solutions could include increasing the FAR for other projects elsewhere, or perhaps adjusting income levels and pricing of the 37 dwelling units in question to permit moderate (up to 130% AMI) or even middle income (up to 150% AMI) households. This could increase the breadth and depth of housing affordability in Assembly Square without stalling development.
We welcome conversation on this, and look forward to engaging with Federal Realty, our Aldermen, and our fellow citizens on this topic.
Signed, Jeff & Leah Byrnes, Luke Edson, Alex and Christina Epstein, Brendan Kearney, Stephen Moore, Aaron Weber, and the members of Somerville YIMBY