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Christopher Sicuranza
Candidate for At-Large

1. Do you believe we have a housing problem in Gloucester? If so, whom does it affect?                                                                                                                               

Yes, workforce housing (and housing stock of every variety) is facing a critical shortage across Cape Ann and Massachusetts.

2. What are your definitions of affordable housing and workforce housing? Who do you see as needing affordable and workforce housing in Gloucester?  

                                                                                                                      

Generally speaking, housing is labeled affordable when it costs 30% or less of a household's income, which is considered using metrics more broadly via federal sources (i.e. HUD) to determine Area Median Income (AMI). Communities where more than 30% of households are cost burdened have an affordable housing shortage, which includes Gloucester. The reality is that we must address housing stock - especially workforce / affordable housing - if we want to ensure our city's success continues on. Therefore, this is a citywide issue that affects every citizen and our collective success going forward, too.

3. Clustered housing: Do you generally support building more housing that is grouped, such as duplexes, multi-family, townhouses etc.?  If so, where do you see possibilities in the city for more clustered housing?                                                                                                                             

Having served at the pleasure of mayor's in both Salem and Haverhill, I have learned directly the benefit of both HDIP and Smart Growth / Chapter 40R and how they can potentially utilize less land while gaining more housing stock. This is an attractive option for Gloucester and I will advocate for more clusters, especially including in areas like Magnolia and West Gloucester. Frankly, anywhere that could fit the criteria should consider this process as there are more incentives than ever due to the new state leadership within the Gov / LG offices.

4. When you speak with constituents (local business owners, employers, and workers) about income and housing prices in our community, what conclusions do you draw from those conversations?                                                                                                                      

Constituents agree that our current situation is not sustainable for any type of housing relative to affordability. To that, there seems to be a grand disconnect between terminology and terms, especially understanding what low-income standards are versus workforce/affordable housing. Many of the voices that indicate they want to keep local heritage alive are ultimately sharing destructive, harmful, and misleading claims which halt potential positive measures being considered by our Council (i.e. Inclusionary Zoning, Deeper ADU support, etc.). The conclusion is clear: we need to elect leaders who know what they are talking about, understand the critical shortage of housing (especially workforce housing, with senior housing followed closely thereafter), and to continue to pass meaningful local ordinances that are designed to work in harmony with state/federal programs to get the best value back relative to any housing developments. We need leaders elected who will passionately advocate around the clock and not change their answers depending on who's in front of them or who's commenting on Facebook. We need leadership for housing now and I aim to deliver my voice on behalf of this cause - now and forever.

5. What do you see as the major barriers in our community to creating more affordable/workforce housing? How do we overcome them?                                                                                                                              

Simply put: ignorance is the major barrier. From the doors I've knocked on, and the elected officials whom shared their thoughts, it's shocking (if not, disturbing) how much misinformation and misunderstanding there is around this important subject. I truly believe that passionate advocacy alongside consistent, unbiased enlightenment through effective communications across all forums/formats/platforms will help foster superior conversations. The solutions are obvious but gaining the buy-in across all stakeholders remains a clear hurdle. However, electing city officials who have the courage to speak up and not deflect on the issue is a clear method to help overcome these odds.

6. How have your experiences, personal and professional, shaped your views on housing and land use in Gloucester? And what have you done in the past to address these concerns?                                                                                                                                 

Both personally and professionally, I can speak to affordability and housing. More personally, my husband purchased a multi-family house in downtown Gloucester over a decade ago. He lived in each apartment, fixed it up, and was able to gain some income via said rental income. During COVID, my husband (Frankie) and I helped to convert the family home located on Centennial Ave back into a two-family house such that our mother-in-law could get some extra money while she helped to take care of her mother who's now over 80 years old. Frankie and I moved into Centennial and saved some money which helped us recently purchase another two family in West Gloucester. All of our tenants (whom we largely view as family) get fair rental terms because we are fair people who can afford to maintain this current portfolio. We were able to leverage the best of what Gloucester has to offer: family, heritage, and using housing tools to ensure we could stay stable for our future. However, not everyone in our City is lucky enough to have this story. While I'm deeply grateful for said situation leading to our dream house, we shouldn't have to rely on generational generosity in order to ensure our own citizens (and children therein) can afford to stay here, let alone safely age in place. Professionally speaking, having worked in various mayor's offices and for the Commonwealth itself, it is clear to me that this is a statewide issue that Gloucester needs to better lead on. I'm hugely disappointed in many of our elected officials and strongly believe that even our current Administration/Mayor should be better positioning our City towards meaningful work on this critical issue.

7a. What do you think is the best plan for meeting the requirements of the MBTA zoning?           

                                                                                                                  

Frankly, the correct answer to this question is to elect the right city officials. However, I would support more large scale housing developments near MBTA stations, especially the proposed Shaw's development. Additionally, 40B and 40R developments will help utilize state driven initiatives that are a 'sure thing' versus leaving matters to a fickle Council.

7b. What are your recommendations to update zoning in Gloucester’s downtown train station area (and West Gloucester station area, if applicable) to bring the City into compliance?                      

                                                                                                            

See 7a answer, but I would also add working with developers who know our community and know how to best sell larger scaled developments so they can help advocate across all required meetings from start to finish.

8. Do you think that every neighborhood in Gloucester is contributing its “fair share” of housing supply for the city? If not, which neighborhoods do you think are not contributing their fair share, and how should the City address this inequity?                                                                                                                                 

Each Ward / area of Gloucester is uniquely special and can provide a wonderful place to live for any type of person. However, our downtown area is more densely packed and areas like East Gloucester, Lanesville, and West Gloucester/Magnolia feature many single family homes and/or parcels of land that could otherwise be converted into a multi-dwelling space. However, each downtown space across Ward 2 and Ward 3 are not being fully realized as many of the larger single family homes could be converted into a multi-family dwellings if proper incentives or processes were streamlined for homeowners to take advantage of. We need to stop pitting neighborhoods against each other and make one thing clear: we are all in this together and we all must step up and contribute solutions, not more problems.

9. Where do you stand on two or three family homes across all neighborhoods to meet the housing needs of  the average Gloucester worker?      

                                                                                                                             

As shared in my answer for question 8, I'm strongly in favor of multi-dwelling domiciles across all areas of Gloucester.

10. A recent attempt to propose new restrictive regulations on Gloucester’s Short Term Rentals failed to gain support due to lack of data and overall impact. What do you think the City can do, if anything, to restrict or limit short term rentals?                                                                                                                              

Having studied this matter across many coastal communities and being a board member of the North of Boston Consumer Visitor Bureau (NBCVB Tourism), there are many lessons to be learned relative to passing local ordinances and the potential good - and bad, even if unintentionally so - that local ordinances can have. I would prefer more affordable housing over vacation short term rentals, but I do believe there is an opportunity for us to have a mixed portfolio between both worlds. To that, I think we need to better empower our Inspectional Services team to declare a short-term rental as a properly suitable space with clear cut terms being defined (and posted as a certificate for all to see) to ensure appropriate stewardship is being conducted. These certificate of fitness/occupancy terms would help alleviate many of the fear mongering concerns that are expressed by those that show up at City Council meetings which helped to defeat said proposals. The answers aren't always from local ordinances; rather, it gets the right leader to get the different interests at the table to ensure we have an equal opportunity to succeed here - all year round. I would also like to look more into seasonal short-term rental terms such that we can potentially house those seeking relief in shoulder seasons, but there is not a lot of comparisons to this notion. I wouldn't mind being the first to help lead on this matter, though.

11a. Housing policy is closely linked to other policy areas, such as transit, racial justice, environmental issues, and economic sustainability. What do you think of housing policy as it interacts with these other issues?                                                                                                                                   

Our housing policies indeed are interconnected with various areas:

- Transit: Housing near public transit reduces car reliance, eases congestion, and promotes equitable access to amenities.
- Racial Justice: We must address historical housing discriminations to ensure equitable access for all racial and ethnic groups.
- Environmental Issues: Sustainable housing promotes energy efficiency, green building, and urban density, protecting the environment.
- Economic Sustainability: Affordable housing supports economic health by allowing households to invest in other sectors and facilitating workforce mobility to job-rich areas.

I strongly support housing policies that integrate these considerations, as they contribute to building equitable, sustainable, and thriving communities. A well-thought-out housing policy can serve as a tool to advance multiple societal goals simultaneously, creating cities and communities that are equitable, sustainable, and thriving.

11b. Additionally, how do you think housing issues are affecting local businesses and employers?              

                                                                                                            

Housing issues have a direct and profound impact on local businesses and employers in several ways.

Businesses, especially those in the retail and service (restaurant) sectors, rely on local residents as customers. If housing costs drive residents out, or if they're financially burdened by housing costs, they may spend less at local businesses. Plus, staffing shortages will mount with our aging population and we cannot continue to state "nobody wants to work anymore" on social media posts.


Because of our high housing costs, employees should demand higher wages to offset their living expenses, putting pressure on employers to raise salaries or offer additional benefits, but businesses may not be able to succeed in such scenario.

Also, high housing costs can stifle entrepreneurship. Potential entrepreneurs might be reluctant to take financial risks if they're heavily burdened by rent or mortgage payments. A dynamic local economy often depends on a steady flow of new businesses and innovations.

If housing issues continue to become too pronounced, some major pillars of our business communities might even consider relocating to areas where housing is more affordable for their employees, leading to potential economic downturns in the regions they leave.

In summary, housing issues can directly influence the health, vibrancy, and success of Gloucester's businesses and employers. Addressing housing challenges is crucial not only for individual well-being but also for the broader economic prosperity of a region.

12a. Are there other specific housing initiatives that you think the City should prioritize?                                                                                                                      

 

Streamlining the permitting process to help convert single family homes into multi-family dwellings regardless of Zoning type.

12b. Do you agree or disagree that the City of Gloucester should do more to encourage housing production of all types, including both market rate and income-restricted? If you agree, how can the City encourage housing production?    

                                                                                                                       

Strongly agree. Working in harmony across the Affordable Housing Trust Committee, Planning Board, ZBA, City Council and Mayor's office is critical to our success but I would also argue working with developers that can encourage a vision that all can buy into. I understand many developers just want to see profit, but if they are local, they will care more to keep our character and charm in place and not just create templated buildings which always draw sharp criticism. And as stated many times in my answers, elect the right people who aim to lead on this conversation across any channel it is presented.

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