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Dylan Benson
Candidate for Ward 2

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


We're currently grappling with an affordability crisis not only in Gloucester but also across the state and the nation. Wages have stayed stagnant since the 1970s, while the cost of living keeps rising. Regrettably, wages haven't matched these growing costs. I strongly believe the city government should actively address this issue rather than making it worse.

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


In the City of Gloucester, it's necessary to earn over $24 per hour, working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, in order to afford a two-bedroom rental unit. Housing that is considered affordable is generally when individuals are paying 30% or less than of their monthly income on housing. Unfortunately, many working-class individuals in Gloucester are struggling to make ends meet, facing the difficult choice between putting food on the table or paying their rent. These individuals are often overlooked in our community, and there's a pressing need for accessible and affordable workforce housing options. Addressing this issue requires a collaborative approach, including the creation of mixed-income housing developments, partnering with non-profit organizations to provide rental assistance, and advocating for policy changes that prioritize affordable housing solutions. By taking these steps, we can better support the forgotten members of our community and promote a more inclusive living environment for everyone.

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?


Yes, I would support small clustered housing if it works for the community and fits the character of the neighborhood. There are few locations in Ward 2 where clustered housing could work. Additionally, any proposed project must have neighborhood input, and abutters including renters must be included in the entire process.


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?                                                                             

Many individuals are expressing concerns about the ability of their children, parents, and grandparents to thrive and afford a life within our community. Additionally, I've received feedback from Ward 2 residents that highlights the difficulty of both working and residing in Ward 2. Moreover, I've heard from young people that the aspiration of owning a home in Gloucester is slipping away. Given these observations, I firmly believe in our obligation to take every possible step to transform affordable homeownership into a reality.

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

Dealing with disinformation, misinformation, and outright lies requires a multi-faceted approach. To counter these challenges effectively, it's crucial to engage with individuals on their own terms and involve them in the decision-making process. By incorporating greater neighborhood input, we can foster a greater sense of transparency.

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?      


As someone who grew up in public housing with a single father struggling to make ends meet, my personal experience has very much shaped my views on housing. I know firsthand, what it means to choose between rent and food. We would live on mac and cheese for a week so my dad could pay the rent by the first of the month. I know that there are residents in my neighborhood who continue to feel the burden of affordability and stagnant wage growth despite inflation.

It is critical to create pipeline out of poverty by attacking the affordability crisis with common sense solutions.

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


Firstly, we must follow the law. The City must comply with the MBTA Communities Act. The best plan is to adhere to the zoning requirements by allowing multi-family housing to be permitted as of right in and around our MBTA stations.

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?                                                                                                                

To alter the zoning in and around the MBTA stations to allow for multi-family housing to be permitted as of right is the focus. I look forward to engaging in further conversations about creative solutions, ensuring the City's compliance with the MBTA Communities Act.

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?               


We shouldn't see ourselves as adversaries—ward against ward, neighbors against neighbors, or neighborhoods against neighborhoods. Instead, we must collaboratively address the affordability crisis, all the while honoring the unique character and history of each neighborhood

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


Being someone who resides in a neighborhood with numerous two and three-family homes and who was raised in a multi-family setting, I am aware that Gloucester, along with our small business economy, gains strength from this. I am keen on participating in additional discussions regarding the advantages of zoning changes.

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?                


I totally understand that certain homeowners desire to rent out a room or a portion of their home for added income, whether it's for short-term rentals or seasonal stays. I've had the opportunity to meet Ward 2 residents who employ this approach to assist in offsetting their mortgages. I'm also mindful of the legitimate concern that short-term rentals could reduce the available housing stock, thereby depriving our community's residents in need of long-term housing. Leveraging my experience researching and working on short-term rental ordinances as a law clerk in a neighboring municipality, I am confident that we can collectively explore solutions and find common ground to tackle the challenges linked to short-term rentals.

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?                                                  

Housing policy is undoubtedly intertwined with the other policy areas such as transit, racial justice, environmental issues, public health and economic sustainability. That’s why it is so critical to look at our housing policy through a holistic lens. So, that we as community can address affordability with common sense solutions.

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

It greatly affects how small businesses can hire and retain staff. If folks can’t afford to live and work in our community, businesses will struggle to strive and succeed in our community.

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


Incorporating residents into the abutter notification process, extending this beyond just out-of-city landlords. This expansion could lead to more comprehensive community engagement and informed decision-making.

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?                  


I agree that our community is in need of commonsense housing, both market-rate and income-restricted, while also respecting the city's history and culture. Drawing from my personal experience in public housing, I recognize the necessity for establishing a pipeline into the market-rate economy. Additionally, I hope to see greater public-private partnerships, fostering collaboration among our city's boards, commissions, city council, and the administration. This collaboration aims to create housing that is genuinely affordable, with a local preference.

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