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Greg Verga
Candidate for Mayor

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


Yes, I do believe housing is a significant issue in Gloucester. The housing crisis is not unique to Gloucester, it affects the entire Commonwealth. I also believe that cities and towns across the state are each unique and should have some flexibility in determining how to best  address the housing crisis locally. The housing crisis affects all residents and businesses in our community in different ways. While the impact may be felt most directly by our working families, it also impacts seniors who can no longer afford to stay in their homes and businesses that can’t attract workers due to the cost of housing. It’s important to keep in mind that the effects of the housing crisis can often feel very personal; every family in Gloucester can share a story of challenges related to housing, which is why we need to address the issue with bold and creative strategies.


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


Unfortunately the terms “affordable” and “workforce housing” have been used in the housing debate for many years and both now have negative and often misleading connotations. To me, “affordable” is a subjective term, but it’s defined by the federal government based on the average median income (AMI). For Gloucester, the federally defined AMI does not truly reflect our population and therefore we need to be sure to advocate for and build housing that is achievable for people earning  30 to 60 percent of the AMI as defined by the federal government.  “Workforce housing” is also a subjective term, but it refers to the average working family in our community.

I believe housing is a basic human right. It’s our responsibility to create private and public partnerships that lead to a variety of housing options in our community, including safe and clean rental housing, senior housing and opportunities for young families to enter into home ownership.


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 believe it’s time for us all to accept that we will not all be living in single family homes in the very near future. The majority of the world currently lives in clustered housing. I think it’s important to explore all options for clustered housing. There are many examples within Gloucester where we can already see that multi-family homes can easily coexist in a neighborhood with single family homes.


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?


Very simple.  There is a disconnect between real wages and housing expenses.


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


I think the No. 1 barrier to more accessible housing in our community is the misinformation and the fear tactics used by housing opponents. Lt. Governor Driscoll said “everyone is for affordable housing until it has an address.” This quote plays out in our community every-time potential housing solutions are proposed. It is important for the community as a whole to share the responsibility of creating more housing. We also operate under several decades old zoning ordinances that were created to prevent the creation of housing. The time has come for us to look closely  and think creatively to enact zoning ordinances that not only meet new state requirements but also maintain the character of our City.  I will be very blunt that I do NOT support adding more high rise apartment buildings within our current neighborhoods.

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 a former real estate broker I saw the ups and downs of the market in terms of prices and availability. In recent years - especially since leaving the field - very low inventory of sales and rentals has driven prices to unheard of levels. As an agent I worked with new buyers and/or veterans to help them find grants or loans - such as the City’s first time buyer grant and VA loans - to enable them to put the pieces together to make home ownership possible. Likewise I helped renters pointing them toward assistance programs.


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


The MBTA zoning requirements introduced by the Commonwealth are complicated and Gloucester has yet to determine how best to meet the requirement locally. It’s imperative that we engage in a public discussion, through the Comprehensive Plan that my administration has initiated, to fully explore all of our options before determining a “best plan” for meeting the MTBA zoning law’s requirements.


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?       


Answered above


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?


Answered above


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


Answered above


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?    


It is not a stretch to see a connection between short-term rentals and the low inventory or year round rentals. Until we have the required data and an understanding of the overall impact we are at an impasse. This is something that we will continue to review to work toward a solution.


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?                                                                                      

I agree that housing policy intersects with many issues and the effects of housing policy can span multiple generations. We know that owning a house is the most effective way for a family to build intergenerational wealth, while effective housing policy has a dramatic effect on economic mobility particularly when paired with good transportation. We also know that housing policy is an important part of our fight for environmental sustainability.


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

Answered above


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


We can't build our way out of this housing crisis. We need to think creatively.

As Mayor, my office has focused on revitalizing the Affordable Housing Trust, and  has committed to that process by directing tax receipts from short term rental fees to the Trust. This step marks the first consistent funding mechanism for the Trust since its inception. I have also invested$1.5 million from the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the fund. Housing impacts all of our residents in different ways and I am committed as Mayor to ensuring Gloucester remains affordable for our family and residents.


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?  


Answered above

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