Harbor Village, an Affordable Apartment Community developed by Action Inc. and North Shore Community Development Coalition.
Cape Ann Local Action Affordable Housing Team Grows into Housing4All Gloucester.
Notes on the History of CALA Housing Advocacy, February-July 2022
In 2016 Cape Ann Local Action (CALA) was formed to address a variety of local concerns that also had state and national implications. Among them was the need to influence housing options so that there could be more affordable housing – and affordable not just in what gets called capital A, HUD deed restricted affordability, but a range of housing that is affordable to the wide range of Cape Ann residents of limited to moderate income.
A team of people have worked together on these issues since 2016, drawing in others for specific advocacy endeavors. Notable in this team have been Lisa Day Copeland, who was a major force in creating CALA, Amanda Nash, Deanna Fay, Tracy Mark, and Sunny Robinson, who have worked regularly in conjunction with Action, Inc., The Gloucester Housing Authority, Harborlight Community Partners, and who met with the Mayor, the YMCA, the Affordable Housing Trust, and others all in regards to advocacy for more affordable housing.
Central to these efforts has been public advocacy for:
the approval of the 30 units of deed restricted Affordable Housing at Harbor Village;
requiring Halyard to provide the 30 units of Affordable Housing at Gloucester Crossing, instead of a small payment in lieu of, even if those units are only at 80% of the Area Mean Income (AMI);
the affordable apartments on Pearl St.;
advocacy for the 44 units of Affordable senior housing to be built at the site of the old Y;
advocacy for the income from Short Term Rental fees to go, at least in part, to the Affordable Housing Trust.
While not yet a public project, they also support the planned affordable supportive living, senior housing envisioned for the east end of Main St.
Individuals within this group have also been strong public supporters of many housing initiatives over many of the last years and decades, including the approved, but then canceled Assistive Living Residences envisioned for Magnolia and Gloucester Crossing, as well as the Affordable Home Ownership family houses of the (GHA) Griffin Court endeavor and Action’s residences on Marsh St.
Additionally, members of this group have advocated for the goals outlined in the 2017 Gloucester Housing Production Plan (HPP), starting with attendance at the initial public input sessions conducted by the city. The HPP addresses the needs for more affordable housing, not only for low, and very low income residents, but the full range of affordability needed to keep housing costs for the average Gloucester resident within the “not more that 30% of income spent on housing” standard that is considered the benchmark.
The City Planner invited CALA to send a representative to the HPP working group; Amanda Nash represented CALA, with Sunny Robinson as her alternate when Ms Nash was not available. The recommendations from the HPP became the basis for the Gloucester’s Planning Board’s recommendations to the city’s zoning ordinances in three realms, two of which have been approved by Gloucester City Council; the third was at GCC in mid-2022.
The first changed the requirements within the inclusionary zoning ordinances as to when deed restricted affordable units have to be built -- i.e., one unit for developments of 6-9 units, the threshold reduced from 8; and the structuring of a payment in lieu of option that is calculated against actual recent (3 year) comparable home prices. At ten units or more the requirement remains at 15%, is deed restricted affordable and MUST be built on site, no in lieu of payments permitted. The second set of ordinances that was passed, expanded the allowing of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) to be built by right in many wards and no longer to be restricted to family members, while also setting size guidelines.
The CALA Housing Advocacy team supported all three of these measures as well as organized others to do so at The Planning Board, before The Planning and Development Committee of City Council and before the full City Council.
The third set of proposed ordinance change saw its actualities greatly muddied by misinformation. The intent of these ordinances is to allow by right, the conversion of single family homes to two, or in a few wards, three family units….as long as the lots and the structures are conforming to other zoning requirements. (A large percentage of Gloucester homes are either on non-conforming lots, or are non-conforming structures because they were built BEFORE there were any zoning restrictions (1959.)) Parking and septic requirements do not change. These were defeated after they were (hysterically?) misrepresented as part of potential changes related to so-called MBTA zoning changes to be mandated later this year by the state. Careful discussion did not occur.
Additionally these proposed changes would have equalized building by right across wards and for home owners who choose to add on to their existing structure rather than tear it down and build anew. (In zones where two family homes are permitted, at present, someone can buy a lot, tear down the existing house and replace it with a two family structure by right; whereas a home owner, who wants to add a second unit, has to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, which is potentially costly and time consuming.
None of these recent or current ordinance changes will create or guarantee affordability much less capital A, deed restricted affordability. But they do open up the opportunities and possibilities of more affordability across many wards of the city and therefore the CALA team supports all of them. This third set of proposals had unfortunately been misunderstood and misrepresented by many, surfacing cries it will change our city forever, it will make the city too crowded, and there are those who say it will bring in more outsiders. This latter set of proposals is also got mixed together with the possibility of MBTA housing zones and the cry from some is the State is shoving this down our throats. These last proposals had NOTHING to do with the possibility of MBTA housing zones. To date, neither the Planning Board nor the GCC has begun to discuss that set of possibilities – either those elements that could be positives or those that could be negatives.
As a result of all these actions, the current team members from CALA have recognized the need to create a stable, permanent, on-going Housing Advocacy Team/Organization that will always be present and ready to engage on housing issues that arise – thus the creation of Housing for All Gloucester (H4AG). The Essex County Community Organization has this year also designated the need to expand affordable housing as its central goal with local Gloucester ECCO members joining with H4AG in these endeavors.
In addition, H4AG recognizes there needs to be a resident entity to work alongside the Affordable Housing Trust to take a proactive stance on creating and/or encouraging affordable housing, both deed restricted, and that which is financially affordable to the residents of Gloucester where area mean income is approximately half of the larger region’s area mean income.
This income reality makes clear the need for a very large range of housing and number of housing units that are affordable.
Summary prepared by Sunny Robinson,
with CALA and H4AG Team members.
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