Statement from BCDC President, Deborah Brown, about Town Meeting and its effects on the future of affordable housing in Brookline. November 10, 2022
Dear Town Meeting Members,
I am writing to you on behalf of Brookline Community Development Corporation (formerly known as the Brookline Improvement Coalition) to express our support for Article 41 and serious concerns about three articles that are on the warrant for the current Town Meeting, Articles 11, 12, and 13.
Our mission is to advocate for and develop affordable housing in Brookline and to ensure that low and moderate-income Brookline residents are connected to economic opportunity and to a social safety net. We also are working to empower low and moderate-income Brookline residents and amplify their voice in the community.
We believe that it is essential that more quality affordable housing be created in Brookline, especially more opportunities for families. The Brookline Housing Advisory Board (HAB) is in the midst of updating Brookline’s Housing Production Plan (HPP). A recent presentation of data to the HAB revealed the need for more housing for low and moderate-income families and this is consistent with the previous HPP.
Of approximately two thousand affordable rental units on the subsidized housing inventory for Brookline, less than 40%, or seven hundred and fifty (750) units serve families. Most of the rest serve elderly and special needs populations who are also in need of low and moderate income housing. People over 65 make up 16% of Brookline’s population, while more than 60% of our current affordable housing inventory is restricted to elderly and special needs populations.
If we are to meet the need for affordable housing in Brookline, we need new tools to promote and incentivize that development. The Town has adopted inclusionary zoning and more recently the Community Preservation Act but, while these tools are important, they are not sufficient for the challenge we face. That is why the Brookline Community Development Corporation supports the adoption of Article 41 which would charge the Housing Advisory Board with developing a plan for an Affordable Housing Overlay District.
Because the Town has met the threshold criteria for Chapter 40B, which will end the flexibility that 40B offers affordable housing developments, it is even more important to create new ways to promote affordability. Other nearby communities have moved to create affordable housing overly districts and this proposed study by the HAB will help Brookline achieve a similar objective.
Warrant Articles 11, 12, and 13 are likely to make it more difficult to expand the supply of affordable housing in Brookline. They will make it more difficult and time-consuming to develop housing of any kind without achieving any significant benefits for the community. Affordable housing developers who are seeking to effectively utilize the resources provided by local and state governments do not have the financial flexibility to absorb long delays in project development and are especially impacted by measures that impose additional time in the development process. State affordable housing programs already seek to limit the per-unit development costs. Thus, developers advancing projects from communities with high land costs often face challenges in securing state resources. Additional delays would be one more obstacle to feasibility.
Taken in sum, these three measures could make it significantly more difficult to develop much needed housing. These provisions could also make it more difficult for the Town of Brookline to comply with the requirements of Chapter 40-A, the MBTA Zoning Guidelines. We urge the Town Meeting to take these concerns seriously as it considers action on these Articles. We believe that Article 41 will move Brookline forward, and we urge your support. Conversely, we have strong reservations about the impact of Articles 11, 12, and 13. Thank you for considering our concerns. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President of the Board of Directors
Brookline Community Development Corporation