By Lor Holmes
Skyrocketing housing costs are displacing Revere residents like never before. When a family is forced to move to find affordable housing, their sometimes generations-deep connections to the community are broken, and Revere loses a little part of its identity. If we want to preserve our neighborhoods and the diverse cultural community we value, we have to build much more affordable housing, quickly.
Revere has seen a historic surge in new development, most visible where new apartment complexes lure commuting professionals and higher wealth suburbanites to Revere Beach. More than 2,500 of these high priced units have sprung up in the past three years and hundreds more will soon be built. In this same period only 51 units of affordable housing were built. There were 1,450 applications for those 51 apartments. In this super hot housing market developers will not build affordable housing unless policy makers require it. The City Council should pass Mayor Arrigo’s proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance as soon as possible.
Inclusionary zoning as proposed (IZ) will require developments larger than six units to make 12% of units affordable. For example, a 500 unit property would include 60 units with rent priced as affordable for a family earning 60% of the Area Median Income, which translates to $56,000 for a single person and over $80,000 for a family of four. This Area Median Income is calculated based on a broader region including higher income communities such as Saugus, Winchester, and Winthrop, where incomes are significantly higher than the actual median in Revere. This leaves out most young RHS grads, essential workers, school and city employees and the majority of the 12,000 households in our community who cannot find housing they can afford.
According to the city’s 2020 comprehensive master plan, Next Stop Revere, (available online at revere.org/next-stop-revere), nearly half of Revere households are threatened with displacement due to rising housing costs. The plan documents “a large share of Revere’s population has difficulty affording market-rate housing costs, which continue to rise. Creating deed-restricted Affordable Housing will be beneficial to a wide variety of households.” It goes on to say that “71% of participants at the housing public forum ranked both the creation and preservation of deed-restricted affordable housing as a high priority goal.” Clearly there is broad public support.
Inclusionary Zoning is one critical step forward and an important tool that will enable the City to take action to accomplish its goal for more affordable housing. There is no time to lose. Rapid construction has bypassed thoughtful policy as Revere’s supply of developable land and real estate are quickly shrinking. As of now there are no provisions in the City of Revere to sustain affordable housing for our residents. Residents are being displaced due to rent increases and those seeking home ownership are priced out in the hot market. If the citizens and our elected officials care about affordable housing now is the time to act. Revere should join more than 140 MA cities and towns that have adopted inclusionary zoning provisions.
The Revere Housing Coalition (RHC) is a Revere-resident-led voluntary group who advocate for fair, affordable, and diverse housing that meet the needs of people in our community of different incomes, abilities, household types, and stages of life. As members of the Coalition, we have seen the heartbreak of families priced out of their hometown. We’ve spent years listening to residents, meeting with public officials and private developers and weighing possible solutions. Adopting the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance will be an important next step but we need to do much more to catch up with the huge proven need for affordable housing solutions in Revere.
The RHC had hoped the IZ policy would require more affordable units and deeper affordability, but that would have required approval of a home rule petition by the state legislature, and Revere cannot afford to wait for that. So we urge passage and rapid implementation of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Affordable housing policies can demonstrate the city’s commitment to preserving our vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, where young people, seniors, and families from all walks of life may thrive with affordable rental and home ownership opportunities. The Revere Housing Coalition will continue to push for additional policies and investment to sustain accessible and affordable housing options for all Revere residents.
For more info contact the Revere Housing Coalition, @reverehousingcoalition, [email protected]
Lor Holmes is a member of the Revere Housing Coalition. Additional RHC resident member signers are Fatou Drammeh, Jan Dumas, Vanny Huot, Olga Tacture.