Candidates’ Responses to Questionnaire on Affordable Housing in Medford

Note: This content has been provided by Housing Medford in September 2019.  Only candidates for city council and mayor were approached.  For the same answers, organized by candidate, click here.

 

Q1

An Affordable Housing Trust is a fund into which a city can set aside assets so that they can be used for affordable housing, using any of a number of potential funding sources. Do you support the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust in Medford?

Michael Marks: Yes, I support 100% the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust in Medford.

Zac Bears: Support. Medford should create an Affordable Housing Trust immediately. Medford should also explore creating a Community Land Trust, a non-profit entity that could purchase properties and keep them out of speculative transactions and hold their value at levels that are affordable for working families.

Nicole Morell: Yes.

Steve Collicelli: I absolutely support the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust in Medford. We need a new approach to affordable housing, an approach that recognizes that an unregulated real estate market will continue to price our seniors, our young folks, and the workers that everyday make Medford such a livable community out of it.

Curtis Tuden: Yes. Community trusts will play an important role in the future of Medford housing. Part of my campaign platform includes a Community Land Trust that would address affordable housing in addition to climate change impacts.

John Falco: I was the Chair of the subcommittee that created Medford’s first Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that increased the required number of units that a developer must set aside as affordable units. While this is a concrete step, I feel that we need to do more. The creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which could provide financial support for rental, homeownership and mixed-use projects as well as housing for the disabled, is one idea that we need to pursue. Like many parents, I wonder where my three young sons will live when they are on their own. If they choose to be in Medford, it could be a financial burden that they cannot shoulder. Now more than ever, with the spike in rents and real estate prices, the lack of affordable units limits not just our children and grandchildren, but all those that would consider calling Medford home.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): Support.

Stephanie M. Burke: (candidate for Mayor): Support. I am currently working with the Community Preservation Commission to develop an affordable housing trust.

 


 

Q2

The sources that could be used to fund an Affordable Housing Trust include, among others, the CPA, real estate transfer fees, linkage payments, short-term rental taxes, PILOT, and inclusionary zoning fees. If you support the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust in Medford, what approaches would you support for funding it?

Michael Marks: I would support the following funding sources to create an Affordable Housing Trust: Linkage Payments, short term rental taxes (AirBnBs), PILOT, CPA, budgetary line item, Inclusionary Zoning fees.

Zac Bears: An Affordable Housing Trust and Community Land Trust could be funded from a variety of sources. I support the continued use of CPA funding for affordable housing, but Medford must also move quickly to implement a short-term rental (AirBnB) tax at the maximum rate, increase Tufts PILOT payments to the city, and negotiate larger Community Benefits Agreements with large developers. In the long run, we should explore a real estate transfer fee and move forward on a home rule petition to that effect.

Nicole Morell: I am in support of linkage fees, use of CPA funds, and short-term rental taxes. I am also in favor of increased funding via PILOT as a lack of Tufts housing is a contributing factor to high rental prices in Medford.

Steve Collicelli: In order to adequately fund an Affordable Housing Trust, I would support the transfer of 10% or more of CPA funds to the AHT. In addition, as City Councilor, I would support a real estate transfer fee to help fund the AHT as long as it exempted all owneroccupied sellers and all buyers who intend to become owner-occupiers. I would also support some funding coming from a renegotiated PILOT with Tufts University.

Curtis Tuden: To specifically address affordable housing I think increasing fees on real estate transfers, linkage payments (especially for multiple home owners in the City), and inclusionary zoning are all good approached. PILOT also has huge potential to be a funding resource.

John Falco: I support the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust in the City of Medford and would support the following funding mechanisms.

  • CPA
  • Linkage payments (from developers)
  • PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes from non-profit organizations)
  • Inclusionary Zoning fees (from developers)

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): CPA, short term rental taxes with a discussion on both and all listed above.

Stephanie M. Burke: (candidate for Mayor): I would support the dedicated funding from the CPC and inclusionary zoning fees. Additionally, CDBG resources and HOME funds could be garnered to support additional units.

 


 

Q3

Would you support strengthening Medford’s new Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO) to increase the percentage of affordable units required as well as a deeper level of affordability, as has been recommended by Housing Medford and the Community Development Board?

Michael Marks: Yes, I would support much deeper levels of affordability and a much higher percentage of affordable units then what currently exist.

Zac Bears: Support. We need to look at increasing the percentage of affordable units significantly above 15% and look at how we can provide affordable units for middleincome households and working families above the current income caps.

Nicole Morell: Yes. I have publicly advocated for this and support increasing the IZO percentage to 15% for units of 10 or more and 20% for 50 or more units. I would also explore setting aside some of these units or additional units for households making up to 60% of AMI to ensure that those more in need have an opportunity for this housing.

Steve Collicelli: I would support an increased percentage of affordable units on new developments, especially large projects involving 100+ units. In addition, I support changing the IZO requirements to include units affordable to those hardworking folks earning 60% of median income.

Curtis Tuden: Yes. Increasing affordable housing minimums is a must for Medford. There should be a plan to steadily increase the percentages annually to levels that match and then surpass our neighboring cities.

John Falco: Yes. I was the chairperson of the subcommittee that developed Medford’s new Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO). I always envisioned the passage of this ordinance as a start, but I firmly believe that there is more that can be done to improve it. This ordinance, like many ordinances, should be reviewed regularly to see if it can be improved and strengthened. I would support strengthening the ordinance to increase the percentage of affordable units and to review affordability standards.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): Support. I advocating for the latest update to the IZO from 10% – 15%. I do believe that we need a deeper level of affordability and will work with the city council and Housing Medford to make that change.

Stephanie M. Burke: (candidate for Mayor): Support. I would like to see the next iteration of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to included 60% AMI and workforce housing.

 


 

Q4

For new residential development on City-owned property (e.g., the parking lots around City Hall), would you support affordability requirements at a higher level than that required of developments on private land?

Michael Marks: Yes, The city must lead by example so I would support higher levels of affordability on city owned land.

Zac Bears: Support. Any new residential development on city-owned property should have affordability requirements that are at least twice as high as those on private land.

Nicole Morell: Yes.

Steve Collicelli: I support a minimum of 15% affordable housing on all new projects involving City-owned property with that requirement rising to 18% for all projects involving more than 50 units.

Curtis Tuden: Yes. The days of housing development that prioritizes profit over people needs to end and Medford should be a leader in that effort.

John Falco: Decisions regarding residential development on city-owned property need to occur on a case by case basis. Since the city is the owner of the property there would be room for negotiation and an increase of affordable housing could be a condition of any Request for Proposal (RFP). Generally speaking, I am a proponent of creating more affordable housing in Medford.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): Support. I would be open to that discussion. I had a resolution on the 8/13/19 agenda that requested it for the Mystic Ave. Corridor.

Stephanie M. Burke: (candidate for Mayor): Support.

 


 

Q5

Do you support zoning changes to allow increased density for multifamily housing in exchange for a higher share of affordable units?

Michael Marks: Yes, as long as the neighborhood and direct abutters concerns were being addressed.

Zac Bears: Support. I would support this under specific conditions. We need more affordable units, and we need to make sure that increased density is distributed equitably across the city, reflects a shared vision from abutters and the neighborhood, and guarantees strong Community Benefits Agreements from big developers to help pay for essential city services and projects.

Nicole Morell: No. There have been multiple high-density developments built and planned in recent years with not enough attention paid to the changing zoning needs of the city. We need to better understand what units exist, how they are meeting current needs, and how many sit empty, as well as look at our zoning comprehensively before we make decisions like this. There is a real opportunity to utilize a community housing trust to convert existing units and homes to affordable housing as well as preserve the affordability of units with expiring affordability restrictions.

Steve Collicelli: Medford is already seeing massive housing projects proposed under the State’s 40b statute, projects which the community will have little or no input upon. That’s why I would support allowing increased density for new projects in specific neighborhoods like our Squares and along Mystic Avenue, where increasing density makes sense and fits the neighborhood.

Curtis Tuden: Yes. There are many reasons Medford needs to increase the housing supply and increasing density is the only option.

John Falco: Increasing density raises many concerns to an already complicated issue. Recently the Mayor proposed a zoning change to the Mystic Avenue Corridor (MAC). This proposal would have increased density and put a heavy strain on existing infrastructure. The proposal was opposed by many neighbors and residents throughout our community and was subsequently withdrawn.

We need to weigh the benefits of affordability against the repercussions high-density development could have on the integrity of our neighborhoods. I led the charge to hire a zoning consultant because our zoning has not been reviewed in over 50 years, and I am deeply committed to this process. In the coming months, we will hire a zoning consultant that will assist the City Council by reviewing our local zoning. I firmly believe in zoning that is in the best interest of our residents and not those looking to make a quick profit at our expense. I am not afraid to stand alone against irresponsible development. I was the only city councilor to speak against the proposed Canal Street project in West Medford at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

Because of its proximity to Boston, Medford is a prime location. We need to stand up against developers who are only concerned about maximizing their profits without regard to our residents. I have always sought to protect the character and integrity of our neighborhoods from development that is burdensome and ill-planned.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): It would depend on the project and location.

Stephanie M. Burke (candidate for Mayor): I support efforts to create mixed use development in the city. As a Councilor, I worked diligently on Station Landing Mixed Use Zone (MUZ) and have offered Mystic Ave. Corridor zoning.

 


 

Q6

The loss of affordability in Medford has been accompanied, as elsewhere, by the displacement of residents. Among the approaches that have been proposed to protect residents from displacement are rent control, limits on condo conversions, tenants right to counsel, a real estate transfer fee, and regulation of short-term rentals (such as AirBnB). Note that several of these options would require State legislation and/or a home rule petition to implement. What approaches would you support, if any?

Michael Marks: I would support a regulation that would impose an annual fee on AirBnB’s for per night rentals which has had a devastating impact on the reduction of rental units in the area.

Zac Bears: I strongly support the immediate regulation of short-term rentals, such as AirBnB. Medford currently has the authority to levy a local tax option on short-term rentals. We must levy this at the maximum rate. We also need to use the existing state law to create a registry of short-term rental units. AirBnB and other companies are exacerbating our housing crisis. I also think that tenants right to counsel is essential and must be seen as a basic right.

In the long-term, I would support a home rule petition to institute a real estate transfer fee, especially targeted at big, out-of-town developers and house-flippers. I would also support state-level legislation to end the statewide ban on rent control and stop restricting the tools that cities and towns can use to address their housing needs.

Nicole Morell: I am in favor of limits on condo conversions and regulation of short-term rentals as well as tenants’ rights to counsel.

Steve Collicelli: As a City Councilor, I would support transfer fees on all real-estate transactions that do not involve owners who live (or intend to live in the units). In addition, I support a tenants right to counsel and would work to make City Hall a resource center that would effectively and efficiently connect residents facing displacement with the help (whether it comes the city, the state, the federal government, or private nonprofits) they need to stay in their own homes.

Curtis Tuden: If elected to the City Council I promise to have an open mind for all approaches and work with residents to determine the best path forward.

John Falco: I hope that the housing market regulates itself. It appears that we are in the apex of the market and I’m hopeful that the cyclical nature of the market will cool off in the near term. Independent of this is the regulation of AirBnBs and other similar operations. I do believe that we need to look at the regulation of short-term rentals because studies indicate that they limit housing supply, increase housing prices, and fuel gentrification.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): The City needs to create an ordinance to regulate AirBnBs. We also need to work on adding more affordable units to help those being displaced such as our seniors, new graduates, and families.

Stephanie M. Burke (candidate for Mayor): I would support a real estate transfer fee and further regulation of short-term rentals.

 


 

Q7

Given the acute shortage of housing regionally, what ideas do you have about ways that Medford can do its fair share and work with other communities to think regionally about the problem?

Michael Marks: To address the acute shortage of housing regionally, Medford should examine loosening the regulatory barriers that raise the cost of building housing. Additionally as a community we must also address the issue of homelessness and ways Medford could assist families and individuals in finding permanent housing.

Zac Bears: Medford needs to make sure that new development is based on a strategic plan and reflects our community’s shared vision for the future. We can help address the regional crisis, but it has to happen within that framework. We need to help current residents stay in their homes while we welcome new residents to Medford. First, I would suggest that regional community leaders come together and create a standard Community Benefits Agreement for large new property developments. I also think that regional community leaders need to come together around a zoning and housing bill at the state level that truly addresses the affordability crisis. We can’t afford any more Beacon Hill giveaways to big, wealthy property developers.

Nicole Morell: Working with other communities in the area is imperative. Medford is one of dozens of communities in the state designated as a Housing Choice community, which opens us up to financial resources in support of building more housing. The city is already committed to building more housing, and I believe it would be beneficial to have an ad hoc group for local legislators to better understand how housing and development is being approached in surrounding communities. We need a firm understanding of how development, and lack thereof, in surrounding communities impacts Medford.

But more importantly, I think more conversation needs to happen within the city. Housing increases do not happen in a vacuum. They impact our schools, our infrastructure, and our city resources. As Medford works to do its fair share, it’s important to understand that housing changes within the city impact Medford uniquely. We need to have a plan to balance housing development with increased need for resources within the city.

Steve Collicelli: Medford’s shortage of affordable housing is just one piece of an elaborate puzzle involving all of the Greater Boston region. In order to solve this puzzle, we need to work closely with partners across the region. We should be working more closely with Somerville and Boston to help renegotiate our PILOT agreement with Tufts to ensure the University is doing it’s fair share. In addition, we need to work with our neighboring cities to establish a set of best practices for local zoning as well as a regional plan for tackling the housing shortage. Lastly, City Hall could and should do more to help current homeowners, especially our seniors, add accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes referred to as “granny flats” or “in-law apartments.” These new housing units help incrementally increase our overall housing stock without the community upheaval often associated with largescale development projects, while allowing long-time residents looking to downsize their living space and/or add an income source to help them stay on their property the opportunity to do so.

Curtis Tuden: I’m grateful that groups like Housing Medford because members have an expertise that I don’t possess when it comes to housing. Working together and finding new ideas from outside the City will be a top priority for me as a Councilor. In addition to the issues from this questionnaire, I will also guarantee there is housing reform to address our serious need to make housing more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

John Falco: I am pleased that Medford has committed, along with the City of Boston and surrounding communities, to increase affordable housing. As a father of three, I would love to have my children living close by but worry about their ability to do so. I believe that Medford’s elected officials should meet with housing advocates to assess housing needs, develop an affordable housing plan, and work towards innovative solutions like partnering with developments on city-owned land.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn (candidate for Mayor): We have to work together and figure out the best locations to add housing. Reaching out to other cities and towns to figure out what works and what doesn’t would be a start. Transit oriented developments are where the City needs to look to first. Taking a look at family in-law units and additional dwelling units to prevent displacement is also important.

Stephanie M. Burke: (candidate for Mayor): As part of the Metro Mayors Coalition, we have publicly supported measures to increase housing production in the region. I have signed and testified on behalf of the Governor’s Housing Choice Bill.