Newburyport, Linkage Fees and Affordable Housing

I was talking to a resident who knows a whole lot more about affordable housing than I do (basically I know zip.)

What I was told is although the Community Preservation Act (CPA) money will go far for open space and historic preservation, affordable housing is very, very expensive.

Housing needs to be bought, and is incredibly expensive, then most probably it needs to be rehabbed, more expense, and then I gather a long term maintenance program needs to be set up. All of this, I would imagine would require a great deal of red tape and an amazing amount of time and energy.

The term “linkage fees” came up.

Now I’ve never heard of linkage fees before, but looking it up very quickly on the Web I got this information:

A linkage fee “requires developers to pay into a housing trust fund. The rationale for linkage is that developers should pay for the impact their projects have on the community.” (Boston Globe, September 9, 2002)

“Boston’s linkage program requires that developers pay an exaction to construct affordable housing.” (Boston Redevelopment Authority)

If the City of Newburyport ever decided to set up linkage fees for affordable housing, which I gather from the little research I’ve done, it would be extremely complicated and it would require an intact and skilled Planning Office. (And we know at the moment that our Planning Office under Mayor John Moak is in complete disarray.)

So why bother with affordable housing? If Newburyport had an appropriate number of affordable housing units (as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier), Newburyport would not be under the shadow of 40B housing projects like the one Mayor John Moak has resurrected on the Woodman property on Low Street.

40B housing has a huge impact on the historic character, charm and beauty of Newburyport, MA and also, at least in the case of the Woodman property, adversely affects the environment (see previous posts.)

And it would also make Newburyport more economically diverse, a concept I happen to like. It would obviously give people who do not make unbelievable amounts of money or who were lucky enough to buy property before housing prices went through the roof, to have a chance to live in our seaport city, which I happen to think is a good thing.

Mary Eaton