Having been unable to reach consensus on a couple of key sticking points, the City Council’s Housing Committee will hold a sixth hearing on proposed changes to the inclusionary zoning ordinance on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 2:30pm at City Hall. Yes, this is the same day as the state’s election primaries, and, yes, 2:30 is an inconvenient time to hold a public hearing on an issue of great importance to working people. The scheduling reflects that the need for a sixth meeting was unanticipated and the urgency the committee feels to forward its recommendations on to the Ordinance Committee. Our sense of urgency increased following a Black Lives Matter protest at City Hall last Wednesday, the day after the Housing Committee’s fifth hearing. The Sept. 8th hearing will be televised and live-streamed, however. Public comment may, as always, be emailed to the Council at email@example.com and placed on the public record by cc’ing City Clerk Donna Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The main sticking point is how long it will take us to reach the net 20% inclusionary requirement, which was recommended by the Rosen study, and endorsed by the Community Development Department and the Affordable Housing Trust. Most members of the Housing Committee have expressed agreement in principle that 20% is the goal. The suggestion placed on the table at the last hearing is to require 13% at the time of ordination, increase it to 15% in six months, and to 20% one year from the date of ordination. The percentage that applies to a project would be calculated at the time a project obtains its special permit (or building permit for a project that does not need special permits).
At the hearing I expressed concern that the the Ordinance Committee hearing process and the subsequent Council vote could take several months (at least 6 votes are required for a zoning change; a super-majority of 7 is preferable). I feel the process has already dragged on and developers have been on notice for the better part of a year that 20% is our policy goal.
To recap the timeline and the procedural process ahead:
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA