We need bold action to address housing affordability in Somerville. Somerville is thriving, and lots of people want to live here. Young people want to live in hip cities and baby boomers are returning to the urban core. However, many of the people who have helped make our beloved city a wonderful place to live are being forced out by rising rents and home prices. What’s at risk is the ethnic, racial and socio-economic diversity we treasure and the legacy that generations of working-class and immigrant families have established in Somerville. We cannot lose that.
There is a growing crisis across the region; Greater Boston’s housing supply has not kept up with population growth and demand causing escalating housing costs regionwide. The demand for housing near public transit is even more intense. So ironically, the Green Line Extension—so important for our economy, good jobs, environment and quality of life—intensifies the affordable housing challenge we face. Every time we hold an affordable housing lottery, we are inundated with a flood of applications from lower-income households.
Middle class families with children looking to settle here find a dearth of options in their price range. Artists, teachers, social workers and even our own city employees are struggling to stay. And speculators are contacting homeowners, offering cash, looking to profit from the work we’ve put in to make Somerville a great place to live, work, play, raise a family and retire.
This month, we launched the Sustainable Neighborhoods initiative—a comprehensive plan that builds upon the city’s many ongoing initiatives to address affordability. Very specific immediate steps are included in this initiative, but we’re just getting started and the effort will grow as we quickly identify additional solutions to pursue. As a key step toward this, we are creating a Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group, engaging community members and city staff with a broad range of expertise and experience.
We don’t have the luxury of time, so we’ll be asking the Working Group to make its initial recommendations in the early spring. Earlier this year, the city partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Somerville Community Corporation on a report that detailed the likely effect of GLX on housing affordability. Somerville could become a mostly professional, upper-middle class community if we do not undertake decisive action—and if the 101 cities and towns in Greater Boston fail to do their part in creating the 435,000 new homes needed by 2040.
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