We all need a place to live. A stable housing market is the foundation to a healthy community, underpinning job stability, children’s development, access to good jobs, and the economic potential of the community itself, from small business owners to individual workers. Making sure everyone has a safe, affordable, decent place to call home is one of the most important areas of focus for local government, and Amanda will bring deep professional expertise to her role deciding housing policy in Malden.
While we can’t change development decisions made in the past, Malden’s future leaders can work with the existing market to make sure any future development includes benefits to the community, from making sure today’s Maldonians can afford to stay here, to instituting policies that reduce car ownership and traffic, to taking a wholesale fresh look at our outdated zoning code as a way of making sure our own bylaws allow the kind of development residents want.
Tools Amanda will propose for Malden:
- A long-overdue Inclusionary Zoning ordinance, which would mandate affordable units be built in any future housing development. In Massachusetts, cities and towns can set their affordability standards, and we should aim for the most aggressive policy the market can support. Amanda will push for at least a 15% affordability requirement.
- Creation of an affordable housing trust fund. With the right city policy in place, developers would be compelled to pay into this fund in lieu of actually building affordable units, and this fund could then be used to take at-risk parcels off the speculative real estate market. We could also devote monies raised by the Community Preservation Act, a portion of which are required to benefit affordable housing, toward such a trust fund.
- A sensible and proactive approach to short-term rentals in Malden. While our city has not yet been hit as severely as Boston when it comes to services like Airbnb impacting the rental market, we should not wait for Malden to become the next hot spot before instituting a local policy. A new state law compels us to collect basic data on short-term rentals, and also allows municipalities to levy a simple local impact fee. Malden should not waste time in adopting this, and the revenue should support a comprehensive anti-displacement strategy. We should reward responsible hosts who already operate in Malden and bring tourist dollars to our neighborhoods, while not losing sight of the need to capture revenue from non-owner-occupied short term rentals that take needed housing off the market.
- Designating an empowered authority to implement the recommendations in our Housing Needs Assessment, which utilizes Census data to evaluate gaps in our current housing market by income band, with proposed policy solutions. Malden is still a majority low-income community, and nearly 70% of our low-income residents are cost-burdened, meaning they devote more than a third of their income to keeping a roof over their head. Worse, more than 20% of all Malden households are “severely cost burdened,” paying more than half their income toward housing costs. As a community, this constitutes a major crisis, and we cannot delay in fixing it.
Amanda will also push for Malden to become a leader in considering innovative housing solutions that are proven components to a healthy market but which haven’t been attempted extensively in this area yet, including: multi-generational co-housing, flexible artist housing that goes beyond lofts or studios to include family-focused contexts, micro units, accessory dwelling units by right, empty-nest developments that cater to child-free households without imposing inflexible age restrictions, and low- or no-parking developments that promote car-free living. In most cases, we lack both clear ordinances that would allow these uses, coupled with onerous regulations around minimum lot sizes, setbacks, and height caps, which come together to severely restrict our ability to consider flexible housing types that could keep new college graduates, downsizing seniors, families, and others from being displaced from the city they love and want to call home. Allowing accessory dwelling units adjacent to owner-occupied houses in particular could be a straightforward way to open up home ownership to more people, provide smaller-unit living for those seeking it, add value to owner-occupied stock that would then increase our tax levy, and increase our subsidized inventory. This is a model that has met with great success in comparable housing markets, including across the Pacific Northwest, and could be a solutions-oriented path for Malden.
Amanda believes Malden must also ask more of incoming development proposals, as the city holds more leverage over community benefits than we have previously exercised. In a strong real estate market, there is no reason for vacant store fronts, parking areas that lack car-sharing or electric vehicle charging stations, inadequate bike parking, poor street-scape enhancements or new buildings without climate-readiness and renewable energy features.
Malden is also unique among peer municipalities in not having a local CDC (Community Development Corporation) serving the city, and would be well served to develop closer relationships with existing CDCs interested in partnering with Malden on creating housing and building healthy, sustainable neighborhoods for working families. Amanda is also a proponent of creating a CDC to serve Malden’s neighborhoods, and would support a non-profit forming to apply for state certification as a local CDC.
Metro Boston has a serious housing-supply and -cost crisis, and Malden should take steps immediately to reduce pressure on both prices and people. If we don’t work quickly to alleviate the cost of living and working here, we will lose many longtime residents and face an income-segregated community with a worsening racial wealth gap. Malden was ahead of the trend toward Revolution in 1776 by making the first move to declare independence at the Continental Congress, and we can lead boldly again today by acting swiftly and decisively to tackle the most serious issue facing our economy and livability.