Council Looking at Affordable Housing Opportunities

The City Council is continuing its discussions on the appropriation of $75,000 for appraisal and consulting services that could eventually lead to the creation of affordable home ownership opportunities on Suffolk Street and Congress Avenue.

The Council’s Subcommittee on Conference held a second meeting on the issue on Monday evening. If approved by the full City Council,  down the line the appraisals could lead to the friendly taking or taking by eminent domain of parcels by the City, according to Council President Roy Avellaneda.

“The first step is to get the appraisal values to see what parcels could be involved,” said Avellaneda.

The Council President said there has been some misunderstanding about the process, and that the city is not spending $75,000 to take anyone’s homes or properties by eminent domain. The money currently under consideration is only for the appraisal services.

“We are trying to engage with the parcel and lot owners,” said Avellaneda. “A lot of those parcels are unused and empty.”

Avellaneda said there is the opportunity for the creation of affordable deed ownership homes along the stretch. While there have been a number of affordable rental developments either proposed or built over the past several years, Avellaneda has pushed for more affordable home ownership opportunities.

“At the end of the day, I am steadfast in my goal to see if we can create affordable home ownership,” he said. “There is a lot of misunderstanding about what affordable home ownership opportunities look like and what they are priced at.”

The recent subcommittee meetings have focused on talking to the property owners along Suffolk and Congress.

Monday, representatives from Eastern Salt were before the subcommittee to discuss properties they own and plan to develop along Suffolk Street.

In particular, Avellaneda said he was interested in lots at 68, 72, 74, and 76 Suffolk streets.

“We’re happy to talk to the City around any subject, including affordable housing,” said Joe McNamee of Suffolk LLC and Eastern Salt. “We do that for our employees and tenants in (our) units now, but we don’t believe eminent domain is the way to go.”

Avellaneda said that the lots he was interested in were those that are currently vacant, and asked if Eastern Salt had any plans for those undeveloped lots.

McNamee said many of the lots are currently used by the residents of the adjacent two-family homes for parking.

However, Dan Adams, an architect working with Eastern Salt, said there are plans for the residential development of those properties tied into planned commercial development by Eastern Salt on Marginal Street. He said some of those properties mentioned by Avellaneda could be used for parking and yards as plans move forward for smaller scale residential development on Suffolk Street.

Adams said Eastern Salt has been working with the city since 2016 on development plans stretching from the waterfront back to Suffolk Street.

“What we believe is a good thing is a waterfront used for marine industrial with the north side of Marginal Street used for mixed-use commercial to generate as many jobs in Chelsea as possible,” said Adams. “What you see on Suffolk Street is descaling, where a lot of the buildings there are just two or three stories.”

Avellaneda asked what type of housing units would be developed on Suffolk.

Adams said there would be a diverse mix of multi-family stock, but that they would most likely be rental units.

“I look at this area and I say, what can we do to improve living conditions in this neighborhood, housing affordability, because most of it is all rentals, so the question is what can we do?” said Avellaneda. “And to me, the answer is let’s see if we can create home ownership opportunities in that neighborhood.”

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