Council Updated on Affordable Housing Numbers

Chelsea has one of the highest percentages of affordable housing units in the state, but one City Councilor wants to ensure that housing remains truly affordable for Chelsea residents.

District 6 Councilor Giovanni Recupero recently requested an update on the number of affordable housing units in the city.

At last week’s council meeting, outgoing City Manager Thomas Ambrosino provided an update with the latest subsidized housing inventory prepared by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in April of 2022.

“It provides a breakdown of each building with affordable units in the city,” stated Ambrosino. “The DHCD recognized 2,416 subsidized units, or 19.19 percent of our total housing inventory.”

However, Ambrosino said there are several caveats with that figure.

“The city has notified DHCD that a handful of subsidized units are missing from this inventory,” stated Ambrosino. “Further, and more importantly, this inventory is based on housing statistics from the 2010 census. DHCD does not anticipate updating this inventory with more recent numbers from the 2020 census until mid-2023, so this inventory and the percentage numbers are a little misleading.”

Ambrosino also addressed Recupero’s questions about the number of units occupied by residents who already lived in Chelsea.

“Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine how many residents residing in these units were previous Chelsea residents before occupying these subsidized units,” stated Ambrosino. “You should note that the city does encourage all developers of new affordable units to provide a preference for existing Chelsea residents for the maximum allowed by federal housing laws.”

Recupero said affordable housing is an important issue and a big need in the city.

“I wish there was more affordable housing, but actually for the people of Chelsea to be able to afford it,” said Recupero.

He said that oftentimes, the developers of the affordable units get a tax break for those affordable units, and that the price of the market rate apartments are driven up and aren’t affordable for Chelsea residents.

“You build 70 units, and 10 out of those 70 units are affordable, and seven go to Chelsea people, so all the other units are not affordable for Chelsea people,” he said.

Recupero said he would like to see the next major building development in Chelsea consist of 100 percent affordable units and for the city to continue to advocate for affordable units for Chelsea residents.

District 1 Councilor Todd Taylor questioned the numbers used by Ambrosino from the state.

“I believe the state put out numbers in 2014,” said Taylor. “These numbers are fairly antiquated and I didn’t realize we had to go back to 2010. I believe there are state numbers from 2014 and they have a higher percentage of affordable housing than 19 percent, I believe it is 21 or 22 percent.”

Ambrosino noted that the information from DHCD was from April of last year, even though the statistics relied on 2010 census data.

“The total housing unit number that is the denominator is based on the 2010 census,” said Ambrosino. “They will change it eventually based on the housing statistics from the 2020 census. As soon as they change that denominator, I expect our percentage, even with additional units, will drop from 19 percent.

“We will still be far and away one of the communities in the commonwealth with the most affordable housing, but we could be in the 17 percent range.”

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