This is a message to Chelsea residents who believe that affordable housing in our city is a good thing. If you believe this, then I urge you to vote for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) when you vote on November 8.
Currently our housing stock contains approximately 17% affordable units. This percentage far exceeds that in all neighboring communities. It is an important percentage. One we are proud of. It represents the ability to preserve our diversity. It is an indication of Chelsea’s willingness as a gateway city to provide housing for our most vulnerable residents. The 17% is now threatened by dilution. It will get smaller as new market-rate, rental projects without affordability come into our housing stock. The 17% will be diluted when existing multi-family residences are converted to condos. These diluting forces are at work in our community. And we all know the result: Gentrification.
I have served on the city’s Economic Development committee when new housing projects were approved. I have been your Treasurer for nine years and I am a member of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund board. I have lived in Chelsea for sixteen years, longer than I have lived in any other place and I have seen significant changes occur in our city. Some good. Some, not so much. That developers want to invest in Chelsea is a good thing. That existing owners are more likely to maintain and improve their own residences is a good thing. That we are losing affordable units as the rents skyrocket in the remaining rental properties is definitely not a good thing. I do not believe that gentrification is a dirty word. Gentrification is a steam locomotive. I believe it is better to drive the train than stand in front of it. To drive the gentrification train, the engineer needs many tools. The Community Preservation Act is perhaps the most powerful tool to prevent the gentrification-caused dilution to our affordable housing stock. The City Council and City Manager Tom Ambrosino are wise to support the CPA.
The CPA is a state sanctioned financing mechanism whereby a community adds a modest extra amount to real estate taxes. In our case the city council is proposing 1.5%. To the revenue this will raise, the state then adds a much larger amount. The total revenue can then be spent on affordable housing; open space and recreation; and historic preservation. A city board will allocate the funding among the three categories. There are 161 communities that have accepted the CPA. Most spent the majority of the revenue on affordable housing projects. I estimate that the CPA will add about $50 to my tax bill. I am willing to pay this sum in order to create the revenue necessary to prevent further dilution to the affordability ratio in our city. I might add that as a proud community gardener and a board member of the newly formed GreenRoots, a Chelsea non-profit that concerns itself with environmental justice for all Chelsea residents, I am happy that my extra taxes and the state’s contribution will also create more open space and encourage historical preservation. We estimate that approximately $600,000 CPA generated revenue will be available for these three purposes.
I encourage Chelsea residents to take charge of the changes occurring in our city. The Community Preservation Act is a tool to help us steer the train. I urge us to vote for the CPA when we vote in November.