Council President Roy Avellaneda proposed that the City look at a list of vacant parcels and investigate the ability of taking those properties in order to build more affordable home-ownership opportunities.
On Monday night, Avellaneda said he knows the Council and the City have done as much as they can, but he feels like they should take the next step in looking at Eminent Domain takings.
“I think we’ve done everything possibly allowed to the City Council,” he said. “I would argue that we can never do enough and one way is we could do like the City did years ago and use Eminent Domain and friendly takings. They did that with One North and Chelsea Clock to create economic development. Maybe we should look at other parts of the City…I don’t want to sit here and be reactionary to what’s going on with private development and don’t want my advocacy to be limited to testifying before the Zoning Board and then letting the market do what it does.”
The idea of Eminent Domain takings is controversial, but it was one used often when Chelsea was climbing out of receivership and beginning to develop thousands of new units in the Everett Avenue area of the city. Now Avellaneda said perhaps bringing that back in the neighborhoods and focusing on vacant lots could be a spark for affordable home ownership opportunities. He said it may or may not be possible, but he would certainly like to investigate the possibility.
That is especially true now due to the program initiated with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, whereby that City Board is looking to build affordable housing on City-owned properties.
“I don’t take the thought of Eminent Domain takings lightly, but maybe it takes bold, drastic action such as this to create opportunities for our residents,” she said.
Earlier in the meeting, resident and AHTF member Norieliz DeJesus said she supported the idea, and thought it could be a way for her to become a homeowner. While she said her landlord has been wonderful throughout her life in Chelsea, she also would like the stability of being able to own a home in Chelsea – something that is now out of reach for her in the current market.
“I feel like one day as I continue to grow my family, that maybe I won’t be able to stay in Chelsea,” she said. “As we start to see open parcels and properties, those could be opportunities and we should be thinking of our existing Chelsea families as the first to get them. They will have great pride in Chelsea. They won’t be absentee landlords. Let’s keep this pipeline going.”
Councillor Leo Robinson introduced a piece Monday night to look at the numbers of City employees now requesting waivers to move out of the City, yet still keep their City jobs. Several such waivers have come up over the last few years, with many people selling in the hot real estate market and moving elsewhere.
“We seem to be cultivating a workforce that is moving out of the City and we have a number of residents looking for employment,” he said. “A lot of people say it’s upward mobility and I’m not against that. But I would also like to see that upward mobility offered to more Chelsea residents. These City jobs and DPW jobs are jobs people got because they lived in Chelsea. I think we need to have a conversation about alternatives to all these waivers.”
Councillor Enio Lopez said he agreed with looking more into the matter.
“A while ago there was a person who moved to New Hampshire,” he said. “I think we have people in Chelsea looking for jobs. Giving these waivers to people moving away from the City, I’m against that. There are a lot of people that live in Chelsea that want to work.”
City Councillor Todd Taylor requested that the Council quickly move to schedule a Conference Committee to discuss the proposed new fireworks fines and regulations he put forth more than a month ago. Last year, fireworks rocked the City and angered many residents as they went off all night long – a problem that affected many of the urban areas in Greater Boston.
Councillor Enio Lopez said he wanted to get the Conference scheduled soon as the fireworks season usually begins in late May.
“Last year it was crazy,” he said. “If people have the money to buy these fireworks, they can pay a fine. It was a disgrace last year.”
The City Council voted 8-0 to approve another grant of $500,000 from the Shah Family Foundation to fund the Chelsea Eats Debit Card. The program began last year and was aided by many who felt it was a pilot for a Universal Basic Income. So it is, much of the program has been funded by private donations, and this was the latest organization.