A Massachusetts city girds for housing pressures
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In 2008, Reconnecting America urged Somerville, Massachusetts, to take “strong, proactive steps” to ensure that the city’s coming wave of rail expansion produced “equitable transit-oriented development.” The fear was that as the regional transit authority extended its Green Line commuter rail service and added a station on the Orange Line, existing low- and moderate-income residents would see better-heeled people move in and bid up the price of housing.
One action the densely-built, approximately four-square-mile municipality took to alleviate the pressure was to adopt an inclusionary zoning ordinance. The mayor, Joseph A. Curtatone, “is very committed to restoring what was once a vibrant network of transit-line access that Somerville lost in the 1950s and ‘60s,” says Planning Director George Proakis. “He believes it’s critical to supporting sustainable development in the long term. At the same time, the mayor recognizes that part of Somerville’s appeal is its social and economic diversity, and he’s determined to preserve it.”
In most parts of the 76,000-population city, the ordinance mandates that at least 12.5 percent of housing in new developments be affordable. This requirement applies to any development containing 8 or more units. In the densest transit-oriented development districts, 15 percent of the units must be