Waltham Blog by Jennifer Patton - March 2019

April 4, 2019

Waltham Housing Policy
Community Preservation Committee
City Council

Dear Mr. Barrett and Committee Members:

My name is Jennifer Patton and I live in Waltham. I am a small property owner and landlord. I am also a board member of the Charles River Rental Housing Association. My fellows and I provide independently run safe housing in the Greater Boston area. We are an affiliate of Masslandlords.net, a state-wide organization. I speak for myself.

There is not enough affordable housing. You can't open a newspaper without reading about the issue. The Governor proposes to reduce the number of City Council votes required to pass zoning changes so more dense housing can be built. He is committed to building more housing of all types.

We need as communities to plan long term solutions. Let's put CPA money towards the renovation of properties the City already owns. The Marquardt and Tarbell buildings at Fernald are real options. Some buildings already have accessibility features, important to provide to our population. Let's put CPA funds to work. We can set the level of affordable units to even more than the 15% the City may require.

In the interim, we have a pilot program -- the Waltham voucher -- to provide relief today to eligible income families. I applaud this work and wish it to continue. No one knows what will happen at the end of the 3 year program. It may need to be extended and/or expanded. We clearly do not want the program to create homelessness. I look forward to WATCH providing a substantive update to the community about the current status of the program.

However, I am opposed to WATCH's deed restriction proposal. While I could argue nuance and potential future problems, my main concern is that it is flat out rent control. It sets a cap on how much rent would be paid over a 10 year period. This policy is illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I expect this is why WATCH could not find any example programs across the state.

The City of Waltham faces opportunities and challenges in the near term. We are building a high school, for which we are already looking at an average of a $500-$600 increase to annual property taxes. This could be even higher for landlords as properties held in trust, etc. do not receive an exemption. This projection does not include the costs of the new Moody St fire station and proposed police headquarters. Costs continue to rise and the program does not reflect this reality.

We need sustainable solutions for the future.

Please send comments to Jennifer Patton at jmpatton@gmail.com.

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