Spicer on Apartments & Housing in Framingham

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SOURCE emailed all three mayoral candidates on July 29 and asked each a series of questions on housing, apartments, and the current apartment moratorium. The questions included:

Housing is a hot issue in Framingham. The City of Framingham is coming out of an apartment moratorium soon. Single-Family homes are selling above asking price. Affordable housing and workforce housing are hard to come by in Framingham. Even with so many residents unhappy with all the apartment, many of the new complex are more than 75% rented, but the rents are not affordable. The Framingham Housing Authority has a wait list. What is your plan for housing for the City of Framingham? Be specific. What zoning changes would you request? What developments would you support? Did you support the moratorium? Why or Why not? What type of housing is missing in Framingham? What can you do to keep Framingham affordable for the low and middle class? At the end of your term in December 2023, what will housing in Framingham look like?

The Mayor’s campaign submitted their responses to the digital news outlet at 7:57 p.m., 5 minutes after the campaign posted it on the Mayor’s Facebook page on July 31. SOURCE had requested all candidates respond no later than 9 p.m. on July 31.

Below is the response:

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Mayor Spicer’s Plan for Workforce Housing and Building Wealth through Homeownership
Focus on Workforce Housing and Home Ownership to Help Residents Build Wealth

FRAMINGHAM – Over the last four years, we have made significant progress addressing the housing shortages in our community and redeveloping some of our blighted and underutilized plazas:

In Nobscot, the long-underused property will soon be replaced by 160 housing units in
addition to commercial space and a pharmacy. We have secured a $3.4 million
MassWorks grant to redesign and improve the adjacent intersection.

  • In the former Mount Wayte Plaza, which had been vacant and declining for a number of
    years, a new, 210-unit apartment complex, The Buckley, has recently opened its doors to
    residents. A new restaurant, The Buckley Kitchen and Bar, on the same site has also
    opened doors and is becoming a new culinary destination.
  • The two developments in the Central Business District that Town Meeting approved back in 2017, the Alta Union House at 75 Concord Street and the Mill Creek Modera at 266 Waverly Street, are well underway to full occupancy.
  • The structurally unsafe Bancroft Building has been reengineered and transformed into a loft-style apartment building with 160 units. An additional 98 units are available on the same site. These apartments are currently renting as well.
  • Refurbishing is slated for the Carlson Crossing, which consists of 31 federally owned buildings on Carlson Road, Pusan Road and Beaver Street and houses low- and moderate-income residents. The Framingham Housing and Development Corporation is using funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to repair the sewer and electrical systems and to renovate the units. When completed, a total of 68 new and renovated units will house Framingham residents, including new accessible units.

A total of 1,400 housing units were permitted between August 2016 and February 2020 and of those, 876 are in the Central Business District. Framingham’s business community is united in
supporting this growth.

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Creatively attracting commuter-oriented professionals downtown has been good for business and has helped immensely during the pandemic to keep businesses afloat during this difficult time. These residents will continue to play a pivotal role as we recover from the pandemic and support businesses downtown.

Despite permitting many new units, our housing stock is still low. Single-family homes are selling above asking price. Accessible, veteran, senior, and workforce housing are still in short supply.

With the moratorium on building multiunit housing expiring in September, 2021, we need to
focus on measured, targeted development in Downtown and across Framingham.

I did not support the moratorium, as we had not exhausted all other options and it came at a price for Framingham’s economic progress and access to state and federal funding.

As your Mayor, in my second term I will continue to engage in deliberate conversations and collaborations for economic development planning, including housing and business growth.

It is imperative that we examine our zoning regulations in collaboration with the Planning and
Zoning boards and City Council to make sure we are not limited in our options for creating
workforce housing.

I maintain my commitment to preserve open spaces and minimize traffic impact with a targeted development in specific underutilized areas. Economic growth and workforce housing will be my priority. I will work to create home ownership pathways to help our residents put down roots while building wealth. I will plan for the future of housing in Framingham with care for our older adults, residents with disabilities, veterans and under-resourced families.

Our Future Lies in Mixed-Use Buildings with a Variety of Businesses and Diverse Housing Options


The City has hired RKG, a consulting firm, and is in the process of completing Phase II of the
Economic Development Strategic Plan. As a part of the survey, we will identify what type of housing and what scale of development will best benefit Framingham in the future.

In the meantime, housing availability and affordability remains a priority in our work to build a
resilient, green city with a revitalized economy. In our Long Range Strategic Plan, released in
December 2020, my administration laid out the objectives for attracting appropriate growth.

We need to take advantage of our existing infrastructure and transit options so that new growth will benefit our economy without adding to the traffic on our streets. Mixed-use clusters with a variety of businesses and a range of housing options are the solution. They will boost our housing stock at all affordability levels and address the shortages in accessible housing options for our older adults.

My administration is pursuing this path, among other objectives outlined in the Strategic Plan, such as:

Addressing housing and affordability by considering a range of housing types, including senior housing, housing stock for varying generations and retaining our current residents by offering more affordable options
○ Building upon strategic partnerships with major corporations, small businesses, and community organizations in Framingham and the greater region
○ Building an environment in Framingham that attracts businesses and the jobs they create, by offering infrastructure, transportation, housing, and quality of life amenities
○ Valuing the arts and the creative economy as integral elements of Framingham; Exploring opportunities to further support and grow the arts and the creative economy

Reevaluate Zoning to Encourage Mixed-Use Development and Reimagining Underutilized
Properties


With the ongoing shift towards remote and flexible working arrangements, the demand for traditional office space is projected to remain low. The opportunity to reimagine the vacant large-business properties is knocking on our door. The path ahead is to transform these underused buildings into energy-efficient mixed-use complexes where a variety of businesses,
retail, services and housing can harmoniously coexist. This will require reimagining these spaces in collaboration with the property owners, city departments, the Fair Housing Committee and exploring changes in zoning regulations. By creating walkable mixed-use developments in these currently under-utilized spaces, Framingham will preserve open space, minimize traffic, and grow our economy by encouraging new business and expanding our tax base. Importantly, mixed use development in existing sites of underused office space, with smart zoning changes, will allow for retirement, workforce and intergenerational housing, which will improve housing options at all income levels.

As your Mayor in my second term, I will continue my partnership with the MWRTA to study the
use and impact of public transportation. Most recently, our city team benefitted from a study and technical consulting on transportation in South Framingham through the Mayor’s Institute on City Design. We will develop transportation options that will service these new mixed-use
clusters. I will also create broader options for transportation across the city, including microtransit, bike and ride shares, to connect residents to shopping, dining, and services in all
parts of our city.

Evaluating our zoning regulations to allow mixed-use development in the underused sites
throughout our city and expanding the transportation options to encourage walkability.

Also, we need to thoughtfully and thoroughly consider allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). In other parts of the country, ADUs have shown to be an effective way of creating additional housing stock. Like considering tiny house communities, we need to first and foremost preserve our open spaces, and possibly use existing properties that are underutilized. This work is ahead of us and in my second term I will explore all available options to encourage the right mix and amount of housing development for Framingham.

Access State and Federal Funding to Empower Equitable Development

In my second term, I will tap into targeted development for workforce housing. We need housing that will be affordable to our essential working families, like our nurses and teachers, to ensure that their needs are met. A family with one or two working members should be able to comfortably live, raise their family, and enjoy our city.

Every year in Massachusetts there is state funding available to cities to address their housing
shortages but Framingham has missed out on some of these funding opportunities. On July 15,
2021, the Baker-Polito administration announced another $139 million in funding and tax credits to produce and preserve affordable rental housing. Through the Department of Housing and Community Development, the administration is awarding $93.3 million in direct subsidy funding and another $45.8 million in federal and state housing tax credits. With the housing moratorium expiring in September, 2021, my administration will take advantage of these opportunities to bring additional state and federal funds to Framingham. I will work closely with our city departments and City Council to ensure we meet criteria and deadlines in order to achieve this goal.

Encourage Home Ownership for First-Time Framingham Buyers to Build Wealth

Owning a home right here in Framingham should not be out of reach for any resident. Whether you are a millennial looking to purchase your first condo or a family looking for more space to grow, I will encourage home ownership. I will help our residents who currently rent to put down roots in our city.

Owning a home creates resiliency and wealth, helps close the racial wealth gap, and stabilizes our economy.

In my second term as your Mayor I will work towards soliciting public input, designing, and
implementing a program for Framingham residents who are looking to purchase their first home.

I will explore partnerships with local financial institutions and developers to bring the best
possible options to help our residents purchase a home. I will explore ways to secure seed
funding for programs designed to build wealth through homeownership. I will work with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to bring first-time buyer low-down payment programs to Framingham. We will explore all available options to help residents purchase and stay in their own homes and build wealth over the long term. In the words of Marcia Fudge, US Secretary of HUD and former mayor, “accessible, affordable, safe housing” is one of 23 rights of “all Americans to live a life free from poverty and its impacts.”

Grow Opportunities for Our Youth in the Trades

We will work with Keefe Technical High School, our unions, and employers to encourage our
young people to use their talents to learn and practice in the trades.

In 2021, I established the Mayor’s Youth Internship Program (MYIP) to provide an opportunity to 116 youth to earn a paycheck while learning new skills and exploring careers at 65 locations across public, private, and nonprofit sectors across our city. I will expand this program to include the trades. Building and maintaining homes remains an important component of our economy. The associated trades offer profitable, stable career pathways for our youth. As a former director of career and technical education, I have first-hand knowledge of the value added of a career pathway in the trades. I will encourage our young people to learn and practice the trades that will support home ownership and will provide a path to owning a home.


In my second term as your Mayor, I will work with our local housing organizations, advocates,
stakeholders, and residents to encourage the right scale and mix of energy-efficient housing
development in Framingham. I will focus on maximizing the economic development benefits to
our city and wealth building to our residents, while minimizing the impact on our environment
and traffic, and preserving our limited resources. I will tap into state and federal resources to
grow our workforce housing and will encourage homeownership. I will help our young people
explore and learn the trades and will plan for the future of all of our residents. This a solid and
workable plan for building resiliency in Framingham.


editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176