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MHP gives Beverly Housing Hero award

Posted on June 11, 2018

DEVENS --- The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) has recognized the City of Beverly with a Housing Hero award for achieving one of the most consistent records for housing production and preservation in the Commonwealth.

“One way to describe Beverly is to imagine that neighbor who has all the tools and knows how to use them,” said MHP Director of Public Affairs Rus Lodi during a June 7 awards luncheon at MHP’s 12th annual Housing Institute. You name it, Beverly's got it. Inclusionary zoning, CPA, 40R and an affordable housing trust, just to name a few."

MHP honored Beverly for using local resources to leverage other resources to support housing at a variety of income levels. Recent achievements include:

  • Combined state Community Compact funds with local Community Preservation Act funds to craft a housing plan that calls for the production of both affordable and market-rate housing, and outlines the impacts new housing will have on services and schools.
  • Used payment-in-lieu-of funds from inclusionary zoning to start its housing trust and then used those resources to leverage almost a million dollars from the state's Community Scale Housing Initiative for the development of six downtown apartments for the low-income and homeless.
  • OK’d a plan by the local nonprofit Harbolight Community Partners and the North Shore YMCA to redevelop the existing downtown Y. Forty-five existing SRO units will be enlarged and 24 SRO units will be added.
  • Used a federal PATH grant to help create a 40R district that will create 75 two- and three-bedroom apartments, with 20 set aside for the homeless or formerly homeless. At public meeting to air the idea back in November, over 100 residents showed up to support it.  
  • Rewrote its 2007 inclusionary zoning law to be more flexible across a variety of income levels.
  • Pushed for and signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Bevely, Salem and Peabody to work together to create housing for the homeless. This effort was led by Mayor Michael Cahill.
  • Celebrated the groundbreaking  of a 67-unit, mixed-income transit-oriented development on a MBTA parcel nar the Beverly Depot commuter rail stop.
  • Is now working with the public on establishing a transit overlay district on industrial land near one of its five commuter rail stops.

The Baker-Polito administration just approved the city as one of its Housing Choice communities, making it eligible for grant funding and giving it preferential scoring for additional funding from programs like MassWorks.

Why is Beverly so bullish on housing? The reasons are varied. The city has a history of diverse neighborhoods, from the mansions in Beverly Farms to the many three-deckers that housed thousands of shoe industry workers.

Harborlights Executive Director Andrew DeFranza said Beverly has always been a place where working people could live, and where there are neighborhoods for all types of incomes. He said there is a consciousness about this history and that the housing and zoning reflects that.

There is also a solid core of citizens who keep the community focused on housing. Some are from the First Baptist Church, which started the nonprofit that became Harborlights in the 1980s. Many of these same people have served or still serve on city entities like the planning board and city council. 

There is also consciousness that 10 percent affordable housing isn't enough. Beverly is at 11.6 percent so it has reached legal safe harbor. "There is an assumption by many that 10 percent is based on analysis," said Beverly Planning and Development Director Aaron Clausen, who accepted the award on behalf of the city and Mayor Michael Cahill. "We recognize 10 percent is the first step. Thirty-five percent of Beverly residents pay more 30 percent for housing. The need is greater."

Clausen praised the leadership of Mayor Cahill for continuing to make housing a top issue for the city. “The mayor’s leadership has been critical to our success in moving forward policy, leveraging funding and supporting specific development projects,” said Clausen.

In a written statement, Cahill thanked the state and the City of Beverly for their support. “The people of Beverly have embraced our efforts to provide the housing so desperately needed by all age groups across all income levels,” he said. “With the unwavering support of Governor Baker and his administration as well as that of all local stake holders, we are creating new housing for people at all income levels, for individuals and families, and for Beverly seniors, so people who want to call Beverly home can continue to do so. We are honored to receive this award.” 

The award was presented at MHP's 12th annual Housing Institute, a two-day training for local officials and volunteers. Since 2011, MHP has held an awards luncheon on the second day to honor communities and individuals for their efforts to initiate affordable housing development. Also receiving a 2018 Housing Hero Award was Elizabeth DeMille Barnett for her 11 years as housing coordinator for the Town of Carlisle.

For more information about this award and MHP’s assistance to communities, contact Rus Lodi at rlodi@mhp.net.