Managing Neighborhood Change Toolkit: Local Project Work

Applying national and other best practices at the local level, MAPC has completed work for several metropolitan area municipalities to address the impacts of major local investments. Projects range from technical analysis of anticipated neighborhood change prompted by the Green Line extension in Somerville to an anti-displacement plan for the Shirley Avenue neighborhood in Revere. Projects include an analysis of strategies to prevent displacement and harness the positive impacts of neighborhood change for a broad spectrum of residents.

Chelsea Silver Line Corridor Transit-Oriented Development Action Plan

The City of Chelsea could undergo significant neighborhood change with the extension of the Silver Line and adjacent shared-use path. The city and the region will benefit from five additional stations connecting people to jobs in the Seaport and Downtown Boston (through the East Boston Blue Line connection). Service is expected to begin in 2016, while the greenway will be constructed in 2017.

In 2015, the City partnered with MAPC to develop an Action Plan that will ensure the forthcoming Silver Line and the investment it spurs promote fair access to housing, jobs, and other amenities in alignment with city and community values. The plan will outline short- and long-term steps for advancing equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) along the corridor, and draft zoning language to be presented for adoption by June 2016. It will be informed by a robust public process, including forums, focus groups, interviews, and other engagement.

In addition to analysis of existing conditions, land use, transportation infrastructure, residential and commercial markets, and health impacts, the plan will include an assessment of how the corridor might change with the Silver Line extension and strategies to manage that change so as to more equitably distribute the benefits of new investment among people of all walks of life.

Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030

Jenny Raitt, Assistant Director of Land Use Planning and Chief Housing Planner of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, sat on Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Housing Task Force 2014. In that role, she guided development of the city’s housing strategy, Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030. In accordance with a vision for an equitable and diverse city, the plan aims to establish housing policies and programs that will support housing preservation and production of 53,000 new housing units by 2030. This includes housing for low-income and middle-income households, for seniors, and for students.

Salem Point Neighborhood Commercial Corridors Revitalization Plan

The Point neighborhood in Salem is characterized by its accessibility, vibrancy, ethnic diversity, significant supply of affordable housing, and immigrant-owned small businesses. In 2014, MAPC and the North Shore Community Development Corporation undertook a Salem Point Neighborhood Commercial Corridors Revitalization Plan to advance the housing and economic development vision outlined in the Salem Point Neighborhood Vision and Action Plan (2013). The Revitalization Plan evaluates the retail market, housing, and mixed-use redevelopment potential of parcels in the Congress and Lafayette Street corridors. It aims to boost economic activity, inclusivity, and connectivity in the Point. Towards that end, the plan outlines a set of goals and strategies to encourage greater public and private investment in the corridors while mitigating the displacement of current residents and businesses.

Everett Housing Production Plan

In January 2014, the City of Everett engaged MAPC to develop a Housing Production Plan (the HPP) that will help address need and demand over the next five years. Everett is a dense city with a growing population and number of households and increasing household size. Since 2000, the white population has declined from 75% to 50% of the total, while the minority population has proportionately increased. The housing stock is predominantly single-family homes, majority rental, and among the oldest in the Inner Core. More than half of households are cost-burden and more than half of households are categorized as low income. Meanwhile, sale prices are increasing and rental rates, though relatively low for the sub-region, exceed HUD-calculated fair market rents (except for efficiency units). The city does not meet the State-mandated 10% target of affordable housing.

The HPP establishes eight goals and myriad strategies aimed at preserving and increasing the city’s housing stock accessible to low- and moderate-income households. This includes achieving preservation and production goals; directing funding and programs to address unmet need; minimizing the displacement of lower-income Everett households and businesses; promoting healthy housing and living; ensuring adequate zoning regulations and policies to advance housing development; building community awareness of housing issues and activities, and engaging community development partners; improving existing and building new infrastructure to facilitate housing development; and leveraging new funding sources for affordable housing development.

Managing Change in Somerville: Impacts of the Green Line Extension

The Green Line Extension (GLX) through the City of Somerville will dramatically improve transit mobility in the area. New growth attracted to Somerville may expand housing opportunities, increase ridership and fare revenue, and bolster municipal finances with new tax revenue. However, previous experience in Somerville and across the country suggests that the creation of new transit service may also result in unintended negative consequences if rising rents and land values cause the displacement of the low- and moderate-income residents who comprise the “core users” of public transit.

To better understand this phenomenon, MAPC completed an analysis on the neighborhood changes that may occur in Somerville as a result of the GLX. Rent increases and the conversion of rental units to condominiums are the most significant mechanisms of potential displacement; but the greatest threat to overall affordability is slow housing production. MAPC estimates demand for 6,300 to 9,000 new housing units in Somerville by the year 2030; if new supply cannot keep up with this demand, prices may rise even further, making it more difficult for low-income families to move to or stay in Somerville.

This work was informed by a month-long discussion series co-hosted by the City of Somerville, the Somerville Community Corporation, and MAPC. Participants explored housing needs, affordability, gentrification, and strategies for an effective housing agenda to promote housing for all in the city. Community members discussed topics ranging from family housing to gentrification and displacement.

The first forum began with a talk by Rachel Bratt, a professor emeritus at Tufts University, about what constitutes family-friendly housing. Affordable, good quality, safe, comfortable, transit-oriented, and accessible to good schools were some attributes attendees agreed on. The second half of the night was spent discussing how the City and its community partners can develop more housing that matches this description.

The next meeting included a presentation by Tim Reardon, Assistant Director of Data Services at MAPC, on the “Dimensions of Displacement” report, which explores anticipated impacts of the Green Line extension on the Somerville housing market in new station areas. Participants discussed what gentrification is and why it happens, and how the community can work together to ensure changes coming to Somerville benefit all segments of the city’s population.

At the third and final forum, community leaders shared the housing themes that emerged during discussions at the previous two meetings, and then attendees participated in small groups to prioritize those issues. Discussion later explored how the City and its partners can use various strategies and best practices to tackle them, from inclusionary zoning to acquisition of land near new Green Line stations for developers to create affordable housing.

The series revealed the community’s fervent desire to maintain Somerville’s diversity, vibrancy, and sense of community in the face of current and future neighborhood change. By acting early and assertively, Somerville is positioned to welcome change in transformative areas of the city without sacrificing what makes it so desirable in the first place. And a vocal and invested constituency, including those who came out to shape Somerville’s housing agenda, must see that it does.

The final report estimates the magnitude of the displacement risk through a variety of mechanisms so that the City and community partners can focus efforts on mitigation strategies likely to be most effective. This work intends to provide local officials, leaders, and community members in Somerville with a set of indicators of neighborhood change, a mechanism to track change over time, and the appropriate tools to mitigate change. The indicators measure the city’s demographic diversity, housing cost burden, auto ownership and usage, and livability.

Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund Health Impact Assessment

MAPC conducted a health impact analysis (HIA) to examine the potential health effects that could result from investments made by the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund, a $30 million private equity fund created by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC). The model considers the community, environmental, and health benefits of a proposed project, as well as the financial risks and returns. The HIA examines three transit-oriented development projects in the City of Boston as case studies, and considers anticipated social and economic changes in a community as a result of new investment, such as those prompted by HNEF work.

Community Investment Tax Credit Health Impact Assessment

In collaboration with Health Resources in Action (HRiA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), MAPC conducted a health impact analysis (HIA) to assess the effects of a new funding opportunity for community development corporations (CDCs). As the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) developed the Community Investment Tax Credit Grant Program (CITC Grant Program), it sought to better understand connections between community development activities and health. The HIA explores these connections and identifies health metrics (health outcomes that result from the investment of tax credits in communities) that can be evaluated with information provided by CDCs to assess the impacts of new investment over time.

Shirley Avenue Housing & Economic Development Analysis

The Shirley Avenue neighborhood in Revere is a diverse low-income community located in close proximity to Revere Beach, an area where the City is aggressively pursuing development. In order for this neighborhood to benefit from new development, it was critical for the community to come together to put an action plan in place. The plan includes many anti-displacement strategies, especially related to the maintenance and preservation of affordable housing and the stabilization of the local business corridor.

With funding provided by grants from the District Local Technical Assistance program, the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Gateway Cities Housing Planning Grant, and the Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation, MAPC worked with The Neighborhood Developers (TND), the City of Revere, and Madden Planning Group to conduct a housing and economic development analysis as part of a neighborhood action plan led by TND. All project partners participated in a community planning process through the facilitation of meetings and community outreach and conversations. Over 120 residents participated in five community meetings where they helped devise an action plan for the Shirley Avenue neighborhood that improves the community in four key topic areas: housing, economic development, quality of life, and infrastructure. Many other residents participated in the process through Steering Committee membership and Task Force membership, as well as through surveys and online comments.

In May of 2014, the final community-driven action plan was presented. Mayor Daniel Rizzo and all participating organizations and residents signed onto the plan, affirming their commitment to implement it. This plan will serve as the guide for neighborhood improvements going forward. The housing and economic development analysis included in this plan outlines existing conditions in the Shirley Avenue neighborhood and includes preliminary recommendations for action steps based on key data findings and input from the community. The research and recommendations provided in this analysis will be incorporated into the forthcoming community plan.

Mystic Valley Parkway Green Line Extension Community Visioning Process

MAPC led a community visioning process to examine how a future Mystic Valley Parkway station could foster transit-oriented development in the area, while minimizing negative impacts on the local community. Chapter 5 of this report specifically addressed displacement mitigation strategies that would enable current residents to benefit from the Green Line Extension.

Local Community-Based Organizations Working on Neighborhood Change

Other community-based organizations working to address neighborhood change in and around Boston include: