By SCOTT JACKSON
Future residential developments in the new Quincy Center will be required to comply with the city’s affordable housing requirements after the City Council voted to remove the exemption previously given to urban renewal projects.
The council approved amending Quincy’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to remove the exemption in an 8-1 vote Tuesday night. The vote followed a public hearing in which three residents – including the Rev. Sheldon Bennett, who warned the downtown could be an enclave for the affluent, and James Ikeda, a teacher at Quincy High, who said housing costs might force him to move outside the city – spoke in favor of the amendment, with no one opposed.
Mayor Thomas Koch will sign the amendment into law, according to his Chris Walker, his communications director.
The requirements will not apply to two projects already in the permitting stage – Chestnut Place, a 15-story, 124-unit apartment building planned for the Hancock Lot, and Nova Residences, a 171-unit apartment building planned along Hancock Street.
Councillors Brian Palmucci and Joseph Finn had introduced the amendment to the city’s zoning code in March. Palmucci and Finn both said at that time that the affordable housing ordinance was amended to exclude downtown developments when the city was negotiating with previous master developer Street-Works, because its agreement with the city included contributions to a fund for affordable housing.
Finn, at Tuesday’s meeting, said the testimony at the public hearing from Bennett and Ikeda underscored the need for affordable housing in the downtown.
“There’s nothing I can add that you didn’t hear in terms of the need for such a measure that you saw demonstrated in the public hearing, particularly the words that Rev. Bennett brought to it but also from the gentleman who testified to the reality of what’s going on out there in terms of affordable housing,” Finn said.
Palmucci likewise pointed to comments Bennett and Ikeda made during the hearing.
“I will just point to the comments that were made tonight in support of this at the public hearing. What the reverend said tonight…if we don’t change this, the downtown will become an enclave for the wealthy, and that was striking because that’s really what it will become,” Palmucci said.
“We heard from the Quincy teacher who said he’s struggling to stay in Quincy because of the lack of affordable housing, and it makes you think he’s good enough to teach our kids during the day but not good enough to be our neighbor after work.”
Palmucci introduced an amendment – approved unanimously – to the original proposal that exempts Chestnut Place and Nova Residences from the requirements because they both applied for approval with the Planning Board prior to April 1. Palmucci said it would be unfair to change the requirements those projects must comply with at this point.
Councillor Noel DiBona cast the lone dissenting vote against the change in the zoning code. He said he was wary the requirements could stifle further development in the downtown.
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” DiBona said. “I don’t want to lose the momentum that we’ve got going, so I won’t be in support of this.”
Quincy’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance currently applies to all residential projects in the city that require a special permit, variance or site plan review from any board or commission and include 10 or more residential units. Under the zoning code, 10 percent of units in applicable projects must be made affordable – targeted at residents who make less than 80 percent of the median income for the area. Developers can also opt to make a payment into the affordable housing trust fund in lieu of building on site units.