Haverhill Considers Requiring 10% Affordable Housing at New Projects; Mayor Plans Task Force

Architect’s original rendering of three proposed condominium buildings on Railroad Street.

A growing chorus of Haverhill residents are complaining about the rising cost of rental housing as local and state officials blame a shortage of stock causing supply and demand issues.

Now, the Haverhill Planning Board will consider an ordinance requiring 10% of units at new housing projects—both single and multifamily—be set aside as affordable, while Mayor James J. Fiorentini plans to name a Housing Task Force to give advice on “the best ways of providing housing that includes providing affordable units in these developments.”

“While we certainly welcome people to Haverhill that have the means to buy or rent market rate housing, we must always be cautious that the average Haverhill resident is not priced out of living here,” the mayor said Thursday in a letter to city councilors, who will also consider the ordinance Sept. 21.

Fiorentini has embraced Gov. Charlie Baker’s position that creating more housing will eventually drive rents down, but his administration has not publicly fought for affordable units at any of the recently approved complexes. These include a 290-unit apartment complex near the Bradford commuter rail station, 48 condominium homes at 38 Railroad St., an 18-unit apartment building on the site of the former Arthur Sharp Hardware store on Middlesex Street, six triplex condominium homes at a new subdivision at 1240 Boston Road or others.

During his 2019 state of the city address, he said, “The shortage of housing is causing rents to skyrocket to levels unheard of in this city. Many families can no longer afford to live here.  This hit home to me last month when my daughter was looking to move to Massachusetts from New York City. She tells me some of the downtown Haverhill rents are higher than she pays to live in New York City.”

The mayor said he introduced the proposed ordinance to require 10% of housing units built from now on to be affordable. It will be heard by the Planning Board Aug. 11. In the letter to the City Council, he called the legislation “a first step.”

Another step will be the Housing Task Force and asked councilors to “consider sending this policy initiative to one of their subcommittees.”

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