Haverhill Convenes Roundtable to Resolve ‘Urgent’ Lack of Affordable Housing in City

State Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy speaks during a 2021 visit to formally open affordable housing units. (WHAV News photograph.)

Representatives of Community Action, Northeast Legal Services and housing advocates received a preview last Friday of Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s plans to require housing developers to set aside some units as affordable housing.

The round-table discussion came a little more than a year after he asked the Haverhill Planning Board to consider an ordinance requiring 10% of units at new housing projects—both single and multifamily—be set aside as affordable. The city did not require developers, however, to provide lower-priced apartments when taking bids to sell 4.5 acres of city property downtown this past spring.

“I heard a lot of great ideas and suggestions today,” Fiorentini said in a statement after Friday’s meeting. “People and families call me every day with heart-wrenching stories about losing their homes or being at risk for losing their homes.”

The mayor, who called the lack of sufficient affordable housing “Haverhill’s most urgent problem,” asked participants to share ideas and input on what can be done to address the problem. In the meantime, he said, the city has some federal and local money, but it will not solve the long-term problem.

“The real problem is lack of housing and lack of affordable housing,” he said. “But we also need some short-term solutions.” Fiorentini said he has no power to unilaterally solve the housing crisis, but he has used his office’s bully pulpit to convince landlords to help tenants.

Northeast Legal Services gave information on what it is doing to help tenants. The mayor offered the group free space in City Hall for lawyers to help.

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