Councilors Agree on Fee Haverhill Developers Must Pay if Opting Out of Building Affordable Homes

Merrimack Place, developed by Bethany Community Services on Water Street, offers 48 affordable apartments. (WHAV News photograph.)

It took a while to get there, but the Haverhill City Council reached agreement on Tuesday regarding the amount the city will charge certain developers who do not designate at least 10% of new projects as affordable housing.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini re-introduced the topic, emphasizing the need to secure lower cost homes.

“We all know we have two problems in the City of Haverhill regarding housing. The first is we just don’t have enough of it. The second is, of the housing that we have, a lot of it is just not affordable. We welcome growth and investment in our city, but not every developer is doing their part to make certain that they take care of people who can’t afford the luxury units that they build,” he said.

For that reason, the mayor proposed an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance last March, requiring all new multi-family housing developments of more than 10 units include 10% affordable housing or the developer must pay a one-time fee which would go toward creating suitable housing for low-income residents.

Since then, the Council has been struggling to agree on a dollar amount those developers should be charged. Last month, councilors considered three amounts. The first proposal was $50,000 per unit, whether a rental or buyer owned. The second was $50,000 for a buyer-owned unit and $30,000 for a rental and the third was $50,000 for ownership units and $20,000 for rentals. All three proposals failed to muster the six votes necessary for passage.

On Tuesday, despite an ardent plea by the mayor to come to a consensus, there appeared, early on, to be a continuing difference of opinion on what the buyout figure should be. Council Vice President John A. Michitson continued to call for the $50,000 figure while Councilor Shaun P. Toohey advocated for a lesser amount.

Eventually, councilors were able to scrape together enough support to approve a fee of $50,000 for buyer-owned units and $35,000 for rentals. The final vote was 6-2 with President Timothy J. Jordan and Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua opposed and Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski absent.

Councilors also agreed to a change when that fee must be paid from the time of the issuance of the building permit to the time of occupancy. That amendment passed by a 7-1 vote with Michitson opposed and Lewandowski absent.

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