MEDFORD, MA — Medford has seen some of the highest increases in housing costs of any community in Massachusetts, according to a draft plan to address affordability shortcomings. The Housing Production Plan, a five-year strategy for creating and preserving affordable housing in the city, found a $280,000 gap between what a household earning the median income could afford and the median cost of a single-family home in Medford.
State law sets the minimum threshold of affordable housing units at 10 percent on at least 1.5 percent of total land area. In Medford, there are 1,726 affordable units – or 7.2 percent – but less than 5 percent of the city’s single-family homes are considered affordable to households earning the area median income.
About 21 percent of households are both low-income and spend too much of their income on housing costs, according to the plan.
Despite recent development in Medford, the city has had low overall housing growth over the past several decades compared to the rest of Middlesex County and Massachusetts, and vacancy rates are significantly lower than the threshold considered “healthy” for a stable housing market, the plan found. This indicates a discrepancy between supply and demand, which can result in pressure on housing prices.
There is a need for more housing overall, and particularly housing that meets the needs of Medford’s residents. Two-thirds of households are one or two people, but only 16 percent of housing units are studios or one-bedroom units. The creation of smaller units could free up larger units for families and larger households, promoting downsizing for empty-nesters, older adults or young professionals living with roommates out of financial necessity, according to the plan.
The draft outlines strategies for fostering affordable and sustainable housing:
Planning and Zoning Strategies
- Amend existing zoning to make it easier to create new multi-family and mixed-use development and encourage creation of affordable units
- Incorporate rezoning strategies in the upcoming Comprehensive Plan that expand market opportunities for constructing affordable, multi-family, and mixed-use housing in Medford’s key corridors and areas
- Amend existing zoning to allow accessory dwelling units by right in all residential districts
- Adopt affordable infill zoning provisions
- Amend existing zoning to allow conversions of larger single-family houses to two or more units and to create affordable units
- Discuss future senior housing opportunities with Melrose Wakefield Healthcare
- Promote Fair Housing choice with an updated analysis
Local Initiatives and Programmatic Strategies
- Foster affordable infill on City-owned vacant lots
- Collaborate with property owners and agencies to preserve Medford’s 38 units with expiring affordability restrictions
- Revive and expand rehab programs for rental properties and promote renting to voucher holders
- Support the Medford Housing Authority to rehabilitate and redevelop existing properties
- Promote and expand the down payment program with HOME and CPA funds
Capacity, Education, and Coordination
- Establish a Municipal Affordable Housing Trust
- Increase the housing planner position to full time
- Continue City recruitment of mission-based developers
- Collaborate with Housing Medford to enhance community education
- Continue and optimize participation in North Suburban HOME Consortium
- Support community efforts to create a Community Land Trust
Click here to see the full draft plan.