Affordable Housing Strategies

As Greater Boston’s population soars, so does the pressure on our housing market. As detailed in Malden’s Housing Needs Assessment completed in July 2019, Malden’s low-income residents are especially at risk of cost-burden and displacement as housing costs skyrocket. In partnership with the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA), Mayor Christenson's office has spent the summer working on strategies to address the unmet affordable housing needs in our community. Those proposals, which were presented to the City Council on September 3, 2019, are described below.

Housing Needs Assessment

The City, in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), completed and published Malden’s Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) in June 2019. The HNA revealed a number of housing challenges facing the residents of Malden:

  • Approximately half (47%) of Malden households are cost burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs
  • 56% of renters and 34% of homeowners are cost burdened
  • About half of cost-burdened households are severely cost burdened (more than 50% of income on housing)
  • Most Malden households cannot afford to rent or buy in Malden today without becoming cost burdened
  • The average Malden worker earns $45,000 / year
  • Median household income is $60,000 / year, and lower among renters
  • Median single family home is $435,000, at least $185,000 more than the median household can afford, assuming good credit and large down payments
  • The median household would spend 42% of their income on the median rent ($2,100); renter households would spend 50%

Fall 2019 Proposals

1. Establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund

More than 100 Massachusetts communities rely on municipal Affordable Housing Trust Funds to create and preserve Affordable housing. These funds preserve expiring Affordable housing units, convert existing homes into Affordable housing, and help underwrite the cost of creating new Affordable housing, usually with non-profit partners. The Trust Fund involves the creation of a locally-controlled entity with the resources and expertise to achieve our housing goals.

Affordable Housing Trust Funds receive money from a variety of sources, like Community Preservation Act funds, developer mitigation fees, federal grants, private donations, and other funds. Developer mitigation fees are currently split between the Mayor’s office and the Council. Mayor Christenson has proposed amending the City’s Expendable Trust ordinance to require that half of all future mitigation funds be directed to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The remaining half would be split between the Council and the Executive branch consistent with current practice. Beginning September 2019, the Mayor has voluntarily committed to contributing half of his Expendable Trust funds to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

STATUS: Order 320-19 establishing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund was ordained on November 12, 2019.
STATUS: Order 321-19 amending the Expendable Trust Ordinance was ordained on November 12, 2019.

2. Adopt an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance

Inclusionary zoning is a locally-controlled policy that requires developers to build Affordable housing units as a part of new construction. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Medford, Wakefield, Winchester, Woburn, Melrose, Saugus, Everett, Quincy, and Chelsea are among dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns that have all adopted inclusionary zoning, leveraging the private sector housing market to create new Affordable units for low-income residents.

To make sure that Malden’s inclusionary policy fits the specific needs of our community and the realities of our housing market, the MRA is seeking funding to conduct an Inclusionary Zoning Financial Feasibility Analysis. This analysis will show us how to maximize the share of new Affordable units without stopping construction altogether, helping us to find our “perfect fit” policy that means we leave no Affordable units on the table.

STATUS: The City Council adopted a resolution on September 3, 2019 that supports an inclusionary zoning financial feasibility analysis. The City and MRA will now seek funding sources for this analysis.

3. Launch a Security Deposit Pilot Program

To help stabilize at-risk Malden households in the short term, Mayor Christenson has proposed a Security Deposit Pilot Program. Less than 6% of all Malden apartments are vacant right now, and it’s hard for families being priced out of one apartment to find another. What’s even more difficult is the cost of first, last, and a security deposit – equal to three months’ rent – that families need to pay up front, even before their last security deposit has been released.

This month ABCD, our local anti-poverty organization, will apply for CPC funds to establish a Security Deposit Pilot Program. This proposed program will be administered by ABCD with oversight from the MRA and would help eligible households get housing by paying a security deposit directly to their landlord. At the end of the tenancy, the security deposit would be returned to ABCD for use in this or other Malden-specific housing programs. This is an innovative pilot program designed to meet the most pressing needs of vulnerable Malden households.

STATUS: ABCD, working in partnership with the MRA, will submit an application to the CPC by September 30, 2019 for a security deposit pilot program.