March 01, 2013

Morris Bergman letter in Telegram

Wonder if he will get attacked for hating poor people?    Good job MO!!!!

The recent flurry of news regarding downtown re-development in Worcester inspires optimism that the pieces of the puzzle are being put into place. However, a key piece to ensuring our downtown’s rebirth has been overlooked. Responsible city leaders must ask who we should be encouraging to live downtown.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Worcester’s per capita income ranks a disappointing 326th out of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Clearly, we do not have a solid “middle income” demographic.
Furthermore, a recent comprehensive housing market study paid for by this city points out that an astonishing 18.5 percent of the households in Worcester are below the poverty level. This represents an 11 percent increase over the last decade. At the same time the region had a 7 percent decline in households below the poverty level. The resulting 18 percent “swing” makes one wonder if Worcester has become the “go to place” in the region for affordable housing.

Perhaps because of perceived political incorrectness, we never seem to hear city officials inquire about the resources being expended to encourage the middle-income demographic. Yet, this is in fact the one group we are struggling to attract and maintain.

To be clear, just because one is supportive of market-rate housing in Worcester’s downtown doesn’t mean one is against affordable housing in general. After all, the housing study also notes that the percentage of affordable housing units in Worcester is significantly greater than required under Massachusetts law and that the present number of affordable housing units will likely be sufficient for Worcester for at least the next five years

After all, every resident of Worcester who wants to live in Worcester should have a place here to live regardless of their income. With the supply of affordable housing units currently meeting or exceeding the demands of our Worcester residents, a natural question arises: Why are there more proposals for mixed-unit housing projects downtown?
The answer may lie in the financing advantages that mixed-use units offer. Although developers benefit greatly with this type of financing, our downtown will not. Such financing often comes with certain “strings attached,” including the requirement that the affordable units remain as affordable units for decades.
Downtown development is in need of a master plan — a long-range vision of what we want our downtown to be. Any “helter skelter” approach to development projects that are not well thought out are simply too risky to embrace. This is especially true for those projects that we may have to live with for a very long time.

If we are to give our downtown retail businesses a fighting chance for survival, we need to ensure that all socioeconomic classes, including those of middle income, live here and spend their money here. It would be poor planning if, for instance, with anticipated improvements in train service to and from Boston, we are unable to develop market-rate housing downtown because the units were previously developed as mixed use.

For these reasons, I am urging the City Council to put a temporary moratorium on all affordable units/mixed use projects in the downtown area. It is time for our city officials to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work necessary to create demand in downtown Worcester for middle income — i.e., market-rate residential units. This is the exact approach taken by the draft Theatre District Master Plan, which advocates for market-rate housing units in all of the buildings in the Theatre District identified for residential redevelopment (excluding dorms).
As for our social responsibility, it is a far more progressive and responsible plan for the city to work on initiatives that would help those in need of affordable housing purchase their own homes instead of simply resigning these individuals to a lifetime of renter status.

In fact, the housing study raises this concern when it states that (although) “the city will continue to provide [affordable housing] services in the future (it) may need to re-evaluate its overall approach to serving the needs of this population in order to avoid placing an unsustainable burden on available financing and social resources.”
Increasing the number of market-rate occupants throughout this city can help change the inevitable outcomes of this reality for the benefit of all income classes living here.   John F. Kennedy was often quoted saying “a rising tide carries all boats.” Here’s hoping that our city leaders understand what he meant.

Morris A. “Moe” Bergman is an attorney in Worcester and a former member and vice chairman of the Worcester Zoning Board of Appeals.


signman said...

They still won't get it....

Jahn said...

Way to go MOE as re low income housing and way to go Bill re non profits.

Let us not forget a couple of other non profit "happenings" in the not too distant past.

First up Clark U, When pressed by city hall for an annual Pilot payment Clark struck a deal w/the city that Clark would pay about 250k annual Pilot payment. A nice chunk of that money came back to Clark to be spent (as Clark wished to spend it?) on the immediate Clark U environs. Then the city gives Clark a 600 ft stretch of Downing St completely f'ing up the neighborhood. For those of you who high school'ed in Shrewsbury or Westboro that means Clark got Downing St for free :) and then of courses closed it off

Then I'll be a son of b++++ Clark also was allowed to take multiple units of tax paying property off the city tax rolls saving Clark 63K. And this entire deal is presented to low information type people as some kind Of ++++ing PILOT PAYMENT deal? Cut the baloney !!!!!

Second up, The Hand It Over Theatre. A $32M rehab of an old theatre that rec'd huge sums of public money via grants, loans garantees and who knows what other subsidies from the city, state, & Washington. I cant recall what the Hand It OVer Theare is assessed at but it is no where near teh $32M rehab price tag.

Then after all these taxpayers freebies the SOBs form a non profit holding company and place the real estate into it. Viola, with the stroke of the old non profit pen the city takes a hit on property taxes I figure to the tune of somewhere between 700k to 800k and not a freaking peep is heard from city hall. Then the low info crowd dimes up Jordan all last week pissin' & moaning about the UMass situation.

I mean we give this dam institution zillions in subsidies and then they put the wood to us at least minute.

And the city wonders why they cant get a warm body to move to Worc. and take over the city auditor job. How AUD! The Fact is solid middle class professionals want no part of Worcester

Jahn said...

Meant to also say maybe the new city auditor candidates dont want to subsidizing millions in potential law suit settlements. aS HOWIE SAYS, Them CPA types (cheapest person Alive) toss around nickels like ther were manhole covers.