Quincy’s City Council has allowed the city's partner in the downtown redevelopment to delay a $2.3 million payment that will help fund affordable housing elsewhere in town.
The payment is in keeping with a deal made at the start of the project, which called for developer Street-Works to pay $10,000 to the Affordable Housing Trust for every housing unit in the downtown redevelopment.
The money was scheduled to come into the city over time, as each part of the redevelopment proceeded, yet with the accelerated development of what will be a residentially heavy Merchants Row, that number has quickly ballooned.
“With the redesign of Merchants Row and an increase in housing units, it puts a significant financial burden [on Street-Works], which was not anticipated in [the initial plans],” said Paul Hines, the city’s assistant solicitor.
Plans have shifted since the city embarked on a redevelopment process with the private company, moving from a redesign of an area around the Ross Garage to a renewed focus in the block of buildings within Hancock Street, Chestnut Street, and Cottage Ave.
The change has meant an increase from 70 planned residential units in the first phase, (paying $700,000) to 300 units. Street-Works now owes the city $3 million.
Though a seemingly large amount, the arrangement was put in place to make up for the fact that it wasn't economically feasible to include affordable housing within the downtown development.
“The project we’re doing downtown is an expensive project and it's going to carry additional tax levies than areas outside of the downtown, which added together makes any kind of affordable housing very, very challenging,” said Lucy Wildrick, a partner at Street-Works.
“Under the [development agreement], the taxes are considerably higher than what they are today … on its face, that changes the economic dynamic of housing,” she said. “The city .... acknowledged that and agreed that it would make sense to pay into the affordable housing trust fund instead.”
Though Wildrick said the promise to pay into the Affordable Housing Trust stands, Hines said his office had worked out a deal with the developer to delay the unexpectedly large payout until the developer purchases the Ross Garage, essentially the start of the next phase of the process.
In the meantime, the city will receive the $700,000 as anticipated.
“It seems clear to me this is just an opportunity for Street-Works to buy a bit of time because there was an unanticipated substantial increase in housing in Block 4 which is [happening sooner],” said Councilor Doug Gutro.
Hines assured the council that the Affordable Housing Trust Committee had unanimously supported the idea. Members of the trust could not be reached for comment.
According to Wildrick, this deal is not in any way an indicator that the developers are running short on cash.
“It’s really that this is a project being delivered in the Quincy of today and not the Quincy of tomorrow and its very challenging economically,” she said. “This is an agreement that allows the whole to go forward in a way that is equitable.”