PEABODY — The city's latest Housing Production Plan envisions apartment buildings at the Northshore Mall, an apartment building filling a gap on Main Street and duplex cottages on Route 1.

These are just some of the concepts that might help Peabody ease its housing crunch and meet the state's 10% target for affordable housing, according to a draft of the plan set to go before the City Council at a future meeting.

The plan suggests Peabody focus on rental development to target the needs of its most vulnerable residents, promote housing diversity and invest city resources to support a greater number of households over time. Rental units also provide more appropriately sized housing for the growing number of smaller households that the city is seeing, along with more opportunities for seniors to downsize.

The city also needs more affordable home ownership for both starter homes and the ability for residents to downsize, the plan states.

Other strategies to create more affordable housing include modifying the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance, pursuing smart growth zoning, promoting "friendly" 40B development, making city-owned property available for affordable housing, modifying the family accessory living area and creating cluster development ordinances.

The plan also looked at concepts where more housing might be shoehorned into existing neighborhoods:

  • 60 units of townhouse flats with a community green and 60 parking spaces both behind and under the development at 5 Berry St.;
  • 24 small apartments with retail along the street and parking behind a new downtown building at 81 Main St.
  • 36 duplex cottages with 36 off-street parking spaces and a commercial use out front at 176 Newbury St. and 14 Pine St.
  • 96 units and 188 parking spaces in a three-story mixed-use building with 42,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space at 60 Pulaski St.
  • Landscaped apartment buildings along the edges of the Northshore Mall's parking lots with more than 600 units and shared parking with the mall.

Community Development Director Curt Bellavance said the locations were chosen as potential sites for development and are not actual proposals. Planners spread out the sites around the city to show what could be done in various settings.

The city's housing production plan was last updated in 2013. The 2019 draft notes that several properties included in the 2013 plan "were developed or are proposed for new development."

The final draft of the five-year housing production plan is coming before the City Council as a communication this Thursday. Bellavance said the council would vote on the plan at future meeting. The plan also needs approval from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Planning Board recommended the plan for adoption on Sept. 19. 

Affordable housing

The creation of more housing, especially affordable housing, has been a topic among councilors over the past year.

That's due in part because the city's affordable housing inventory, 2,051 units, stands 163 units shy of the 10% threshold set by the state, according to a presentation of the plan from a June public meeting.

Communities below the threshold face comprehensive permit applications for housing projects under state law Chapter 40B, which allows developers to skirt zoning rules on density and other requirements in exchange for the construction of some affordable housing.

With the 2020 Census coming up, there is concern the number of affordable housing units the city needs in order to meet the 10% threshold could increase.

The city has worked to preserve and create affordable housing over the past year. For instance, new residential overlay zoning rules for certain commercial areas require more affordable housing, 20%, than the city's inclusionary zoning rules (15%) or even the state's 10% affordability goal.

The city also worked with the state to ensure the buyer for the 284-unit Tannery 1 complex would keep the apartment building affordable. The city is  kicking in $1.7 million toward the nearly $36.2 million purchase by WinnDevelopment.

Bellavance said the state does not require cities and towns to produce housing production plans. But if a city with an approved plan produces 0.5% of its housing stock in a year — 111 units in Peabody's case — it can deny housing projects proposed under Chapter 40B for at least one year. 

"It puts you in control of the housing production in the city," Bellavance said of the plan.

Demographics

The plan also looked at Peabody's shifting demographics when it comes to housing needs. There are more older residents and smaller households, but fewer families and younger people. 

"Between 1990 and 2017, those 65 years or age and older increased by 65% from 6,665 to 10,988 residents or from 14.1% to 20.9 of the population," the plan states.

"I think we are comparable to other communities," Bellavance said. "We are not showing any peaks or valleys when it comes to those statistics."

Bellavance said Peabody's population has not increased as much as other communities in recent years. The city's population grew by 2.7% to 52,610 residents from 2010 to 2017, the study says, citing Census estimates from the American Community Survey.

The plan also looked at the growing gap between household incomes and median home values to show how it is becoming harder for residents to be able to buy a house in Peabody.

In 1990, the city's median household income stood at $39,800 while the median house value was $177,100.

In 2017, Peabody's median household income was $65,085, an increase of 63% in nearly 30 years, however, the median house value was $401,000, a jump of 126% over that time.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.

Recommended for you