Far too many households in Belmont are stretched thin by the high cost of housing. As highlighted in the town’s Housing Production Plan, Belmont is desperately short of housing for seniors, young families, and low- to moderate-income families. Nearly 24.6% of Belmont residents are eligible for affordable housing, but only 6.7% of our housing meets the definition.
Because housing prices have been rising, nearly half of Belmont renters and almost a third of homeowners are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. This means less money for other expenses or to put aside for emergencies. Families that are cost-burdened by housing are more vulnerable to homelessness if an unexpected illness or accident occurs. These problems obviously affect those with low or very low incomes, for whom there is very limited housing in town, but it also affects those with incomes that we would consider solidly middle class.
One area in which we are especially falling short is in senior housing. The population of older residents is growing, and with age comes an increasing percentage of folks living with a disability. We need more housing units that are affordable, accessible, and appealing to senior citizens in town.
We have an opportunity with renewed interest in building on the land owned by McLean Hospital that was previously zoned for a senior continuum of care facility, but the proposal is for something more luxurious than what the Housing Trust has recommended. Since there are so few locations suitable for development that can help us meet our needs, we must approach any re-zoning on the McLean campus with a firm commitment to ensuring the right kind of housing is built there. Spacious luxury townhomes are not what Belmont’s seniors need; they need housing that will meet their needs as they age and will not consume their fixed incomes in retirement.
We also need to amend our inclusionary zoning by-law to bring us in line with other communities and close the loophole that allows mixed-use developments to have only 10% of units be affordable. A development with 40+ units under our current by-law must provide 15% but, by adding retail to the ground floor, a developer can keep the prices on several more units at the inflated market price.
With the Housing Production Plan, approval by Town Meeting of CPA money to help create more affordable units and maintain community housing, and the Planning Board’s work on our zoning by-laws, we are moving in the right direction. But it will take a solid commitment to meeting these goals if Belmont is to become a place where anyone, regardless of income or stage in life, is able to live without anxiety about their housing costs.
“We need more housing units that are affordable, accessible, and appealing to senior citizens in town.”
Facts from Belmont’s Housing Production Plan:
- There are over 1,000 cost-burdened senior households in town.
- By 2030, the number of Belmont residents under the age of 19 is anticipated to increase by 147, while the number of households over 65 is expected to increase by 1,685.
- Although Belmont’s median income is approximately $110,685, 22.1% of the population has incomes of less than $50,000 annually and about 9.3% of households has incomes of less than $25,000.
- 44.3% of current renters and 28.9% of current home owners are cost-burdened paying more than 30% of their income for housing).
- There are approximately 2,780 households that are cost-burdened, which comprises approximately 30% of all households in Belmont. Further, 13.7% of households in Belmont are severely cost-burdened.