Newburyport is the place to be. Ask anyone who has tried to buy a home here recently. The competition is fierce. Home values are shooting up as buyers are moving in from the Boston area and out of state, drawn by accolades as the city that “has it all.”
While we should relish the good news, Newburyport’s upward trajectory also holds challenges for the community. Between 2000 and 2010, the median age of the Newburyport homeowner rose from 41 to 46 years. The trend reflects an aging population of wealthier empty nesters and will serve to further drive up home values. We’d be wise to consider the consequences.
An increasing number of people who for years have called this stunning community home will be priced out of town. Others — young families and first-time homebuyers — will discover their savings do not come close to a down payment on a single-family home or condominium. And for the 6 percent of residents who sustain on incomes below the poverty line, a future in Newburyport where the median home is valued at $424,000 will likely seem impossible to envision.
The answer should be an increase in affordable and rental units. MINCO Corporation has put forth a proposal that echoes the goals of the 2014 Master Plan. One Boston Way features 80 apartments — 25 percent of which will be designated affordable — and approximately 3,500 square feet of shared office space and live/work units near the MBTA commuter rail station, an area that the city for years has eyed as an ideal location for Smart Growth zoning, Chapter 40R.
If you’d like to hear more, please visit our blog at www.mincocorp.com/blog to learn more about One Boston Way and Newburyport’s Smart Growth (40R) District. You can also connect with us on Facebook or LinkedIn. Increasing the stock of affordable housing is especially important for a city like Newburyport that at 7.6 percent does not meet the state’s goal of 10 percent. One Boston Way would boost that number since all rental units in a 40R development — not just the ones with an affordable designation — count toward that threshold. In other words, the addition of 80 apartments would bring the percentage of affordable housing in Newburyport to 8.5. 40R also comes with incentive payments of up to $600,000 and a density bonus of $3,000 per unit as well as reimbursement for the net cost of educating school-aged children who might move into the district.
The approval of a Smart Growth Overlay Zoning District lays the foundation for the creation of a compact, walkable, mixed-use development that not only increases the number of rental options in Newburyport while preserving open space, but also allows the city to retain control over its design and location.
Providing housing for people from all walks of life has been the driving force of my career, from the moment I entered the business in the 1970s, and as the executive director of the North Andover Housing Authority, I’ve overseen and been involved with dozens of subsidized multi-family home projects.
I have also witnessed the transformation of Newburyport first hand. Since my grandfather lived on Orange Street, I can still recall the days of derelict buildings and boarded-up storefronts that preceded urban renewal and the city’s rebirth.
More rental units will help the city stay true to its working-class roots while also catering to single professionals, young couples and empty nesters who may want to downsize. Only then will Newburyport truly have it all.
Lou Minicucci Jr. established MINCO Corp. in 1982. Visit the blog at www.mincocorp.com/blog to learn more about One Boston Way and Newburyport’s Smart Growth (40R) District.