A Message from the Stretching Into Justice Ministry Team

A Message from the Stretching Into Justice Ministry Team about certain justice issues facing the Town of Brookline this May

The Stretching Into Justice Ministry Team has been looking at justice issues in the upcoming May 4 election in Brookline and in the Annual Town Meeting which begins on May 19. The Stretching Ministry does not endorse political candidates but we are offering this information as it relates to Stretching’s mission of furthering equity and justice.

These recommendations are directed only to Brookline voters as action items, but should be of general interest as well to all United Parish members and friends as they affect the Brookline community where we worship. 

FIRST, if you are a Brookline voter: the Stretching Team endorses a YES vote on Question #2 on the ballot on May 4 – the Community Preservation Act (CPA). By means of a 1% increase to property taxes, partially matched by the state, this program brings valuable funding to our Town for affordable housing, open space, and historic preservation. In Brookline’s case, it could bring in $3.0 million to Brookline for these purposes. All of the cities and towns surrounding Brookline have adopted CPA – in fact, 186 of 350 municipalities in Massachusetts have accessed these funds.

Find out more at http://brooklinecommunityact.org/

SECOND, the Stretching Team urges you to contact your Town Meeting members to vote in favor of certain Warrant Articles (WA) that we believe further justice in our Town, in the areas of affordable housing, environmental impact, and racial equity. They are listed below.

You can easily find out who your Town Meeting Member is and their email address by clicking here, then click on the label to the left of the page: "Town Meeting Members List (XLS)" (listed by precinct) and go all the way to the far right of the Excel sheet to find their email address.

More information on all Warrant Articles is available at https://www.brooklinema.gov/1020/Town-Meeting-Files

AFFORDABLE HOUSING MATTERS:

  • WA #23 – Would change Brookline’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to require developers of new apartment projects to reach lower-income households than is currently required.  The Town requires developers of 20 units or more to set aside 15% of the units as affordable, and requires developments of 4 to 19 units either to set aside 15% of the units in their projects, or to pay into an affordable housing fund in an amount that would support an equivalent number of affordable units elsewhere.  This WA would do two things:  (1) require the 15% set-aside units to be priced at rents affordable to households at 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) instead of 80% AMI as currently required – thus reaching truly low-income renters, and (2) revise the payment formula to slightly increase the affordable payment required from developers.
  • WA’s #14, 15, and 16 – Would set new rules for Short-Term Rentals (STRs) into the zoning code so that this program will better serve lower-income short-term renters, rather than commercial STR operators like Air-BNB, while still allowing the STR program to provide badly needed revenue for low-income homeowners (often, single elderly empty-nesters) who have unused rooms to rent out.  There is a risk that allowing the current unregulated environment for STRs to continue will allow purely profit-driven STR operators to overwhelm the market and eliminate the more affordable STR rooms.  The commercial STR industry has offered an alternative zoning proposal which has much looser rules that many believe would have this result, and so in that vein, Stretching suggests that WA#17, an alternative favored by the Air-BNB industry, should be opposed.
  • WA #21 – Would restore Micro-Units (units less than 450sf) into the zoning code.  This type of affordable housing for one-person households, typically serving either young persons early in their careers needing reasonably priced housing, or single elderly persons of limited income, is an important part of Brookline’s housing supply.   It was accidentally made illegal by a rezoning action last year relating to the new developments at Route 9 and Brookline Avenue.
  • WA #32 – Would implement the Community Preservation Act by creating a Community Preservation Committee, to consist of nine members – four at-large appointed by the Select Board, and five appointed by relevant boards in Town Government – the Housing Authority, the Preservation Commission, the Conservation Commission, Parks and Recreation, and the Planning Board.  This WA depends upon a positive vote for CPA on election day May 4.  

ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS:

  • WA’s #24 – Creates a Division of Sustainability Planning within the Planning Department to further sustainable development policies and programs in Brookline.
  • WA’s #25 and 26 – Promotes fossil-fuel free development.  Would require developers of new buildings needing a special permit either to have no new fossil fuel hookups for heat and hot water, or to commit to converting fossil fuel energy sources to electric no later than five years after the initial permit is issued.   Exclusions allowed for cooking gas and large hot water heating installations.

EQUITY AND JUSTICE MATTERS:

  • WA #11 – Would require Town Meetings to open with a statement of land-taking acknowledgement regarding Brookline’s part in the history of land-taking from indigenous peoples.
  • WA #28 – Would allow Town to petition State Legislature for authority to create a $500,000 Racial Equity Fund from proceeds of host community mitigation fees from cannabis stores.    

Submitted by the Stretching Into Justice Ministry Team, stretchingintojustice@upbrookline.org.