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Over the past three + years if not longer, we have talked about a Philly Plan that would lock in the current assessed value for a stipulated period of time for commercial development.

Locally this was done with the Hanover, when the assessed value was locked in for ten years. It sounds great on paper, but it is not as easy as it sounds to get done-Economic Development meetings-City Council approval and Home Rules petitions.

About a year ago, I read about new legislation that was passed for Gateway Cities called the HDIP that was targeted to promote market rate housing project (2 to 50 units) and would allow cities to “lock-in” or “phase-in” asssessed values over a stipulated time. Additionally there would be state tax credits for each unit up to $10,000. Something we never ever discussed or imagined!!

The great thing about the HDIP is that the City of Worcester has to only apply listing an area that they want to establish as an HDIP zone, how that area qualifies and what type of incentives that they would be providing. DHCD reviews the application and if all is in order, we are good to go. That’s it!!! In fact, when I looked last year 6 other cities had already had HDIP’s approved (Haverhill-Springfield-Chelsea-Holyoke-Lowell-Pittsfield).

I called “Mick” O’Brien and asked him how we could establish an HDIP in the City of Worcester. We talked and thought it would be best to work through the Chandler Business Association team up with the Chamber of Commerce (Stu) and meet up with Economic Development (Tim-Paul-Jackson) to get put together an application, get Council approval and submit the DHCD. During that time I gave monthly updates at every Chandler Business Association meeting to anyone who attended and there was coverage from the Telegram!!

After 9 months it became official-the City of Worcester has an HDIP, a zone to promote market rate housing (2 to 50 units) that will provide property tax break locally and tax credits at the state level. Did I do I “jig” this week to celebrate a great collaboration and the success of our efforts? Yeah I did.

I have heard many people say why didn’t do this or why didn’t we do that? Well we could only apply for what has already been approved under the HDIP legislation; for example, commercial property is not the goal of the HDIP. At the same time, I would argue market rate housing development downtown would benefit all commercial property owners. Keep in mind there are also many properties that may have a first floor component that is commercial but has residential unites above.

More importantly developers of “affordable” housing will not be able to reap the benefits from the HDIP. We are leveling the develop field between “affordable” and “market rate” housing with the approval of the HDIP. Hopefully this will attract market rate housing to the areas targeted in the HDIP, which is desperately needed. The “jig” is over, it is time to market the HDIp and get some results.

As far as the Housing Policy goes, nobody has touted the recommendations of the 2002 RKG Study more then. In fact I pointed out many times this one paragraph from their recommendation section:

The City’s policy to use the many CDC’s to develop more low income housing should be reconsiderd. While their renovation work has help stabilize some of the neighborhoods, especially at a time when the redevelopment was needed, their subsidized development has alientated some local builders/ developers. Another alternative to renovating these three deckers would be to thin out selectively some of these buildings and make the sites ready for single for new single family homes in a townhouse style, and market the sites to private developers for construction. The CDC’s in the future should be considered more of a developer of last choice..

Two years ago when the City of Worcester was talking about a new Housing Study, I forwarded the RFP to RKG to make sure they knew about it. They were awarded the bid, completed a new study and I agree with all their recommendations.

I know that it is important that we have more meetings on this Housing Study, but can I suggest that the passage of the HDIP does not “mothball” the study, but actually will help the recommendations in the study become a reality. Lower property taxes locally and 10% of the project credited back is not a pimple on a “donkey’s arse”.

Lastly I do recommend that “we sit back and drink a few martinis”, we market the hell out of the HDIP and use this example of a collaboration to advance more program like the HDIP. I think Mick O’Brien, the Chandler Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce and Economic development deserve a “that a boy” not an “oy vey”.


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