A vote on the ADU ordinance will happen tonight at 7 p.m. To participate in tonight’s City Council meeting where the ADU ordinance will be discussed, join the meeting via Zoom. For more information visit this FB Page.
By: Audrey Cole/TRT Reporter—
SALEM, Mass.—Today, the Salem Latino Leadership Coalition (LLC), voted to endorse the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance (ADU), which would open up more affordable housing options in the Witch City, according to the LLC’s president.
“The majority of members present at our last meeting represented a quorum and due to the Majority of those present voting ‘yes’ (per our ByLaws), the LLC has officially endorsed the ADU ordinance,” said Grace Duran, LLC President. “It was important for the LLC to endorse ADU’s because we have the opportunity right now to bring more homes to Salem. Although we know this is not a solution to affordable housing it’s something we can do right here, right now.”
The decision for the LLC, a 501©3 nonprofit organization, to endorse this ordinance was not taken lightly, according to Director Lucy Corchado, who is also the President of the Point Neighborhood Association, former first-elected Latinx City Councilor in Salem, and long-time community activist.
“After multiple discussions with Councillor Dominguez, individual research by some of the members, and a lengthy meeting where we had invited panelists to discuss benefits of ADU’s, the group came to a majority consensus of supporting the Salem ADU Ordinance, ” Corchado explained.
Salem’s State Rep. Paul Tucker praised the LLC for its decisive leadership on this issue.
“I applaud the LLC for weighing in on this critically important issue,” Rep. Tucker said. “The LLC knows first hand the difficulties faced by the Latinx community, particularly around the need for more housing that is affordable for our hard-working neighbors who are having trouble making ends meet with spiraling rents and the dream of home ownership [which is] seemingly unattainable.”
Latinx Community in mind
Like Tucker, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll lauded the LLC for their support of the ADU Ordinance of which she filed in February, along with eight of eleven City Councillors. According to Driscoll, the Latinx community was kept in mind throughout this process, including making the units into more affordable options.
“I’m very pleased that the LLC has joined the long list of endorsing organizations, community groups, businesses, and individual residents who have stood up in support of the ADU ordinance,” she said. “… The LLC represents a segment of our community that would greatly benefit from more affordable housing opportunities and, thanks to the urging of City Councillors, we now have an ordinance that guarantees that new ADU’s created as a result of this ordinance will have an affordability restriction in place ensuring the unit is rented at least 25% below fair market rents. This will provide more affordable housing opportunities for residents to live and remain right here in Salem.”
Will it help?
According to Tucker, the ADU ordinance will impact the Latinx community positively and sees it as a necessary component to solving the housing crisis
“The ordinance does help the Latinx community who have been severely affected by the current housing crunch, which has also been made worse in the midst of the current pandemic,” Tucker explained. “While the ADU ordinance may not be the perfect problem solver and cure all that is wrong in the availability of housing stock, it significantly moves it forward with solving a piece of the puzzle that we have been trying to solve.”
Although Duran recognizes that low-income housing is also needed, she expressed the importance of how ADUs can assist Latinx residents today.
“We believe the passing of this ordinance can help our Latinx families because they [ADUs] are smaller apartments that typically rent for less already,” she said. “This could help a young professional like myself, provide a supportive environment for a senior like my grandma, or people with disabilities.”
Families together: Councillor Dominguez
A central vote in the passage of this ordinance hinges on At-Large City Councillor and LLC Director, Domingo Dominguez, who has previously expressed support of the measure but has also waivered in it citing affordability, which has been addressed at his urging.
“Councillor Domingo Dominguez worked hard to file a tax exemption and loan program package to incentivize homeowners to create ADUs,” Duran said. “This could soon be a model for more cities and will also allow families to make extra income.”
Duran stressed how this ordinance helps Latinx families stay together.
“Many Latino families live overcrowded and these types of apartments can enable families to grow their space while still staying close [to each other],” she said. “We feel as there are strong anti-gentrification arrangements that will discourage things like AirBnB’s and for that, among other reasons, we feel that ADU’s will benefit the city of Salem and its residents.”
As a long-time activist advocating on behalf of the Latinx community, Corchado takes this ordinance to heart for the Latinx community she serves and urges the Councillors to not only support the ADU ordinance but also add new ones to eradicate the current housing crisis in Salem.
“The topic of affordable housing is very important to me and the LatinX community,” she said. “I acknowledge that ADU’s are not the sole solution to the Affordable Housing Crisis but to address a crisis we need multiple solutions. ADU’s may not be the answer to those among us who are in the very low-to-low-income range and so we need to continue to advocate for housing to address their needs.”
Since Latinx residents also own properties, Corchado said that it opens up additional possibilities for this community to move ahead.
“We do have many, both property owners and renters alike, who would definitely benefit from ADUs,” she explained. “We have folks in the community who are property owners, students, self-employed, elderly, couples, small families who are in the moderate-to-middle income range who would benefit from ADUs.”
As for Corchado, this endorsement is indicative of hearing the Latinx community and addressing the critical needs that exist within it.
“It sends the message that we have heard from our community and are trying to address their basic, fundamental needs—a roof over their heads,” Corchado emphasized. “People are struggling. Rents are higher than mortgages in some cases. Residents are leaving because they can’t afford to live here. We need to be creative and open to multiple ways of dealing with that. We need to continue to work collectively to bring more affordable units to Salem, from very low, low, and moderate-income ranges. There needs to be a balance and multiple options.”
Access to housing
At-Large City Councillor Ty Hapworth recognized the significance of the LLC’s endorsement.
“Access to housing is a problem that disproportionately impacts people of color in Massachusetts,” he said. “As we explore solutions to keep Salem affordable, we need to seek out the voices of communities that are most impacted.”
And the LLC has provided that voice today.
“I think that this ADU ordinance will help any family or community that is cost-burdened when it comes to housing. In Salem, this applies to seniors, young people, and statistically, families of color,” Hapworth added.
Ward 2 Councillor, Christine Madore, expressed her reaction to learning of the LLC’s endorsement of the ordinance, as one of the “strongest advocates for those who have been historically marginalized in Salem.”
“I’m thrilled to learn that the Latino Leadership Coalition has joined the majority of City Councilors in endorsing the proposed ADU Ordinance,” she said to The Rainbow Times. “I’m grateful they are raising their voices to highlight the sense of urgency around the housing challenges we are facing as a community that will only get worse during this unprecedented economic downturn. The latest Massachusetts unemployment data shows that nearly 1 of every 5 Salem residents is now out of a job and will likely face difficult decisions such as choosing between keeping a roof above their families or putting food on the table.”
Prior to the ordinance’s February filing, Dominguez expressed support, although his current position is unclear, despite the LLC’s endorsement.
“We are all working hard to create more housing, and I believe ADUs are a good place to start: respecting our neighborhoods while helping our seniors to age in place with an opportunity for more income by creating an ADU for some to afford,” Dominguez said at a City Council Meeting on January 23.
A roof over their heads
Tucker is empathetic to the obstacles faced by the Latinx community and having a roof over their heads should not be one of them, he said.
“Our Latinx community faces so many hurdles to success and housing insecurity should not be something we ignore,” Tucker said. “This ordinance takes a step forward to helping folks to a stable living situation and allows them to have a foundation to build a life that so many desire.”
Ward 4 City Councillor Tim Flynn, At-Large City Concillor Art Sargent, and Ward 7 Councillor Stephen Dibble have voiced opposition to this ordinance. Councillor Dominguez’s position is unclear at the time of this report.
To participate in tonight’s City Council meeting where the ADU ordinance will be discussed, join the meeting via Zoom. For more information visit this FB Page.
REPORTER’S NOTE: Councillor Dominguez has been contacted for this story, pertaining to today’s vote when the Council convenes. Ward 4 City Councillor Tim Flynn, has also been contacted for a quote for this story. We are waiting for their input at this time. Stay tuned for updates to this story.