Shelter is one of the basic human necessities. However, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable options for people to achieve this basic need. Finding an affordable place to call home, whether you rent or own, is becoming increasingly less affordable to millions of people, including millennials, new families, people with disabilities, and seniors. To address this, communities like Amesbury work with the state to ensure that there are affordable housing options available to meet the changing needs of our residents.
Amesbury is committed to providing affordable housing for its residents. In 2020, the City adopted a Housing Production Plan which includes an action plan with policies and programs Amesbury can implement to help us achieve this commitment. We also created the Amesbury Housing Trust to develop new and manage existing affordable units. Please check out the resources available to guide our work in creating affordable units for all in Amesbury.
What is "Affordable Housing"? Affordable Housing is housing that's restricted to individuals and families with qualifying incomes and asset levels, and receives some manner of financial assistance to bring down the cost of owning or renting a property. The unit or complex will have a deed restriction that allows for the sale or rental of the property to remain affordable for a set number of years or in perpetuity.
As of 2020, Amesbury monitors roughly 50 ownership units and 700 rental units throughout the City. The City has 10 deeded units which come up for sale infrequently. When these units go up for sale, they must be sold to a low-to-moderate income buyer. Information on these sales will be posted here when they become available.
The City has partnered with the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council to administer HOME funds to support a rental assistance program in Amesbury. This program is open to income eligible residents, City of Amesbury employees, and parents with children in the Amesbury School system.
**UPDATE: As of October 31, 2022, there is a waiting list for this program. The Affordable Housing Trust is investigating additional sources of funding. You can apply to be on the waiting list below.
Affordable housing is restricted to individuals and families with qualifying incomes and asset levels, and that receives some type of financial assistance to bring down the cost of owning or renting a home. A common affordability benchmark is that housing costs should not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income, and units should be affordable to households making no more than 80% of the area median income (AMI). In the case of Amesbury this means a total income of $64,970 (2022) for a family of four, which in turn translates into a maximum gross rent (including utilities) of $1,624 and a maximum housing purchase price of around $187,000 (depending on mortgage interest rates).
Low-income Housingis defined as housing for people making 50% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the community in which they live. The median household income in Amesbury is $81,207 so in Amesbury the defining threshold would therefore be a total income of $40,603 or less for a family of four.
Subsidized Housingis housing that is subsidized by the municipality, the state or the federal government to make it more affordable to people with low and moderate incomes. Subsidies include direct housing subsidies, non-profit housing, public housing, and rent vouchers.
Public Housingis usually owned by a government authority (local, state, or federal) and varies in size and type, from large apartment complexes to single and multi-family homes. These are managed by Local Housing Authorities and are made available to eligible low-income families, elderly persons, and those with disabilities. Amesbury’s Housing Authority is state-owned.
Section 8 Housingis a rental assistance voucher program that makes housing available to very low-income households at Fair Market Rent. The Section 8 voucher is issued by the Housing Authority. The household finds a unit that accepts the voucher. The voucher covers the gap between what the tenant can pay and the rent being charged, and is based on the household income.
Workforce Housing is built to serve middle-income households earning between 80% to 120% of the Area Median Income. It is geared to persons that make too much to be eligible for standard subsidy programs but are unable to afford market rate accommodations; it is “market-affordable” and does not rely on government subsidies. It is intended to house teachers, nurses, and other professions earning a moderate income to help them to live near their jobs in locations where housing is expensive. The term “workforce housing” is considered to be outdated as those earning an income so low that they are eligible for subsidies are also members of the workforce, just that they may not make a living wage (and therefore, it may be offensive to these people by implying that they are not working).
Attainable Housingdescribes the development of housing to make it more affordable by design, that is, without using government housing subsidy. This includes when a developer uses lower-priced construction materials thereby making it possible to charge lower rent for these units.
Chapter 40R, is the Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Act of Massachusetts General Law. 40R encourages communities to create dense mixed-use zoning districts, with a high percentage of affordable housing units, that are located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.
Chapter 40B, also known as the Comprehensive Permit Act of the Massachusetts General Law, enables local Zoning Boards of Appeals to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules if at least 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. Communities that have developed 10% or more of their units as "affordable" have more control over how and where 40B developments are built.
Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI)is a record of a community’s stock of low- or moderate-income housing for the purposes of Chapter 40B. As of November 2022, the Subsidized Housing Inventory includes roughly 50 ownership units and 700 rental units across the City of Amesbury, and comprises 9.76% of the total housing stock.
Inclusionary Zoning is a policy requiring developers of multi-family housing projects to provide a certain percentage of units that is available, accessible, and affordable to low or moderate-income households. Amesbury’s inclusionary zoning ordinance (currently called Affordable Housing Ordinance) requires that at least 15% of units be affordable in multi-family developments containing more than 7 dwelling units.