Why Somerville officials say this affordable housing tweak is a 'game changer'

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The matchup for this year’s Super Bowl is officially set — just in time for Massachusetts’ launch of in-person sports betting tomorrow. And while I’m not sure Patriots fans will find much joy in rooting for either of this year’s NFL finalists, we’ll have much more information on the new era of gambling in the state tomorrow morning.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get to today’s news:

Somerville officials know that finding an affordable apartment in the booming city can be a daunting task. Not only are fair market rents on the rise, but renters hoping to luck out and snag one of the apartments in the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program face a painstaking process. WBUR’s Amy Sokolow reports there’s a new initiative in the works that officials call a “game changer.”

  • The current process: Right now, renters have to closely monitor new apartment openings. And if they find one they like, they have to fill out and submit an application to enter that particular building’s lottery. If they don’t get it, it’s the same thing over and over again for each new opening. Alanna Gaffny, the manager of Somerville’s inclusionary housing program, told Sokolow that the frustrating process adds up and fatigues many applicants.
  • The solution: Make it simple. This month, Somerville announced it will launch a “Consolidated Waitlist” later this year for future affordable rental openings. In other words, it’s just one short application for all new openings in the city’s inclusionary housing program. That includes over 400 units coming down the pipeline, as well as vacancies in the program’s 350 existing units.
  • How it works: A lottery will determine the initial, fixed order of the waitlist. That means people will only “be moving up” the list, noted Ben Wyner, a housing specialist for the city. (To keep the application form short, income eligibility and tenant suitability won’t be checked until applicants are at the top of the list.)
  • What’s next: The waitlist doesn’t have an official launch date yet, partly because officials are trying to get the word out first. But if you’re interested — or know someone who might be — you can sign up for alerts here. Somerville is also holding two more information sessions this week, including tonight.

Meanwhile, school is canceled today in Woburn due to a teacher’s strike. Last night, the Woburn Teachers Association announced the strike after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract with the city’s school committee. The two sides had been in talks for over a year — but the deadlock now means the union’s 550 teachers will head to the picket line this morning, rather than their classrooms.

  • The strike is part of a recent trend in Massachusetts, which saw brief teacher strikes in BrooklineMalden and Haverhill last year. (Previously, the state hadn’t had one since 2019.)
  • Zoom out: Teacher strikes are technically illegal in Massachusetts, which means unions can face steep court-imposed fines. However, the state’s largest teachers union is trying to change that.

Heads up: Attorney General Andrea Campbell is joining abortion rights advocates at 9:30 a.m this morning to announce a new “Abortion Legal Hotline” for patients and providers. Campbell’s office says the free and confidential hotline will help those seeking abortion care in the state get free legal advice and other resources.

  • ICYMI: WBUR’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey reported last week that providers in Massachusetts are seeing “a steady stream” of patients traveling from states with more restrictive abortion laws.

TrumpDeSantis… Sununu? New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN yesterday that he’s considering a run for president in 2024. While the Republican governor said he doesn’t have a timeline for the decision, he joins a growing field of potential challengers to former president Donald Trump for a third straight GOP nomination — though no one else has announced plans yet.

  • Sununu’s comments came a day after Trump made a visit to New Hampshire. But Sununu told CNN that he doesn’t think Trump is “bringing that fire, that energy” that he did in 2016.

P.S.— Hungry for conversation (and actual food)? Come down to WBUR CitySpace tonight for Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing’s chat with Tiffani Faison, the celebrity chef behind local restaurants like Sweet Cheeks barbecue and Tenderoni’s Pizza. Not only will guests get to hear Faison’s story, they’ll also get to enjoy her “Nacho Tiramisu.” So, yeah, you’ll want to be there in person.

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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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