The public will get a chance to weigh in on potential changes to a Gloucester ordinance that might make living seaside more affordable. 

The Planning Board is hosting a public hearing  early Thursday evening to discuss the drafted amendments to the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance. The draft rules aim to increase Gloucester's supply of housing available to and affordable for low-income and very-low income households. 

"While the city continues to see a steady construction of new market-rate housing units, and new affordable housing through 40B permitting and limited applicability of the current inclusionary housing ordinance, the Planning Board believes that the time is now to modify the City's inclusionary housing ordinance to increate affordable housing options in all new developments throughout the City," the city's Planning Board wrote to the City Council on Jan. 7. 

The proposed amendments include:

Lowering the threshold of applicability for developments with eight housing units to six housing units.

Requiring 10% of units to be deed restricted as affordable to households earning 80% of the area median income (AMI) in developments between six and nine units. 

Requiring 15% of housing units to be deed restricted as affordable to households earning 80% AMI or 10% of housing units to be deed restricted as affordable households earning 60% AMI in developments of 10 units or greater.

Providing an in-lieu payment option for developments with six to nine units.

Providing a greatly expanded definition of terms including those related to "affordability" which are defined by reference to income levels determined the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Revising the inclusionary housing ordinance is one of five strategies the Planning Board identified to produce more affordable housing throughout the city. The others include creating an accessory housing ordinance to allow the creation of attached or detached accessory housing units, to increase the stock of rental housing; revising dimensional standards to facilitate the create of single-,two-,and three-family dwellings; consolidating permitting and increasing the allowance of residential use near the downtown train station; and consolidating permitting and better defining allowed density in mixed use projects downtown. 

The Planning Board is looking to address each strategy individually in separate public hearings. 

Staff Writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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