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Reading looks to convert properties back to single-family homes

Reading’s leaders will start work on a program that will incentivize property owners to convert multi-unit properties back into single-family homes.

Councilwoman Donna Reed has been talking about such a program for a few months. Monday night she brought it up again and wants to make sure its acted upon.

“I thought a lot of it made sense to pull together some sort of official policy,” Reed said. “There would need to be very clear guidelines laid out and incentives so it would make sense for the landlord or investor to do it.”

Reed suggested that a grant be made available to convert a home from a multi-unit into a single-family home or a tax abatement for a certain amount of time.

Reed added that the program does not only have to focus on converting multi-units back into single-family homes but could also include converting, for example, a six-unit home down to a three-unit home.

Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. liked Reed’s idea but pointed out that it is the administration that drives housing strategy, not council.

“Maybe a council member or two can work with the administration,” Waltman said. “Ideas are easy. Results are earned. For us to have those types of results, someone has to drive them.”

Managing Director Abraham Amoros welcomed Reed’s idea.

“Reducing housing density in targeted areas throughout the city not only provides for more parking, more homeownership, reduced crime and overall improvement of the quality of life of residents,” he said. “But it just sends the right message.”

There are nine zoning districts in the city and the conversion of single family homes into multi-unit homes is prohibited in seven of the districts, Amoros said.

Conversion of single-family homes is permitted in the commercial-core and commercial-residential zones, he said.

One thing council could do is pass an ordinance to prohibit conversion in those two zones, Amoros said.

Amoros also suggested that council could implement a program that would streamline the process for deconversion, coordinate inspections, reduce fees, offer tax incentives, offer financing for deconversion in historic district, offer financing to promote single-family use homes, offer financing to promote owner occupancy and deed restrictions.

The city did propose a similar effort in 1999 called the Reduction In Density program, but the program never happened.

Today’s program focuses on deconversions in historic districts first, then major routes in and out of the city and the commercial core and then it would be expanded citywide.

The city would offer $5,000 for every unit that was deconverted.

Several council members supported Reed’s proposal.

“I want to ensure that the administration is set up for success so if we do follow through and they will have all the resources at their fingertips to effectively manage a program like this,” said Council Vice President Lucine Sihelnik. “I think if we encourage deconversions and do have local single family home ownership that can really help some of these neighborhoods and block by block issues and quality-of-life issues that we talk about.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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