On Tuesday, August 9, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed Bill H.4303, an Act establishing the Somerville Municipal Job Creation and Retention Trust. SCC’s Jobs for Somerville committee celebrated this critical step in the long-term process to create a Jobs Trust Fund that will link commercial real estate development in Somerville to jobs creation and workforce development for the City’s residents.
Specifically, the act establishes “a municipal job creation and retention trust and project mitigation contribution (linkage) program for job creation and retention in the city of Somerville.” While a mouthful, the Act gives the City the ability to move forward on a process that SCC’s Jobs for Somerville has championed within Somerville for many years, a jobs linkage program.
Linkage fees, or impact fees, are a common tool to ensure that development benefits local residents. The linkage fee creates a way for developers to address the impacts of their projects, whether it be a need for affordable housing, job training, or new infrastructure. Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville all have linkage fees that contribute to affordable housing. This strategy has also been used in Washington, Colorado, Florida, California, and New Jersey.
In 2013, the Somerville Board of Aldermen took the first step in establishing the trust with the passage of a Home Rule Petition[i] introduced by Mayor Joseph Curtatone. Now that the Act is law, the City can focus on the next phase of the process that will ultimately fund job training.
According to Jobs for Somerville, it plans to work with Mayor Curtatone and the Somerville Board of Aldermen to define the dollar amount for the fee and establish the specific square footage that will trigger the linkage. The next phase of the of the process will also determine who will be on the board overseeing the trust.
Job Training and Creation Keep Somerville Vibrant
SCC understands that funding job training is needed to ensure robust job creation and preparation for residents. In addition to organizing to bring more good jobs to Somerville, the committee has focused on increasing resources for job training and placement so that local residents can benefit from the jobs created by new development.
The City of Somerville’s fiscal 2017 budget contains no funds for job training or local hiring. The jobs trust is one (of many needed) long-term solution to this issue. Large commercial development projects in the city would pay into the dedicated workforce development trust fund, which will connect income-eligible Somerville residents with career opportunities with local employers.
The rationale for the linkage fee was established by a nexus study performed in 2013 by MIT economist Karl Seidman, which found that new commercial development creates a need for both project-specific and citywide workforce development programs. The nexus study recommended a fee of $1.40 per square foot for developments over 30,000 square feet.
Focusing on the Long Game
The path to creating a jobs linkage fee has been a long one. Jobs for Somerville began petitioning the City to fund several years ago, as an important way to address displacement and ensure economic diversity within Somerville. In 2013, Mayor Curtatone proposed the home rule petition, which was unanimously supported by the Board of Aldermen. Jobs for Somerville met with groups like the Boston Neighborhood Jobs Trust, the Somerville Board of Aldermen, city staff, and the state delegation to create a robust approach in how to submit the Home Rule petition. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Christine Barber and Senator Pat Jehlen, with full support from Representatives Denise Provost and Tim Toomey.
As the bill has moved through the legislature, Jobs for Somerville has continued to work with city officials, city staff and the Mayor. In fact, last year, SCC provided joint testimony with the City during a legislative hearing on the Act.
Jobs for Somerville is clear that passage of the Act is just the beginning of a long-term process to provide funding for workforce development in the City. We believe that this is but one tool in the toolbox for supporting job training, placement, and retention for Somerville residents. However, it is a significant step, and Jobs for Somerville is looking forward to the next phase.
[i] Cities and towns in the Commonwealth must seek the State’s permission for certain types of local legislation, such as issuing liquor licenses; reorganizing government or managing local elections; reserving their money in special revenue funds; and conveying or leasing certain property.