Dear Members of the Advisory Committee:

I am writing on behalf of the Hingham Unity Council (the “HUC”) regarding the proposed changes to the Town’s ADU by-law. The HUC supports the removal of the familial restriction on these rentals as originally proposed by the ADU Study Committee appointed by Hingham Town Meeting. We have attended all of the Planning Board’s public hearings on this proposal and have yet to hear any fact-based explanation for retaining this restriction. If anything, we heard only additional data supporting its removal. We believe the strongest arguments in support are:

Housing diversity/affordability

  • Goal 4 of Hingham’s Master Plan and the Hingham Housing Plan both emphasize the urgency of diversifying our Town’s housing inventory, especially as our overall population is aging, with a national trend toward solo aging. Page 90 of the Housing Plan states: “The recent adoption of the ADU bylaw is a good start and certainly a step in the right direction. However, restricting occupancy to family members largely sidesteps one of the primary purposes and benefits of such units – to provide homeowners with additional income that is particularly important for elderly homeowners, single parents, and others who are spending too much of their income on housing and for whom such income may be critical to remaining in their homes.”  The report goes on to list numerous benefits of these units for increasing housing diversity. Exploration of expanding the potential of these units as a housing option was labeled a “short-term” goal in that report. 
  • Data presented by the HAHT during the Planning Board hearings demonstrates that these units are likely to be more affordable than currently available inventory. 

Positive experience of other communities. 

  • The ADU Study Committee’s extensive data and research shows that many of our benchmark communities already allow ADUs with no family restriction. Page 15 of The Pioneer Institute Report lists 37 other communities that have adopted unrestricted by-laws, and since that time, we know that Norwell and Wellesley can be added to that list. 
  • Data presented by the Hingham Affordable Housing Trust (“HAHT”) based on outreach to Towns that allow unrestricted ADUs has identified no issues or undue burden related to those units.

Appropriate safeguards to prevent abuse. 

  • There are many restrictions and safeguards in the Study Committee’s proposal that would address concerns about the effect of these units on the community and neighbors, including a cap on total number of units, an owner-occupancy requirement, setbacks, and square footage requirements. 
  • In addition, a special permit will still be needed for each new unit. Note that many other towns allow these units by right.

Disparate impact. 

  • Only allowing family rentals in a 95%+ white town can lead to only one result, regardless of intention. The Hingham Unity Council’s mission is to foster a more diverse and inclusive community, a mission that mirrors Policy 1.6 of Hingham’s Master Plan. We do not find this by-law amendment as modified by the Planning Board to include a familial restriction on rentals to be consistent with this goal.

Respectfully, we request that the Advisory Committee support a version of the By-Law that incorporates the removal of the familial restriction as originally proposed by the ADU Study Committee.

Thank you,

Katie Sutton, Chair, Hingham Unity Council

Submitted March 6, 2023 via email