Drawing of proposal for 882-892 Mass. Ave.2020 drawing of 882-892 Mass. Ave.

UPDATED Aug. 25: The deadline to apply for three one-bedroom affordable apartments across from Arlington High School was Thursday, Aug. 24; a lottery to choose from among the valid applications is set for Sept. 15 on Zoom. However, questions remain as to whether the apartments' location within the building fully meets town and state requirements.

The building at 882-892 Mass. Ave. (the former site of Japanese restaurant Toraya before it moved), a new 21-unit rental development, includes this trio of affordable units, each with one bedroom and one bathroom in 507 square feet.

However, earlier this month, these units had been described in official documents as being approximately 700 square feet, just like the other 18 apartments in the building. The updated link with an accurate statement of the smaller square footage, was recently posted to the town website>>

The affordable apartments' size, price and location all have come under scrutiny in recent months after former town resident Don Seltzer began asking questions including whether the town is abiding by the terms of the special permit for the project; details are below.

The current application opportunity is the second one, sort of; the initial one, in May, had to be cut short because of inaccurate information. Seltzer's persistence led to this month's application period, as well as a $340 monthly saving for renters.

Town Planner Claire Ricker confirmed to YourArlington on Aug. 2: "The short story is that the developer’s consultant who ran the lottery did not follow the town’s guidance nor the bylaw and got it wrong. They’re re-running the lottery at their expense." The consultant is MCO Housing Services of Harvard.

In May, YourArlington posted a town announcement seeking applications, but the stated June 19 deadline to apply came and went. Behind the scenes, Seltzer, who has been following Arlington Redevelopment Board issues closely since 2017, had questions for town officials. 

Concern about location within building

The new application period announced earlier this month did not end the matter for Seltzer, who provided a recent letter to Town Counsel Doug Heim citing this special permit >> from the ARB.  Seltzer remains unsatisfied, saying that the three  units are still "stacked" at the rear of the building, contrary to the 2020 special permit. 

"The three designated affordable units have not been equitably dispersed," Seltzer wrote. "They are stacked on the 1-3 floors in the rear of the building. None are on the top floor. None are in the front of the building. None are included among the larger apartments.

"This lack of compliance was noted by Kelly Lynema [ former assistant planning director in the Planning Department] last year. According to MCO Housing, the owner refused to change any of the designated apartments. This is contrary to the Special Permit conditions listed above, Arlington's corresponding bylaw and the commonwealth's requirements for inclusion on the Subsidized Housing Inventory.

"The non-equitable distribution failure is further compounded by [the previously] inaccurate advertising by MCO Housing for these units. They are falsely claiming [this was subsequently corrected] that the three apartments in the upcoming lottery are all approximately 700 sf. In actual fact, the three units being offered are only about 500 sf. None of them are among the larger 700 sf units in the building. With units already being advertised for rental, there is some urgency to seeing the situation corrected."

Town officials asked to respond

Seltzer told YourArlington that Heim had told him that he was looking into the matter with Ricker and Director of Inspectional Services Mike Ciampa.

YourArlington independently asked for further comment from Ricker but was directed to send queries for Ricker and Town Manager James Feeney to Public Information Officer Joan Roman. Roman initially responded Aug. 11, saying that the notice about the three apartments had been changed to reflect their accurate, smaller size, at 507 square feet; YourArlington has verified that this change did occur.

Roman has been further asked to provide a response from Feeney; she replied Aug. 25 that the town manager "is still looking into this issue to find a resolution. Understand there are several parties he needs to connect with and scheduling continues to be challenging. When he has some information, he will be sure to share it. It is a high priority."

As for Seltzer, when asked what he expects the town to do, he responded with a timeline of the events since May and again asks that town officials abide by the requirements of the special permit.  

This news announcement was published Monday, Aug. 7, 2023, based on information provided by the Town of Arlington and via YourArlington reporting. It was edited Aug. 8, to remove the statement about the square footage of the units in question, as that was still in the process of being verified/corrected. It was updated Aug. 15, with confirmed information and explanatory reporting by YourArlington founder Bob Sprague. It was updated Aug. 24, to note that the application deadline for the three affordable apartments had passed and that information is still being sought as of that date. It was updated Aug. 25, to note that a town spokeswoman said that the town manager is diligently working on the issue.