Affordable Housing plan up for vote on February 24

Southborough officials need to file an updated Housing Production Plan with the state for approval by March 22. Otherwise the Town’s “safe harbor”* period for Affordable Housing projects will expire.

On Tuesday, a consultant presented a draft to the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and SHOPC**. The plan outlines housing needs, goals, and strategies. Those goals were somewhat in debate on Tuesday night. And board members pointed out that Town Meeting voters will likely be a roadblock for regulatory strategies.

Time pressure has been worsened by Mother Nature. Public meetings were cancelled two weeks in a row by snow storms. The boards finally managed to convene this week to review the draft.

Housing Needs

Consultant Jennifer Goldson explained what’s required to keep Southborough’s safe harbor. The Town must produce 17 affordable units for one year of safe harbor and 34 units for two. Over five years, the plan requires adding 65 Affordable Housing units. If Woodland Meadows and Park Central projects go through, that leaves an additional 16 units.

She also highlighted an affordability gap in town housing. Comparing median real estate sales prices to median income revealed a $70,000 gap in-town and $240,000 for eastern Worcester County. (SHOPC members asked the consultant to reevaluate Southborough’s median income based on the the number of home businesses, who possibly under-report.)

Housing Goals

The board members and audience were all in agreement about pursuing more senior housing. The consensus was there are too many residents who have lived here their entire lives but can’t afford to stay. When they look to downsize, there aren’t affordable options in town.

Goals also included: attracting families with affordable entry-level family housing, minimizing effects on open space, and supporting density compatible with “neighborhood context”.

Planning Board Member Kathy Bartolini asked Goldson to work on the language of the last goal. She didn’t see anywhere to build in town that isn’t “in context with” single family neighborhoods.

One goal shot down was to create rental units for very low income households. Selectmen John Rooney told the group that he “worked 16-18 hour days for decades to be able to afford to live in a community such as Southborough.” Very low income housing projects weren’t part of his vision for the town.

Others didn’t speak directly on the issue but supported removing language about “extremely low- and very low-income”, replacing with housing for older adults, or even removing the goal.

Board of Selectmen Chair Bill Boland told the group that keeping goals broader gives the Town more flexibility.

Regulatory Strategies

To reach the goals, Goldson recommended regulation changes. These include permitting mixed use buildings in village centers, improve flexible zoning, define areas for duplexes “by right”, allowing more accessory apartments, congregate living for seniors, and study creation of a 40R Smart Growth district within walking distance of the commuter rail.

Former Planning Board member Sam Stivers said that in his experience, residents object to duplexes as changing the character of the town. That was echoed by Bartolini who was concerned the plan was unrealistic. Referring to Town Meeting voters, she remarked:

It’s great, but where is the will to move 8 goals?

Bartolini explained that in developing the draft, Goldson had been working with housing advocates. She then described her past and ongoing efforts to adopt zoning bylaw changes based on the Town’s Master Plan with some similar goals.

It’s a project that has dragged on for years. She told Goldson they are now working on it piecemeal and nowhere near achieving those goals.

Bartolini also asked to find out how much developable land is left in town. She questioned if there is enough to achieve town goals for housing, economic development and Open Space.

Boland said that he didn’t believe any plan would be universally accepted by voters. But he believed they needed strategies worth striving towards.

Other Strategies

Goldson outlined non-regulatory initiatives the Town should undertake. These included expanding Southborough owned Housing Authority stock, converting town-owned buildings (like the South Union Building) to multi-family housing, a housing rehab and improved accessibility program for low-income homeowners (including older adults). She also recommended wastewater infrastructure improvements in village center areas to promote housing and economic development.

The consultant is working with Town Planner Jennifer Burney to incorporate changes this week. The three boards will reconvene to vote on Tuesday, February 24 at 7:15 pm in the Town House Hearing Room.

*According to the plan, safe harbor under Mass Housing Authority gives the Town “more control over location, type, and pace of affordable housing development”.

**Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee

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JW
7 years ago

This whole “affordable housing crisis” is a manufactured scam by “housing advocates” and HUD flunkies. They will steal more of your tax dollars to throw up cheaply built projects. Developers will pocket huge amounts of money and a few units are built which wil be trashed within a few years. There are alot of people in this country that make one bad life choice after another. Having kids they can’t afford, cars they cant afford, they want it all on $8.00 an hour. Well I didn’t have it all when I was making just above minimum 20 years ago and it was just as tough then to get by as it is now. There is no housing crisis, there is just a mass crisis of missing individual responsibity and living within ones means. What are all of these “housing advocates” going to do when the FY 2016 Federal budget is released by the Republicans that will slash millions from HUD? Obama’s current housing czar is privitizing public housing at record numbers, there will be no government funded housing within five years, then what? People need to take personal responsiblity and live where they can afford to live, not live beyond their means and make good choices and not expect taxpayers to foot the bill for them. Wake up people the gravy train is about to go crashing off the tracks.

Bill
7 years ago
Reply to  JW

There are also families who have fallen upon hard times due to illness or downsizing or any number of issues. Why would you assume that the only people who would benefit from affordable housing have too many kids or would “trash” the homes in a couple of years ? It’s a sad day when we would begrudge our neighbors (potential or otherwise) a chance at a proper home.

John Boy
7 years ago
Reply to  JW

Unfortunately taxes keep going up making the non-elderly housing more unaffordable.
Instead of worrying about affordable housing for the elderly how about doing something for the non-elderly, like keeping real estate taxes down.

downtown resident
7 years ago
Reply to  John Boy

Why does it have to be an “instead,” why not “as well” ? Aren’t you going to be a senior one day?

John Boy
7 years ago

You are right.

Donna McDaniel
7 years ago

First… thanks to Bill, a reasonable response to baseless uninformed views. Also note that the town already has low income housing for the elderly — do we find Colonial Gardens has been “trashed” by older folks? Do you know where it is?
Second… We also have several houses that were built under the affordable housing provisions in the last several years and I dare anyone to find them distinguishable from the other homes in their nice neighborhoods — or to find the one house built for low income tenants (different from affordable). It’s been there in a fairly visible spot for years without a single special notice or complaint.

downtown resident
7 years ago

I do, I do! I know where Colonial Gardens is! Its in my neighborhood and I’m glad of it. The people who live there are delightfully pleasant neighbors who do not trash other people’s reputations. In fact, they are quit accepting of others and genuinely greatful people. I feel bad for them right now because they are walking in the road (rt.30) because the sidewalks aren’t cleared. But they aren’t posting public complaints…..

Craig Nicholson
7 years ago

I’m going to throw my two cents in here with regards to affordable housing. They key nature of affordable housing is to provide the individual, or in the case of Southborough, family with a stable housing solution that can be attained within their budget.

The benefits of having a reliable place to call home are immense. This security provides the foundation for families to work toward bettering their economic situation. The children are able to become part of a community that values education – hopefully pushing that child to go to college; the parents may be able to take advantage of opportunities for job training and financial planning that allow them to move out of minimum wage jobs because they don’t have to work multiple jobs just to provide a roof over their heads. By limiting the amount each family has to spend on housing, they’ll have money left in their budget to spend on groceries, clothes and gas to commute to that better paying job.

As for the construction standards of affordable housing…I am a real estate developer and know for a fact that they regulated requirements for inspections, replacement reserves and regular capital needs assessments for each affordable housing unit is far stricter than anything you would see from a market rate deal. This is not saying that market rate owners don’t do this on their own, of course they do, it’s the smart thing to do.

In the end, we are all very fortunate in Southborough. Providing the mechanisms within our town’s planning structure to responsibly develop affordable housing is just one of those things that goes along with being so lucky.

Matthew Brownell
7 years ago

“Providing the mechanisms within our town’s planning structure to responsibly develop affordable housing is just one of those things that goes along with being so lucky” . . . .

Would one of those “mechanisms” be the CPA tax that didn’t exist when I moved to Southborough??? The tax that takes an additional $400 a year out of my family’s mouth? Is, umm, THAT the happy-face “mechanism” you’re referring to?

downtown resident
7 years ago

Is your family truly eating less because of a $400 bill? Or are you being dramatic?

Bill
7 years ago

Unbelievable. And very sad.

Matthew Brownell
7 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Really, “Bill”?? $400 is 3 – 4 weeks of groceries on the table.

Get Better, and realize that the hegemony of progressive Socialism and Free subsidies only lasts until your multi-generational punch bowl runs dry.

downtown resident
7 years ago

Where do you shop that you only have to spend $100 a week on groceries? I’m quite serious becsuse that’s less than $15 a day and I would like to shop there.

Donna McDaniel
7 years ago

Reminder: The Community Preservation Act was adopted voluntarily by a vote of Town Meeting, brought to the Meeting for consideration by a committee made up of townspeople. It is not something imposed on us from higher up or afar.

Matthew Brownell
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

Community Preservation Act was passed in Southborough at a time when the economy was strong, wine was flowing freely, and people actually earned interest on their savings.

Today, it is an outdated, oppressive tax that pinches Middle Class families.

Tim Martel
7 years ago

2013 Tax Rate: 16.54 per $1000
2013 Average Assessed Value of Single Family: $518,338
2013 Average Single Family Tax Bill: $8,573

2013 Average CPC Tax Bill: $69.19
(low income families are exempt)

Take a look at the projects funded by the CPC over the years, and also consider what new ones are coming in the near future. Note the state contribution. Then compare that combined value to 70 bucks/year.

———-
518,338 – 100,000 (exemption) = 418,338
418,338/1000*16.54*.01= $69.19

Matthew Brownell
7 years ago
Reply to  Tim Martel

Tim –

It’s a quarterly tax, so the “average CPC Tax Bill” of $69.19 that you mention above is billed out 4X during the year . . . yes?

southsider
7 years ago

To clarify: 25% of the $69 is billed out each quarter. So, the average homeowner pays about $17.30 per quarter to fund Community Preservation.

southsider
7 years ago

I think the CPA surcharge is an incremental 1% of our property tax bill and that may be overstated a bit because I think there is some exclusion placed on the overall property valuation ( maybe $100k? ) before the CPA surcharge is computed.
A $400/year CPA charge would imply an annual property tax bill of $40,000.

maybe my recall is incorrect or the surcharge was raised in a subsequent year? if so, apologies

Donna McDaniel
7 years ago

A little late for the shopping topic above but will add this… obviously it depends on how many people you shop for. As a single–thrifty by choice and necessity–I spend no more than $20/week. Rule: look for sales — get store brands… use coupons or specials like “buy 4, get 1 free.” Get less expensive meat ONLY on sale. I don’t fuss much with coupons but do look for specials. Won’t say where, but mostly I shop in same place that sells much more than food and use their red (hint hint) credit card with 5% off everything. Fewer trips save gas. P.S. I’m not deprived except for self-limit on desserts– occasional ice cream (on sale and sugar-free).

downtown resident
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

Great! Thank you for the tips. I use coupons. Every penny counts and saving on one thing affords me something else.

Donna McDaniel
7 years ago

Now that I feel like the lady with shopping hints, I will answer the questioo about where I shop… hesitate to sound like a commercial BUT… simply put, I shop at Target. They now have just about every grocery item, fresh, canned, frozen, etc. I also like it because the one in Marlboro East is about 10 mins. away or the ones in Westboro and Framingham are on routes I seem to travel a lot. The other things–office supplies, shampoo, all those are cheaper and they have their own brand “Market Pantry” of canned and frozen goods and chips, etc. that are just as good as the name brands.
Finally, my favorite: prescription prices are good and after orders for five have been bought, I get a coupon in the mail for 5% off on shopping for one day (including online shopping). so, with my 5% off Target credit card, amounts to 10% off. So I have a 10% list of things like paper towels and detergent or canned goods and wait till I get my next coupon. Use for one day only–day of your choice–and there is an expiration but it’s quite generous in the time one has.
And as long as I’m going to be accused of being on their payroll or maybe getting an extra 5% coupon under the table, I’ll also add that I find the people who work there very helpful and well-trained… if I can’t find something, they will lead me right to it, and I’m amazed at how they can remember where everything is.
Donna

downtown resident
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

Wow! You have it all worked out. I’m going to have to look into that. Thanks for taking the time to explain your system ;)

Frank Crowell
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

$20 a week!!!

I spend that much in adult beverages alone – twice that when the tax bill shows up.

Donna McDaniel
7 years ago

One more tip–I try to avoid writing as “Auntie Donna” with her “shopping tips” or whatever.
For seniors, a good deal: On the first Tues and Wed of every month, Walgreen’s offers
20 percent off whatever you buy. Not sure if you need a Walgreen’s card (but obtained painlessly and no e-mails, etc. sent because of it). They also have most everyday things in their own brand at a better price, even a few frozen foods and snacks. In fact, great variety of goods and handier for some than markets in other towns.

downtown resident
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

1st Tuesday and Wednesday of the month! Grabbing my keys….

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