The Town committee charged with promoting and facilitating affordable housing has been unable to meet this winter. And that won’t change until they get at least one more volunteer.
Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee’s lack of quorum, and its impact, came up at last week’s Planning Board Meeting.
Planning Board member Meme Luttrell is taking on drafting a revised zoning bylaw for over 55 developments. The board would like to include language that makes the projects affordable. Luttrell suggested that it would be good to work with SHOPC but worried it lacks a quorum.
Later, Town Planner Karina Quinn confirmed the problem. She explained that the former representative from the Southborough Housing Authority had to step down for health reasons. No other members have stepped up to fill the role.
But it’s not just SHA that has empty slots on the committee. SHOPC also allows for four at-large members. As Vice Chair Jesse Stein (also a Planning Board member) pointed out, just one more volunteer would make a quorum. He hoped that another resident would step up.
As for the over 55 bylaw, Luttrell reminded the board that language in an ownership clause has been ruled invalid by the courts. She wanted the board’s feedback on removing the language, further revising the bylaw, or eliminating the allowance. She wondered if the senior restriction was worth allowing the much denser development than allowed in other areas of town.
Stein urged revising the bylaw to legally recapture its original intent.
The “invalid” clause was specification that owners of the development would be a non-profit. The reason for that had been to encourage affordable housing. But the courts ruled that you can’t zone who is allowed to purchase land, only what its allowed uses are.
Other members of the board echoed Stein’s sentiments. Andrew Mills stressed the need for affordable homes for Southborough seniors. He said that when seniors downsize, the new homes shouldn’t be the same price but smaller, and with condo fees. He knew of people who had been financially stressed because of expensive senior housing.
Luttrell was unsure if a new bylaw could be ready in time for this April’s Town Meeting. She said that she didn’t want something rushed that had unintended consequences. If she can’t get it done for this spring, she’ll target ATM 2019.
Updated (2/14/18 8:00 am): The link for more info on SHOPC was missing.
Updated (2/14/18 8:05 am): Fixed a couple of typos, and filled in the missing first name of member Andrew Mills.