The Town is again reaching out for feedback from people who live and/or work in town. This time, it’s to inform what strategies the Town should take on affordable housing.
Even if Affordable Housing isn’t an issue you think you care about, if you’re a resident you probably should. Remember that under state Chapter 40B, insufficient Affordable Housing in Town leaves neighborhoods vulnerable to developments they might find inappropriate in their backyards.*
Of course, there are also more personal and/or more compassionate reasons to care. One issue often publicly lamented is that some elderly residents can’t find reasonable downsizing options in town.
The Town is working on updating its Housing Production Plan for affordable housing. A consultant helping asked me to share the Town’s survey announcement:
The Town of Southborough is undertaking an update of its Housing Production Plan to enable the Town to assess its housing needs and to identify strategies for affordable housing production under Chapter 40B. As part of this effort we would like to hear your input on what kind of housing meets your current and future needs, and what priorities you would like to see the Town address. Please take our survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SouthbouroughHousingPlan2020
Questions are split into three categories. In Part 1, the Town seeks the demographics whether respondents work and/or live in town, household size, income, and whether they rent or own. (All responses are anonymous. The explanation is that they want to gauge how well respondents reflect the Town’s population.)
In Part 2, participants are asked questions about how well their housing needs are being met and whether they plan to move out or can’t move in because of housing market limitations.
In Part 3, respondents are asked about what Town priorities for goals should be. They are then asked what should be done to meet those goals. Participants are asked how supportive they would be of the following strategies:
- Modify zoning to allow for more diverse neighborhood-scale forms of housing in appropriate locations.
- Facilitate development of affordable housing on town-owned property.
- Acquire existing houses to convert to affordable housing.
- Explore wastewater infrastructure improvements in village center areas to promote housing and economic development.
- Identify areas appropriate for multifamily zoning or Chapter 40B development.
At the end of the survey, participants are encouraged to share it with others.
I followed up with consultant Roberta Cameron at Community Opportunities Group to better understand who the survey is being done for. Cameron explained that COG was employed by the Town Planner on behalf of SHOPC (the Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee).
Questions about the Town’s strategies are COG’s wording based on multiple sources. Some are general strategies that Towns need to use to meet production goals. But I noticed that at least one (on wastewater infrastructure downtown) must be specific to Southborough.
Cameron said that COG also took information from the old Housing Production Plan and a previous survey for the Town (though simplifying the language.) She said she also spoke with SHOPC and Town staff, which is how she learned about the wastewater issues the Town is looking into for the Downtown Business Village.
*Housing in Town needs to be comprised of at least 10% Affordable Housing in order for Towns to have “safe haven” status from unwanted developments. If you aren’t familiar, you can read more in this 2018 post.