Affordable housing team to regroup

By Betsy Levinson - Editor betsy@theconcordbridge.org

Disappointed by the termination of the Christopher Heights at Junction Village affordable housing project, housing advocates in Concord are turning their focus to the future of the 12.5-acre parcel owned by the Concord Housing Development Corporation.

Relations between the town and the developer, The Grantham Group, LLC, soured over time, leading to a harshly critical letter to the board written by Walter Ohanian, managing director of Grantham. Following receipt of the letter, the Select Board denied a letter of support for the project to the state, and a request by Grantham for more money.

According to Keith Bergman, chairman of the allied Concord Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, attention now turns to the Housing Production Plan. The 2016 plan, citing the need for Junction Village, expired in 2021 and must be refiled with the state.

“The effort continues,” said Bergman.

“As disappointing as it is, the town can recommit itself to make sure nothing like that happens again,” he said.

Select Board responds

At the special Town Meeting scheduled for Jan. 19, 2023, the Select Board will place three articles on the warrant that will solidify community support for affordable housing.

One article seeks to “true up” the Town Meeting-approved fossil fuel-free bylaw with the state’s new law regarding a ban on new construction using fossil fuel. Concord is applying to be one of 10 communities to participate in a pilot program to ban the environmentally harmful oil and gas.

Another article seeks approval to impose a real estate transfer fee, the income from which will be applied to affordable housing. An article to that effect passed Town Meeting with strong support, said Select Board Chairman Matt Johnson.

A third new article asks for approval of a building permit surcharge to fund the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust.

A separate article asks the town to approve more money for the middle school.

Select Board members Johnson, Linda Escobedo, Terry Ackerman and Mary Hartman voted aye while Henry Dane abstained from a vote on the real estate transfer fee article because he is on the Board of Directors of the Mass. Real Estate Bar Association, which has taken a position on the land transfer legislation.

A public hearing on the warrant is scheduled for Nov. 17.

Statistics

The town had 715 housing units deemed affordable out of 6,852 total units according to the 2010 census. So Concord could rightly say it had above the 10 percent threshold required to avoid development of more dense housing than it wanted to see.

“The Concord Housing Development Corporation is deeply disappointed that after 10 years of effort, three Select Board members killed the project when the finish line was in plain view. The fact that the Select Board would not go on record with a vote on the matter speaks volumes. It will be years, if not decades, before another project can be advanced on the Junction Village site, given the complexities of public subsidies required. CHDC remains committed to affordable housing in Concord and will now direct its focus on creating five affordable homes at the Assabet River Bluff project on Old Marlboro Road

Lee Smith, CHDC Chair

But without the 83 all-affordable units promised through Junction Village, the town will almost certainly fall below 10 percent marker. Bergman said only eight to 20 units are projected to be eligible after the 2020 census.

“It’s not a big surprise that we will fall below the 10 percent level,” Bergman said. “The Housing Production plan is an opportunity to figure out what the town wants to do about it.”

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