Concord officials are pulling out all the stops to increase the number of affordable housing units in town.
If the town’s inventory of affordable housing units falls below 10% of all housing units, as officials predict it will, developers can use the state’s Chapter 40B development laws to circumvent some local zoning, if a portion of the project is deemed affordable.
According to Elizabeth Rust, director of the regional housing service office, Concord is about to drop below the threshold.
“We anticipated that this would be the story,” Rust said.“We are below by three units,” which is less than we originally anticipated…we thought it would be eight units.”
Nothing is official until the state releases the Subsidized Housing Inventory later in June, Rust said. But she believes the speculative calculation will end up being accurate.
Right now, there are a number of efforts to create new subsidized housing inventory, Rust said, “Any of those plans will generate more than three units by the end of the calendar year.”
Even if 40B development happens while the town has fewer affordable homes than needed, iit always pays for there to be a collaborative relationship between the developer and the town where they are working, Rust said.
“While the town can’t say no to certain projects, there is a mutual benefit to working together,” she said.
According to Rust, the landscape around affordable housing is always changing and evolving. Right now, for example, the town must consider the implications of the MBTA Communities Zoning, which requires MBTA communities to adopt new zoning around the rail stations. Concord could start seeing an impact from that law within a year, Rust said.
On its website, the Concord Housing Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to affordable housing, touts three articles passed at Town Meeting in May:
One transferred $500,000 in Community Preservation money for work on the Assabet Bluff project. According to the CHF website, this is about 27% of the total CPC request, and will enable Assabet Bluff to move toward completion.
Two other articles transfer about $2 million to the Concord Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. According to the site, this is money previously earmarked for the Junction Village project, which was scrapped last fall. The money will be used for a new Village Junction project; for completing work at the Assabet Bluffs development; or for other affordable housing projects.CHA-RFP-INCLUDE-WITH-CHA-40B.doc
Other projects focused on subsidized or affordable housing include a Habitat for Humanity project on Commonwealth Avenue in West Concord. The Concord Housing Authority assisted by giving Habitat the development rights and paying for the sewer hookup, said CHA Executive Director Jennifer Polito.
The CHA put out a rolling request for proposals, an RFP, to property owners in Concord, looking for one- or two-family homes or units in multifamily buildings to participate in the Section 8 Project Based Voucher program.
Polito expects the authority’s recently formed CHA Local Properties, LLC, which can submit bids on the Section 8 RFP, to help the town reach the 10% goal. The CHA LLC is one of only three in Massachusetts.
If any properties are approved, the CHA would contact families or individuals already on a state waiting list to occupy the units. The voucher would pay for most of the rent. Property owners have no say on who goes into the unit, Polito said.
The Housing Authority recently rehabbed 284 Thoreau Street into a three-bedroom, handicap accessible unit. They are going down the state waiting list for a tenant. The guidelines are challenging: they must require a three-bedroom, need wheelchair assistance and want to live in town.