I saw that my post about the Hospital Road 40B was sparking a larger discussion on one Facebook group, and wanted to share some thoughts, but I thought that I would give my input here, where it gets to more residents.
First, I feel it behooves the town to either have 10% affordable housing or 1.5% of its land devoted to affordable housing, both because it is the right thing to do to be inclusive, but also so that 40B projects cannot be put willy nilly anywhere in town. My office colleague lives on Wellesley Street in Weston – a developer bought the single family home next door, is looking to tear it down and build a four unit rental 40B on those two acres. Smart move for the developer, but it changes that neighborhood in ways that may not be welcome to the residents. That sort of pop up 40B may be our future too, if the town does not achieve one of the 40B safe harbors.
Second, we can achieve temporary protection if we both adopt and implement a Housing Production Plan (HPP). Such a plan is a road map to how we will achieve the 10%. The town paid a consultant to assist in preparing such a plan a couple of years ago, but it has not moved forward, I am told, because it has been opposed by the planning board. It would make sense to revisit and solve whatever shortcomings existed in that HPP and try to adopt a HPP. Once we adopt a HPP, we do need to actually bring on-line about 22 affordable housing units per year to keep our protection from the unwanted 40B proposals – but we could use the Hospital Road 40B to meet two years of that yearly requirement.
Third, the town can be proactive, either by having enacting inclusionary zoning (greater density developments include affordable units – such as is done by Newton – 10% of units must be affordable) or by sponsoring projects on town owned land. The inclusionary zoning might have gotten the town four affordable units at Old Village Square, one each at Grover Place and Thurston Place.
Ideally, any affordable housing would be spread around the town, instead of all clustered in one spot. However, when I went looking for town owned land we could use, I did not find many parcels, as historically we bought land for conservation purposes, and we cannot use conservation land for housing.
These are the parcels I know that the town can use for housing if it wanted:
- lot 3 off Ice House Road
- Hinkley land off Ice House Road
- Tilden Village (and this is not even town owned land)
Lastly, another intriguing option was recently presented to the MSH/MPC, of building group residents for individuals with disabilities. In such residences, such as the one that already exists on Hospital Road next to McCarthy Park, each bed counts as an affordable unit (that one modest building accounts for eight of the affordable units in town). In this scenario, the town can do well by doing what is both right to do for society and good for those with disabilities.