One strategy that I have been exploring for the Town of Medfield is the construction of group homes in town for residents with disabilities, partly because it is the right thing for we as a town to do, and partly because each bed in the group home counts towards our Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI).
At the meeting of the Board of Selectmen last night we received data from the Department of Housing and Community Development indicating that the town currently has 283 SHI, putting us at 6.71% of our housing stock as being affordable SHI. We need to be at 10% to be protected from unfriendly 40B projects, so we are about 150 SHI short.
I have already met with Riverside Community Care and The Price Center about their agencies locating group homes in town, and this week I spoke with the director of the Towards Independent Living and Learning, Inc. (TILL) in Dedham which specializes in group homes.
Weeks ago someone suggested to me that I talk to TILL about group homes, and its director returned my call Monday. I see TILL, like Riverside Community Care, as an opportunity for the town to consider whether it wants to donate some town owned land to make group homes work. To get group homes built through TILL, there will apparently need to be financial assistance to close the financial model money gap, as existed for Riverside Community Care too. Land donation by the town could make the financial model work, and town land donation would ultimately need to be a policy decision of the annual town meeting (ATM). Town land donation could be sponsored to the ATM by the Board of Selectmen and/or the Affordable Housing Committee.
If the town opts to actively pursue group home construction, it would make sense to then have a more detailed discussion with TILL, Riverside Community Care and The Price Center about how we could possibly partner with them to make it happen.
If we are fortunate enough to avoid the Mega-B by permitting 21 SHI in 2017 via the pending Larkin and Borrelli 40B’s, then the town must get actively involved in planning the next steps for the following years until we build the rest of the 130 odd units of SHI that we will need to add to get to our 10% affordable housing safe harbor (and we need to add SHI at the rate of at least 21 per year).
I am hoping that, since my selectmen colleagues refused my proposal that the selectmen assign the task of producing affordable housing to our town administrator (to lead and accomplish), that that the task will instead be assigned to the soon to be retained affordable housing consultant. The draft RFP for that affordable housing consultant (I received it this morning) calls for responses to be received by January 10, so that affordable housing consultant will be on board soon. To make the consistent annual progress that is required, someone must be responsible and someone must be leading the process. I see producing affordable housing in Medfield as currently a scattered, headless effort, crying out for leadership.