A resident asked me questions about our affordable housing status and the pending Mega-B, and our options. I thought others might be interested in my answers.
In answer to your questions:
The developer’s projected number of children for a 200 unit complex seems low. Can the town assess the demographics of the other apartments in Medfield through the census filings? This could provide a data-based benchmark on how many kids to expect from the development.
That sort of analysis will get done as part of the process, in the comprehensive permit process before the ZBA. The town will hire, at the developer’s expense, peer review consultants to analyze the project and to make recommendations both about the developer’s conclusions and about how to make the project better and more palatable. The town will also get a state grant ($15,000 I believe) that allows us to hire a separate 40B consultant. The town has already hired, and heard from on Monday evening, a special 40B legal consultant (attorney Jason Talerman). As we proceed, I favor a dual track process by which we both try to stop the proposal in any way we can, and also have the town actively negotiating with the developer to reduce the size and scope of the proposed development, in case we cannot stop it – the town can offer easier permitting for a negotiated, more acceptable project, which saves the developer time and money.
The developer’s numbers for school children strike me too as seeming low, but maybe not dramatically off. The number that I have often heard quoted is that towns like ours should expect on average 1.5 school children per each single family home, and 0.15 school children per unit in multifamily housing. That 0.15 school children per unit in multifamily housing was the ratio that the town’s three consultants all agreed upon and used ten years ago when the town was analyzing the town and state agreed upon proposed 440 unit development at the former Medfield State Hospital site. That former plan for the MSH site was projected to have 133 school children in the 440 units of housing. Affordable housing has always been and continues to be part of the discussions related to the Medfield State Hospital site, including age related affordable housing. The plan the selectmen agreed to with the state ten years ago, which was then for the state to have a private developer develop the Medfield State Hospital site, called for much of the 259 units (with only 79 truly affordable) of proposed affordable housing to be age restricted, and the state at that time did agree in writing to allow that plan. From what the Board of Selectmen is now told, we could probably no longer get that age restricted housing allowed by the state as affordable housing, as the state now mainly wants to see 40B housing be family housing.
That 0.15 ratio would give one 30 school children in this currently proposed 200 unit apartment complex. I believe the numbers of school children at The Parc are above, but close to that ratio.
Separately, can a town fulfill it’s 40B requirements via affordable senior housing? And is there a way to designate a development as only for seniors? If this is an option, maybe the town can proactively use part of the state hospital property in this way?
Yes we can meet our 10% affordable housing via housing for seniors, such as at Tilden Village. However, the selectmen were told that over time the state has been getting more and more stringent in allowing age restricted housing to qualify as affordable housing for 40B purposes, such that the Board of Selectmen was told it is currently exceedingly difficult to get such age restricted 40B projects allowed. The state now wants affordable 40B housing to be mainly family housing. However, part of my plan involves using the 40-60 proposed new units of age restricted housing at Tilden Village, and I am hopeful the state will allow those units because of the synergies with the existing development already in place. The rest of my plan is to pass the Housing Production Plan ASAP (looks to be on October 17), and to develop 10 units of group home living for people with disabilities, which can qualify as affordable housing. Those ten affordable units, combined with the approved Housing Production Plan and the 12 units of affordable housing from the Hospital Road 40B that are already in the pipe line (they have already filed with the ZBA for a comprehensive permit) could get us to a safe harbor for one year, and we would be looking to the Tilden Village expansion and/or other affordable housing plans to get the next 22 units per year we would need to keep our safe harbor.
Because of the statutory deadlines, it is now too late to do any affordable housing at the Medfield State Hospital site as a way to stop this current 200 unit proposal. However, future affordable housing at the Medfield State Hospital site could be part of the annual 22 units per year that are needed to be built to keep the safe harbor.
Since I think others will be interested in your questions and my answers, I will post them on my blog.