Group homes to avoid the Mega-B


Building affordable housing via group homes so as to avoid the Mega-B

This morning I met with the Riverside Community Care CEO, Scott Bock, and its VP of Real Estate and Facilities Management, Chris Burke, along with Mike Sullivan, Kristine Trierweiler, and Jeff Marsden.  We were exploring the town assisting Riverside to locate a group home in Medfield.  The town is especially interested at the moment as we gets credit for each bed in a group home as an affordable housing unit, and hence group home beds could assist the town in building the twenty-one affordable units per year we need to build to have a safe harbor from unfriendly 40Bs.

Riverside Community Care stated that while they want to create a four bed group home in Medfield, the housing costs here make it hard for them to do.  They can buy the same house in Bellingham for less money, so there is a financial gap that needs to be closed for them to afford to create a group home in town.

Riverside needs a 2500 sq. ft. to 3000 sq. ft. home for its four TBI clients, and Chris Burke figures on $150/sq. ft. for construction costs, so around $450,000 for build out.  However, the economics require that the property, all in, only cost Riverside about $500,000,

If Riverside stretched, we ball parked the financial gap at about $300,000 to $400,000 per group home, that would need to be filled by creative financing means.  A direct town payment is too problematic and difficult to achieve (a town meeting vote is needed), so private monies seem to be the most likely means by which it can be done.

The Larkins’ 40B on Hospital Road is slated to give the town twelve affordable units in 2017, if it gets approved, so we would need nine more affordable units in 2017 to be protected for a year.  I have been focusing on group home beds due to my understanding that they would count as soon as the building permits were pulled, and because group homes have been held by case law to be exempt from local zoning as “education uses,” the agencies can go directly to pull a building permit without needing other permitting from the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Planning Board.

If the town can protect itself by creating the twenty-one affordable units the first year, the town still needs to be diligently exploring a myriad of other alternatives for the out years, but I favor the Tilden Village expansion of 40+ units to give us protection for years two and three.  In later years beyond that we will even have enough time to start to explore the use of town owned land.

This morning I gave Riverside a list of eight properties, four of which are on the market starting at $500,000, and four of which are not on the market, but which might work.

The possible ways to bridge the financial gap that we discussed included:

  • land donation, with tax deductions to the owners
  • money donations
  • private fund raising


Owners of single family homes in the downtown RU district, who have enough land, can create a two-family house as of right, just by pulling a building permit, so if there are any such home owners in the RU district who would like to have the extra income from allowing a group home to be added onto their existing home, as their “second house” for their two-family, in their own back yard, they should get in touch with me.


2 responses to “Group homes to avoid the Mega-B

  1. Nic Scalfarotto

    What type of residents would occupy a group home? Additionally, would such residents, typically, have access to transportation?


    • Selectman Osler "Pete" Peterson

      There is a range of disabled individuals that live in group homes. The ones Riverside Community Care is currently looking to create a group home to house are individuals with fairly severe acquired traumatic brain injuries (TBI). They were mainly in motor vehicle accidents. My sense is that this cohort would need to be transported, rather than be out seeking transportation.