[Hpn] Housing shortage gets airing at conference today;Marlboro, MA.;11/15/01
Morgan W. Brown
Thu, 15 Nov 2001 23:53:04 -0500
Thursday, November 15, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
Local News section
Housing shortage gets airing at conference today: Swift wary of changing
affordable housing law
By John Gregg
Thursday, November 15, 2001
MARLBOROUGH - More than 700 activists and state and local officials were to
gather in Marlborough this morning for a topic they say still has currency
in a slowing economy - a regional shortage of affordable housing.
Topics at the second annual "Governor's Conference on Housing" included
zoning to encourage mixed-income developments; innovations in new housing;
and moving out of homelessness.
Also sure to be discussed was the state's Chapter 40B law, which allows
developers of projects that include affordable units to skirt some local
zoning laws in towns that don't meet the state's 10 percent threshold for
A bill reforming Chapter 40B is in a House-Senate conference, but acting
Gov. Jane Swift has said the 32-year-old law is needed to get more
below-market housing built in communities opposed to new development.
"The governor will be reiterating her commitment to the 40B law. She'll also
be urging communities to be pro-active in how they manage and plan for
housing growth in their communities," said Sarah Magazine, a Swift
Aaron Gornstein, the executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning
Association, said the state has made important progress on the housing front
in the last year.
Housing "is very high on the radar screen. That's the reason we need to get
together on these conferences, so it does stay high on the list," said
Among the changes statewide, he said, are the creation of a five-year, $100
million housing trust fund; increasing the state bond cap for new housing
from $71 million to $101 million; and a plan to increase the overall state
housing bond bill to $508 million over five years. left message for John to
"There's a lot of momentum at the state level to really demonstrate a
commitment to affordable housing," said Clark Ziegler, the executive
director of the quasi-public Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund. "At the
same time, I think the challenges locally of getting new projects approved
and built are as difficult as ever."
And the expanded state housing bond bill is still awaiting legislative
approval. With the economy slowing and the state facing a $1.4 billion
budget deficit, some activists have been worried that the push for more
affordable housing is in jeopardy.
"We want to hear that (Swift) is going to protect the housing budget in
terms of any potential cuts," Gornstein said.
"Prices may be dropping at the very high end of the market, but we don't see
any softening of the market substantially for low- and moderate-income
people. It's still very difficult to find affordable housing, whether you
are trying to rent an apartment or buy a first home," Gornstein added.
Meanwhile, the Swift administration yesterday released more than $74 million
in grants and state and local tax credits to help private developers build
1,657 housing units, most of them affordable.
In the Rte. 495 and MetroWest region, the Gatehouse Group received a
$715,000 grant and $1.95 million in state and federal tax credits to build
the 96-unit Franklin Commons project.
The rental development in Franklin includes 62 units of affordable housing.
Fred Habib, chief of staff for the state Department of Housing and
Community, said developers can sell the tax credits to investors to leverage
more funding for their projects.
And Habib said Massachusetts for more than a decade has preferred to finance
mixed-use, privately run housing developments, rather than segregating
low-income residents in public housing projects.
"We fund this type of project, which are mixed-income developments and have
private management," he said. "We feel it's a much better model, both
socially and economically."
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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