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Affordable housing group works to align interests
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PEPPERELL — The
Affordable Housing Committee
(AHC) brought the feedback
consultant Larry Koff
asked for last month regarding
his affordable housing
plan draft to the strategy
session in the Town Hall
on Dec. 20.

Some data was dismissed
as unnecessary, other
sections were rearranged,
and a new guideline ratio
between rental and owned
affordable housing was
determined.

The AHC is charged with
developing an affordable
housing plan that will
be submitted to the Board
of Selectmen (BOS) and
town meeting for ratification.
The plan will become part
of the town’s master
plan that is currently
undergoing an update.

“We’re riding
two horses at the same
time; addressing the need
for affordable housing
and the need to control
(the) kind of housing,”
said AHC member Gregory
Rice. “In a perfect
world these would be aligned.”

“The alternative
is no plan,” said
AHC Chairman Richard Colangelo.

“So we need something
that gets us started and
is acceptable,”
Koff said.

The committee addressed
whether a housing preference
chart Koff developed from
the 2000 Census figures
was realistic.

The chart attempts to
predict what type of housing
— single family,
two-family, condo or multi-family
— various age groups
might prefer, and the
number of units they would
purchase.

Seventy-two percent of
existing Pepperell housing
is single family, 13 percent
is multi-family, 7 percent
is condominiums, and 4
percent is two-family
housing.

“The question is
how do we look at needs
(because) most communities
are building single families,”
Koff said. “What
distribution should a
mixed-use have?”

Household types on Koff’s
chart include single parent
households, households
with children and those
for ages 15 to 34.

“I’m not clear
what age 15 to 34 means,”
Rice said. “Also,
some single-family households
do have children. I need
justification of these
sub-choices.”

Rice said he doesn’t
like using a single parent
as a proxy for income
when estimating housing
need.

“The information
on this table is of no
value to us,” he
said. “For example,
there is an overwhelming
preference for single
family homes standing
alone which doesn’t
work (for affordable housing),
and some groups are more
affected by purchase price.

“Pepperell in particular
has a lack of housing
that can be made accessible
(to low and moderate incomes).”
he said.

Colangelo said in discussions
with Planning Board Administrator
Inez Gove that there was
evidence that Pepperell
doesn’t have much
development other than
single family homes.

The AHC decided to exclude
the estimated preference
chart from the final report.

Koff asked for feedback
on another chart that
allocates future growth
through 2015 according
to housing types for rental
and owned properties.

One type is in-law apartments,
which Koff suggested as
a solution for elderly
and special needs housing
space.

“I don’t know
if they get us anywhere
for affordable housing,”
Colangelo said.

“It seems to me
more young adult families
come home for a time with
a spouse. This is not
in-law apartments (as
seen in the affordable
housing proposal) although
that (category) might
address (40B availability),”
Rice said.

AHC member and Realtor
Angela Schwom agreed that
in-law apartments seem
to be a waste of time
to consider, mostly because
when the occupant dies,
the units usually revert
to their original purpose
within a single family
home.

AHC and Planning Board
member Nicholas Cate felt
differently.

“In-law apartments
are allowed, and there
is a demand here,”
he said. “I would
say incorporate them.”

Another housing alternative
is assisted living facilities.

“Right now there
is no assisted living
or garden apartments in
town,” Colangelo
said. “As we cover
these things some straggling
groups might fit in (to
the plan).”

Nursing homes were ruled
out. Colangelo said there
are many in the surrounding
area and questioned Pepperell’s
need. Koff said they do
not count as affordable
housing, and Rice said
it is not the AHC’s
charge to deal with them.

Age-restricted condominiums,
either garden type or
single-floor, are another
potential solutions for
elderly and special needs
residents.

“Condos are good
for keeping communities
together I’ve found,”
Schwom said.

Why is over-55 housing
listed as a housing type,
Rice asked. Colangelo
said because maybe the
usual case involves no
children, which is a form
of discrimination.

Young adult and family
housing could encompass
all housing types.

In trips through town,
Koff said he has seen
a lot of older homes that
could, with incentives,
be converted for different
types of housing such
as condominiums or multi-family.

“It all comes down
to zoning, and very limited
space allowed by permits,”
Colangelo said.

In favor of mixed-use,
Colangelo said he discussed
the potential mixed residential
and commercial use that
could come to the former
Pepperell Paper mill with
Gove.

Any housing there, Koff
said, could fall under
Chapter 40R, the Smart
Growth Zoning and Housing
Production Act that allows
for the conversion of
commercial properties,
and provides some reimbursement
to towns for school children
who live in them.

“(The legislation)
has been passed, and the
money put in but who knows
for how long,” Koff
said, adding that 40R
allows for 20 percent
of the housing total be
affordable instead of
Chapter 40B’s 25
percent.

“I’m nervous
about keeping the small
town feel,” AHC
and Finance Committee
member Stephanie Cronin
said. “I love the
housing rehabilitation
idea to renovate one unit.
It will help affordable
housing, but it isn’t
a cure-all. How would
we do it?”

Koff said there are three
to five strategies, but
Pepperell doesn’t
have any houses to rehabilitate.

“A bylaw would have
to be developed for zoning,
and there are state funds
available, but it won’t
get 29 units (needed each
year),” Koff said.

Colangelo felt rental
property was a better
direction to go in than
40B housing developments,
and asked Cronin what
she is afraid of losing.

“I was thinking
Lowell or Lawrence (triple-deckers),”
she answered.

Colangelo, also a Realtor,
had brought in pictures
of garden style condominium
developments. He explained
how creative design can
make them appear more
desirable.

“We’re talking
development that may be
sizable, but with streets
going into them,”
he said. “You’d
probably not even know
it and they probably would
not change the look of
the town.”

Koff asked if the AHC
preferred to maintain
the 25 percent rental
to 75 percent ownership
ratio he based his proposal
on.

“Most generations
want to buy, although
many still rent as had
past generations,”
Colangelo said.

“Are you mandated
(to that ratio) or is
it a guideline?”
Cate asked.

“It’s a guideline
because we can mention
it as policy to any future
developer in hopes he
would adhere,” Rice
said.

“The plan can be
changed every year,”
Koff said.

Cate recommended the guideline
be changed to 30 percent
rental, and Cronin agreed.

“We wouldn’t
want to push toward 50
percent,” Cate said.