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Housing authority seeking affordable housing surveys

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TOWNSEND — Despite a pair of housing developments that promise to create a number of new affordable housing units in town, members of the Housing Authority still say Townsend is falling short of state-mandated targets.

The two projects, Atwood Acres and the new Townsend Woods, will add 86 living units to the town’s stock of affordable housing, greatly increasing the total number affordable units in town, which currently stands at about a dozen.

Only 2 percent of Townsend’s housing units are classified as affordable, well below the state’s 10-percent target figure.

According to Housing Authority member Michelle Cannon, the town does have an plan which sets targets for the creation of affordable housing but it is seriously out of date. The current plan was written five years ago.

Since then, the state’s economy has slowed down, considerably effecting real estate development. In local communities where construction was booming, work has come to a virtual standstill today.

Adding to the malaise, there is also little movement at the municipal level to create town-owned or operated affordable housing.

Other than Townsend Woods, no new affordable units are currently being created in Townsend or are even on the drawing board.

Meanwhile early returns of a survey being conducted by the Housing Authority sounding out residents on affordable housing and continued development in town indicate many residents are unfriendly toward further construction and prefer preserving Townsend’s small town atmosphere.

The survey, said Cannon, is needed in order for the town to qualify for Montachusett Regional Planning Commission grant money that could then be used to give local homeowners loans needed to help them upgrade septic systems that do not measure up to the state’s Title 5 regulations.

Among the questions in the survey (of which 1,700 have been distributed) residents were asked how they felt about creating more affordable housing in town, who they consider qualified for affordable housing, what strategies the town should take to create more affordable housing, what price range would they consider a reasonable price for an affordable unit and if they welcome affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

Other questions concern whether town growth should be regulated, unregulated or if there should be any at all.

Others seek to pinpoint average income levels in town, how many members of the family contribute to its income and the number of people living under one roof.

Finally, the survey seeks to determine how residents feel about their community and what they like best and least about Townsend.

The information gathered in the survey is not only needed to help the town qualify for grant money but is useful to the Housing Authority as well. For that reason, members urge residents to pick up copies at Town Hall, the Library, the Brick Store, or the Authority’s office at 272 Main Street, fill them out and turn them in.

So far, authority members report only a 55 surveys have been turned in by residents. Seventeen hundred had been distributed. The group does not have enough responses to provide decision makers with clear direction.

Those interested in the issue of housing in general should contact the authority about becoming a member. At the moment, the five-member group is one short and is seeking a volunteer to join them.

The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16.