SRPEDD to Produce Housing Production Plan

            The Mattapoisett Planning Board will be engaged in the mammoth task of writing a new Master Plan with the assistance of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD).

            On October 29, Grant King, director of comprehensive planning for SRPEDD, presented the steps to be taken as the group studies data and engages community groups to flush out the needs of the seaside town, most notably, its housing needs.

            King gave a short presentation that promised to provide the town with much needed information when assessing housing needs. The presentation touched on demographic findings, main barriers to affordable housing, and main strategies to pursue.

            Mattapoisett applied for a District Local Technical Assistance grant to cover the costs of producing the plan, King stated. He said the completed housing production plan would focus on Chapter 40B housing in an effort to “gain more control over the Chapter 40B process and to create local champions for housing.”

            King said that the SRPEDD team would look at affordable housing from two perspectives – one with a small “a” and one with a capital “A”; the latter being more expensive homes.

            Regarding the demographics, King presented data that demonstrated the aging of Mattapoisett and the shrinking of household sizes. The data found that 42.2 percent of residents are 65 years of age or older, up from 29.8 percent found in 2000. Another 22 percent of all households are single-person homes with half of that figure being 65 and older. Households with children 18 and younger came in at 24.9 percent of the whole, down 32 percent from 2000.

            King said the major barrier in buying a home in Mattapoisett is cost. According to King, about 20 percent of the housing stock is seasonal, and there is very little in the way of multi-family units. He also commented that 54.7 percent of housing in town is single-family homes built prior to 1969. With housing that old, he said renovations would be costly and nearly impossible to qualify as affordable.

            The data presented noted that an affordable price tag for a single-family unit stood at $252,300, while Mattapoisett’s median sales price was $423,500 – a gap of $171,200.

            Other barriers to affordable housing in Mattapoisett are its zoning and permitting regulations, King continued, adding that low availability of land zoned for multi-family or small-lot housing was another major barrier. He said that the team would “do a deep dive into zoning to propose changes ranging from new zones and language to tweaks,” which may assist in developing affordable units.

            There apparently is also a lack of incentive for age-friendly, age-restricted developments, said King. He talked about developing zoning that could be put in place for “friendly” 40B units or other subsidized housing.

            King seemed to be assuring the Planning Board when he said, “[Affordable] 40B doesn’t have to be cheap construction.” He said it could be aesthetically pleasing and designed to fit into the village feel of the town.

            To get to the nuts and bolts of plan development and success, King suggested the establishment of local volunteer housing champions. He said it should be a dedicated group appointed by the Board of Selectmen to include members from the town’s Community Preservation Committee, Housing Authority, Planning Board, Council on Aging, and possibly local non-profits.

            King urged that the town take a proactive approach to 40B housing, saying, “Many towns have had success by being involved.” He said his team would seek out municipal properties in town that might be suited to multi-unit construction or the possibility of partnerships with neighboring towns.

            Once that the plan is produced, it would enjoy a five-year shelf life, said King.

            As he drew his presentation to a close, King said that it was critical for the selectmen to be engaged in the plan, and he asked for assistance in getting a short meeting with them. Several Planning Board members said that presently, with only two selectmen and a town administrator about to retire, things were a bit tight. Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain said she would reach out to them on King’s behalf.

            Planning Board member Karen Field wondered aloud at the wisdom of building more housing if the town’s overall population was shrinking and aging. She added, “The beauty of the town is it is little. Why density?”

            King responded, “There are limitations in renovating existing homes to meet subsidized housing requirements,” and he continued, “In my judgment, you will get 40B in the future because you are under the 10-percent threshold for affordable housing.”

            “It’s a catch-22 with aging population and young people who can’t afford to buy… and more people means more services,” said board member Janice Robbins. “We have to make a decision what we want. We could do nothing about 40B housing if we wanted to.” She said that some people don’t want any change in the community while others say “we should try to make things more diverse.”

            King reiterated that by being involved, the town could have a great deal of say about what housing types it wanted.

            “All long-range plans can do is show you what is possible,” said King.

            Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker said that it was important to engage the entire community and not just a few people. He said he wanted the plan to be a consensus.

            King suggested a workshop to draw in as many voices as possible. According to King, the town needs 190 units of affordable housing to meet the 10-percent threshold. Impact analysis, however, was not part of the housing production plan.

            Residents interested in reviewing the entire presentation can contact the Planning Board for a copy.

            Earlier in the meeting, the Planning Board approved two Form-A Approval Not Required applications. One was filed by the Town of Mattapoisett for a small parcel located adjacent to the bike path, and the other was filed by David Duff for property located at 98A Mattapoisett Neck Road.

            The board continued a Preliminary Subdivision Plan filed by Jay and Julie Duker, 112 Aucoot Road, until November 18 with the caveat that it was the final continuance the board was willing to grant.

            Also continued to November 18 was a discussion regarding the return of “Emergency Repair Work” funds specified in the covenant for the Villages at Mattapoisett.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for November 18 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

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