Trustees Look to VFW Site for Affordable Housing

It’s now the home to the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center, but the Marion Affordable Housing trust thinks the 6.48-acre property that was once the old VFW might be a feasible location for some affordable housing. On November 13, the trustees inched closer to exploring this option.

Administrator Terri Santos summarized her recent search efforts into sources of funding for a possible affordable housing development, including the Department of Housing and Community Development that oversees funding and resources to help towns establish affordable housing, Chairman Casey Cole-Vieira explained.

“They suggested that we need to decide what type of housing, maybe, we’d like to see on the lot,” said Cole-Vieira.

Santos added that the United States Department of Agriculture also provides funding; however, “It tends to frown on going with age-restricted. It’s not that it can’t be done,” she continued, since the USDA did provide some funding to establish Marconi Village.

“I spoke with Mass Housing Partnership and they will help us with the feasibility study and technical assistance if we do not do age-restricted at all,” said Santos.

Trustee and Selectman Norm Hills added, however, “That takes away the reason for having it there, as it’s right near the Council on Aging.”

“Mass Housing Partnership won’t help us,” said Santos. “They already told us that several times, so we’ll have to find other sources.”

Some steps have already been taken towards a feasibility study, including an environmental assessment and a land survey. Next, the trustees will approach the Board of Selectmen and possibly seek funding from either the Community Preservation Committee or Town Meeting. Hills suggested the trustees discuss what they would like to develop, such as the types of units and how many, and come up with a concept to work towards before going before the selectmen.

The trustees agreed that they would be most interested in a mix of elderly and affordable housing.

“And we need to know how much you need,” said Hills. “You need a number and you need to be able to justify it.”

Marion is currently at 8 percent affordable housing, and the state requirement is 10 percent.

The next meeting of the Marion Affordable Housing Trust is scheduled for December 10 at 6:00 pm at the Marion Police Station.

Marion Affordable Housing Trust

By Jean Perry

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