Creating an affordable and attractive housing stock for a new era

We all know the phrases: Changing Demographics, Affordable Housing, Aging in Place, this list goes on. But in times of change how do we adapt our bylaws around housing to position us as a town that can grow sensibly, is attractive to the next generation of young professionals, offers opportunities that are affordable, and as a town that gives residents the best way to age in the town they love.

To accomplish these goals, I feel that must look at housing through a more modern lens. This means making it easier to build duplexes and town homes as well as multifamily housing buildings. This means eliminating minimum unit size rules that the market and code can enforce, allowing these kinds of housing in densely populated residential zones, eliminating rules that discriminate against these kinds of housing around town, and beginning programs that incent building both affordable and market rate housing.

Attached are my proposals that involve zoning to use as a starting point. I have several more, as I am sure you do, but now we can dive into this conversation.

These changes are just to the zoning bylaw. I believe that a more well-rounded approach will be needed. But that approach will involve deeper questions that I hope we can answer. I’d like to explore the state’s 40R program. Through that program, we could designate a neighborhood and allow as of right housing at minimum density and require a percentage of it to be affordable, and we would then get payments from the state. The state official who helps run the program is very eager to see it used more and always is willing to come out and look at neighborhoods and see how it fits. This tool includes a Starter Home Zoning  District — we’d have to designate 3+ contiguous developable acres with an allowable density of 4 units per/acre — 50% of those would have to have 3+ bedrooms, and 20% of the starter homes would have to be affordable. This could make sense in some of our existing neighborhoods. The starter homes have a size maximum (the bigger you go the costlier they are to build and buy) and they also can apply I believe to ADUs.

The programs also could include offering STA and TIF programs to developers that build a mix of different rate housing. My point is we can address this problem and my goal for the next 10 months is to address it and take meaningful action and I think that is something this whole board can and should support.