Michael Seward Real Estate: Pioneer Valley & 5 Colleges Area Agency for the 21st Century Consumer


The Greenfield Recorder recently reported that Shelburne is in need of affordable housing to meet the commonwealth's affordable housing guidelines, known as Chapter 40B.   The report stated that the Franklin County town needs 38 affordable residences to meet the requirements under Massachusetts affordable housing law.  

State law requires that at least 10% of a town's housing stock be classified as "affordable".  If it doesn't, then developers could bypass certain zoning regulations if 20-25% of its units are affordable.  

The news came after the Franklin County Council of Governments conducted a housing survey and recommended a plan to meet the 10% affordable housing goal.    

"The affordable sales price will be determined based on low and moderate income households spending no more than 30% of their income on housing costs," The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) website about Chapter 40B states. "Housing costs include all payments made towards the principal and interest of any mortgages placed on the unit, property taxes, and insurance, as well as a homeownership, neighborhood association of condominium fee."

DHCD's website also outlines median income requirements. 

"Project sponsors are required to provide a window of affordability for households with incomes between 70% and 80% of the listed area (MSA) median income," DHCD's website states.  "The maximum sales prices are based upon principal, interest, property tax, and insurance payments, with an assumption of a 5% down payment. DHCD encourages project sponsors to work with local banks to provide competitive end loan financing to potential first time home buyers."

DHCD also addresses affordable rental housing.

"Affordable unit rents are determined by creating a 'window' of affordability based on rents equal to 30% of 70% of median income," DHCD's website explains. "Rents must include heat and utilities or a utility allowance."

The Town of Sudbury was in the news last year when town officials sought to block a development that included affordable housing.  A land court judge dismissed a lawsuit by the town, according to the Metrowest Daily News.  

"The development, proposed under the state’s affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, would include 187 market-rate units and 63 units affordable to people making up to 80 percent of the area median income (that is, less than $78,100 for a family of four)," the Metrowest Daily News reported. "To combat the proposal, residents formed the group Oppose Sudbury Station, which sought to 'Save Our Historic Town Center.”' Many complained the project would ruin the view in town center, snarl traffic, crowd the schools, and create two unsafe intersections."

Sudbury was later ordered to pay the developers court fees to the tune of $75,000.  

The Recorder reported that the town's housing committee offered a plan to meet the 10% affordable housing requirement that includes a number of proposals: reducing the minimum lot size, changing the definition of a multi-family home, developing senior housing on town-owned land, the establishment of an affordable housing trust, and creating a committee to focus on housing goals that would include exploring the town's adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

Adopting CPA would come with a surcharge of up to 3% on property taxes to fund for open space, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and community housing.   

The Greenfield daily newspaper said that Shelburne officials have endorsed a plan that will be submitted to DCHD to show "good faith effort".  However, The Recorder report included an error. It stated that zoning regulations could be bypassed without a state-approved housing plan, known as a Housing Production Plan (HPP).  But the state must also "certify" the plan in order for zoning regulations to be preserved.  In order to be certified, progress toward actually creating the affordable housing must have been made.  

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.