Action Item 5.2.1.1: Housing Plan

Prepare an updated proactive plan1 to make additional rental and owner housing available at prices that Acton families of low and moderate income can afford and at the same time provide a means to make progress toward the 10% state requirement for affordable housing2 3 The plan should be consistent with the planning for key centers.
  • 1. The Town's last housing plan is here: https://doc.acton-ma.gov/dsweb/View/Collection-2277
  • 2. The Commonwealth allows for greater local control over affordable housing projects when a threshold of 10% of deeded affordable housing is achieved, or when significant progress is made in a given year. These thresholds are generally difficult for Acton to achieve, but achieving them is very helpful for the town's goals, if they can be achieved without significantly risking the general land use strategy of this plan.
  • 3. The housing plan should explore the potential of forming a partnership with a regional non-profit development entity.
Priority: 
Highest
Timing: 
Short-Term (complete by 2015)
Planning?: 
Yes
Management?: 
Yes
Primary Inventory Element: 
Population and Housing
Lead Owner: 
Planning Department<i> </i>
Other Owners: 
Acton Community Housing Corporation
Acton Housing Authority
Planning Board
Selectmen

Comments

Concord has crossed the magical 10% threshold required to regain control of their community -- and they've provided a lot of housing units in support of an economically diverse community. See http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/01/27/work_....

If Concord can do it, why can't Acton?

Moreover, if you look at where Concord's major projects are located, they tend to be on the town borders, and along Route 2 -- all places that are less attractive for other uses. Why can't Acton do what Concord may well have done: identify parcels where the town would look with friendly eyes upon development proposals that meet specified goals for affordable housing, to count towards our 40B requirement? We should create a plan that identifies the parcels that could be used to hit our 10% goal, while minimizing the impact on our town character, just as Concord has managed to do.

In the time that we have between now and 2020, let's figure out not just how we can "make progress" towards our affordable housing goal -- let's figure out how we can cross the 40B finish line!

Concord imposed large lot exclusionary zoning a long time ago in most of the town, so their population and number of houses has remained small (in exchange for some sprawl, and high house and land prices). Acton, on the other hand, has encouraged mixed use developments including apartments, and so has a lot more housing units than Concord. That's why it's harder for Acton to reach 10% - 10% is a lot on top of our existing housing stock. Plus, there's problems with sticking large affordable housing developments in isolated corners: it creates new infrastructure costs (Acton is still figuring out how to get adequate fire protection up to Avalon), and it discourages the social integration of new residents with the rest of the town, and I've learned that in general Acton residents are looking for more diversity and connection, not less. Concord's strategy with their new development has put mostly-uncompensated burdens on Acton - especially new traffic and new police requirements. When people in Acton are asked about ideal affordable housing sites, they much more often mention small scattered sites integrated with existing Acton neighborhoods and villages. The 2020 committee did not end up with a solution for getting us to 10% any time soon.