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Town of Easton Meets Chapter 40B Affordable Housing Goals

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The Town of Easton has officially met its Chapter 40B housing obligations thanks to last month’s Zoning Board of Appeals approval of the Easton Avalon development, adjacent to Highland Plaza. As long as the Town continues to comply with the law, Easton now has the perpetual ability to ensure future housing proposals comply with local zoning and can turn away development proposals that do not. Easton is one of only approximately 15% of the cities and towns in Massachusetts that have met Chapter 40B requirements.

 

 

Chapter 40B is a state statute passed in 1969 that enables housing developers to bypass local zoning if at least 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions.

In order to comply with Chapter 40B, 10% of a Town’s year-round housing units must be designated as affordable by the State’s Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) and listed on the Town’s “Subsidized Housing Inventory” (SHI).  To be counted as affordable by DHCD, SHI units must be subject to long-term or perpetual restrictions limiting their sale or rental price and be marketed through a fair and equitable process to income-qualified buyers or renters, usually households making 80% or below the Area Median Income (AMI). For a family of four in Easton, 80% of AMI is $65,800.  In order to address the State’s general shortage of rental housing, all new rental units (including market-rate) in new developments with 25% of the total units restricted as affordable count towards a town’s SHI, as is the case with Easton Avalon. 

As of the 2010 census Easton has 8,105 year-round housing units.  With this latest approval Easton will have 818 units – or 10.09% of its total housing units- on its SHI.  

Because Easton made significant progress toward creating new rental and affordable housing in recent years the Town had temporary “safe harbor” from un-friendly 40B proposals.  The Town’s efforts included the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust; so-called “friendly” or Local Initiative 40B developments including the Ames Shovel Works, Winterberry Hills, and 244 Washington Street; a public/private partnership creating the Queset Commons 40R development; a homebuyer assistance program and a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. 

During the Easton Avalon planning period, the Town was also able to negotiate a $2.65 million financial mitigation package to ensure this project not only met the town’s housing needs, but will have minimal impacts on services and infrastructure. 

In addition to the financial mitigation package, the Town secured an agreement with Avalon to construct the first phase of the Five Corners Sewer District at the developer’s cost. “I’m pleased that the Town and the Developers were able to work together to achieve a solution that helps us meet our Affordable Housing Goals while opening the door for infrastructure improvements and further economic development,” said Easton Selectman Dottie Fulginiti.

Looking ahead to the 2020 census Easton’s challenge will be to ensure enough new rental and affordable housing units are created to keep pace with overall growth so that Easton does not drop back below 10% and once again become vulnerable to un-friendly 40B proposals.