Concord community weighs in on local housing needs

JxiJdJ7jXDsOok220lhPlwog7RfXBMsDEodNl-NSlhkThe Town of Concord is largely a success story when it comes to achieving affordable housing goals – it exceeded the state’s c.40B 10% goal, it has allocated millions of dollars of Community Preservation Act funds for local initiative projects, and it has flexible zoning provisions to encourage development of affordable housing.

However, Concord’s affordable housing issues are not solved and the town recognizes there are many community benefits from continuing to address its well documented housing needs.  With an aging population and a community that is not affordable for the average household in the region or even to Concord’s existing households, how can Concord both improve the likelihood that residents can age in the community while increasing affordable options for young families and professionals? Online survey and community workshop results point to opportunities and solutions identified by residents themselves.

Across both the survey and the forum, participants identified the following priorities:

  • Small Homes:  Preserve existing small homes and encourage the construction of small homes, particularly energy-efficient homes.
  • Housing Options: Increase residents’ ability to age in the community with increased housing options and services to enable older adults to downsize but stay in the community.
  • Mixed Price Ranges and Affordable Housing: Create homes in a mix of price ranges, including affordable homes for families.
  • Diverse Housing Options Near Villages:  Develop housing options close to village centers and with convenient access to public transit and shops.

Workshop’s Interactive Exercises

To achieve workshop objectives, JM Goldson facilitated interactive exercises that engaged workshop participants and fostered focused discussion. The workshop consisted of two group exercises, as well as digital group polling and small group discussions.

Digital group polling enables participants to learn about themselves and the group while also gathering information about housing and affordability. Many of the polling questions were presented to test knowledge and inform participants on local and regional housing need.  The exercise emphasized that Concord is not affordable for households earning the regional or Concord median income.

With Concord’s home values – median home price was about $775,000 – most of the homes on the market wouldn’t be within the reach of existing Concord residents. Concord households earning the Town’s median income of $134,705 could afford to buy a home of up to about $460,000.

Group exercise #1 was an ice breaker exercise that consisted of questions designed to get participants talking about the types of homes they have lived in throughout their lives and what type of home they hope to live in someday, if different than their current homes.

The purpose of group exercise #2 was to generate discussion about Concord’s 2010 Housing Production Plan and to help set policy-direction for the 2015 update.

JM Goldon is working with the Regional Housing Services Office and the Town to develop a draft Housing Production Plan that will include goals and strategies based on an updated housing needs assessment as well as the survey and workshop feedback.  The draft will be available for community review in early November.


Manchester-by-the-Sea adopts first Community Preservation Plan

DSCF1176 IMG_1126The Manchester Community Preservation Committee held a public hearing last week.  A few members of the public had questions to clarify eligibility for Community Preservation Act funds while other expressed support for the goals and priorities of the Community Preservation Plan. Roughly half the public hearing attendees participated in the interactive community workshop in April.

The plan provides guidance for the CPC and Town Meeting to strategically direct CPA-funding allocations for fiscal years 2016-2020.

Final Manchester-by-the-Sea Community Preservation Plan – adopted by the CPC on 9/15/15


Interested in leasing and restoring an antique 18th century estate?

Oliver House, , 445 Plymouth Street, Middleborough, MA

The Town of Middleborough, a Southeastern Massachusetts town of about 23,000 residents, is embarking on a search for a private individual or group to lease and restore the Oliver Estate, which consists of a c.1769 Georgian style house (with roughly 3,800 s.f.), carriage house, barn, and gardens on Plymouth Street (near Route 44).

The Town acquired this property over the summer (July 2015) with Community Preservation Act funds.  JM Goldson provides professional planning assistance to the Middleborough Community Preservation Committee and has been assisting in the town’s efforts to acquire and protect this property.

The Town will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to attract a private party that can care for this one-of-a-kind property and enable public enjoyment and education.  It is one of the area’s most distinctive historic homes, built with high level of craftsmanship, and has an interesting history as the home of a Tory – it even has a secret hiding place.

The Peter Oliver, Jr. House was constructed in 1769 by Dr. Peter Oliver, Jr., son of the first Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the building retains its original character and is an important example of Georgian style architecture, materials and workmanship in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Peter Oliver, Jr. House was host to such visitors as Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Benjamin Franklin, and was confiscated by the Town of Middleborough as abandoned Tory property during the American Revolution.

The house retains many original features from its date of construction including exterior siding, windows, interior framing members, plaster walls and ceilings, and woodwork. In recognition of these qualities, the Peter Oliver, Jr. House is a contributing property in the Muttock Historic and Archaeological District listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The Town plans to release the RFP on 9/9/15.  RFP packets may be accessed at under “Town Procurements.”


Genuine housing choice in Massachusetts?

Fair housing has been on my mind a lot lately.  I attended two educational forums about fair housing last week and also drafted a section on fair housing for the upcoming new guidebook on the Community Preservation Act and Affordable Housing for the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA).

Fair housing laws are a collection of federal and state laws enacted to protect civil rights.  The law that has been most in the spotlight lately is the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) primarily as a result of the the US Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project (TDHCA v. ICP).  This decision reinforces integration as a core purpose of the FHA and affirms the public obligation to advance integration.

What does the FHA do?  It obligates public agencies to affirmatively further fair housing through regulations and policies.  It also prohibits discrimination for housing-related transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. In addition, the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, children, military status, receipt of public assistance or housing subsidy, genetic information, and ancestry.  For example, it would be discriminatory to exclude families with children from a community through local public policies that favor development of units that are too small for families or only for seniors.

What does it mean that the FHA obligates public agencies to affirmatively further fair housing?  Well, to understand this, it is important to understand what is meant by the phrase “disparate impact.”  Disparate impact, which was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s TDHCA v. ICP decision, means that even when a regulation or policy is not intended to discriminate it may still have a discriminatory effect.  For example, many communities in Massachusetts prohibit any form of multi-family housing development through the local zoning bylaws.  Although, there has been no Massachusetts case law yet around this issue that I am aware of, such a prohibition may be seen as causing a disparate impact by limiting housing opportunities for protected classes and hampering integration.

“Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation.” Source:  U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25 2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project.

The country faces a growing problem of concentrated poverty linked to worsening racial segregation.  Massachusetts is no exception.  In fact, Springfield is among the top five highest areas of Hispanic concentration of poverty in the country. (Richard Florida, 8/10/15 post in The Atlantic City Lab:

Last week, I attended CHAPA’s forum about the Supreme Court Ruling on Disparate Impact and HUD’s Final Rule where Henry Korman, Klein Hornig LLP; Deborah Goddard, MassHousing; David Harris, Charles Hamilton Institute for Race and Justice, and Joe Kriesberg, MA Association of CDC’s gave informative and thought-provoking presentations on the issues we face.

Deborah Goddard’s presentation included maps and statistics demonstrating the level of racial segregation and concentrated poverty in Massachusetts and how private and public affordable housing has been concentrated in areas of concentrated poverty.  (Deborah Goddard’s presentation slides:

Goddard asks, how can we provide genuine housing choice that offers meaningful access to opportunity?

One of many striking facts Goddard presented was that the majority of affordable housing units in the Boston-NH Metropolitan Statistical Area, an area that includes about 70% of the state’s residents, are located nearest to schools ranked in the bottom 10th percentile.  As Goddard explained, and I agree – we need to be honest in the conversation because life outcomes are affected.

This is not a new discussion or a new problem.  Check out this 1975 report by the MA Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights and the MA Commission Against Discrimination “Route 128: Boston’s Road to Segregation.”

How do we address these issues?  I won’t claim to have the answers, but I recognize some of the main problems:  our exclusionary land use regulations; limiting transportation system; local preference policies for affordable units; net fiscal impacts of development on municipal services; and the allocation of state and federal resources.  Learn more about efforts to pass H.1111, An Act Relative to Housing Production to provide tools to help address these issues and meet our housing production needs – see CHAPA’s summary of the bill.

Want to learn more?  Sign up for emails from CHAPA and the Mel King Institute series to learn of opportunities to continue the discussion and identify solutions:


Manchester-by-the-Sea releases draft CP Plan for public review

Historic Postcard of Singing Beach, posted on Town of Manchester Parks and Recreation Department webpage, accessed February 2015.

The Manchester-by-the-Sea Community Preservation Committee’s draft Community Preservation Plan is ready for public review.  The Plan identifies the CPC’s mission, guiding principles to provide a foundation for future CPC recommendations, as well as target fund allocation goals and goals that are specific to each CPA funding category.

The CPC’s proposed mission that is presented in the draft Plan for comment is to enhance the community’s unique identity as a small picturesque Cape Ann town and to recommend funding for initiatives that:

  • Promote community spirit, diversity, and vitality
  • Support continued vibrancy of downtown Manchester and enhance tourism opportunities related to the community’s historic resources and natural beauty
  • Protect at-risk natural resources
  • Enhance public enjoyment of natural and historic resources

(Note, the Manchester CPC voted to revise the draft plan on 8/5/15 to eliminate all proposed target allocation goals.  This post has been updated from a 7/29/15 version to reflect this change.)

You can learn more about JM Goldson’s work on this project, the upcoming public hearing, and download the draft Plan here.


More on Millenials' preferences: city or suburb

As we plan for the demographic revolution (as Barry Bluestone likes to put it) in Massachusetts and as we try to help communities adopt policies and remove barriers to fix an out-of-sync housing market, I’m always on the look out for perspectives on this issue.  Check out  Michael Lewyn’s post on June 1, 2015. His answer to the question “do Millenials opt for cities or suburbs?” is “yes.”


Where you grow up matters

I was a poor kid who grew up in a wealthy suburb of New Jersey, so when I heard this piece on NPR this morning it struck a personal note.  The Harvard economist’s findings reinforce the importance of creating affordable housing for families in our suburban, low-poverty communities.

Communities that have adopted the MA Community Preservation Act have a greater opportunity to create affordable homes for low-income families through local initiatives and housing assistance programs.  As I focus today on writing the first chapter of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s new “CPA & Affordable Housing” guidebook, the findings of these studies will be on my mind.

In two new studies, Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues found that where poor kids grow up has a huge effect on how much money they earn as adults.

In one study, families living in public housing were randomly selected to be eligible for housing vouchers that required them to move to low poverty neighborhoods. Kids whose families received the vouchers grew up to earn significantly more than those whose families remained in public housing.

In a second study, Chetty and his colleagues looked at data for millions of families who moved from one county to another. Based on this data, they were able to estimate how much where poor kids grow up affects their income as adults.

NPR’s Jacob Goldstein posts “Where poor kids grow up makes a huge difference.”


Manchester-by-the-Sea: community members develop priorities for using Community Preservation funds

The Manchester community considered two CPA budgeting scenarios:  1) maintain the current 3% CPA surcharge and 2) decrease surcharge to 1.5%.  Using JM Goldson’s “CPA Tetris” prioritization exercise, community members discussed and debated priorities in each of the four CPA spending categories: historic preservation, community housing, open space, and recreation.  Know what ranked high?  Community Housing!

Before we began the exercise, we learned a few interesting things about the audience through JM Goldson’s digital group polling method:

1) 67% of the workshop participants voted to adopt CPA in Manchester in 2005

2) 54% wanted to keep the CPA surcharge at the current 3% maximum

3) 72% did not have a high enough income to afford to buy a home priced a Manchester’s 2014 median sales price of $750,000!!

Community members working on JM Goldson's CPA Tetris exercise at the Manchester by the Sea workshop, April 13, 205


Share your ideas for the McElwain School Reuse Project

McElwain School, c. 1913

The Bridgewater Community Development Advisory Committee is seeking ideas about how to best reuse the old McElwain School.

Have an idea?  Click here to share your ideas and provide feedback on the project’s community brainstorming site!

More info including photos and the school’s history.


Easton Affordable Housing Trust Action Plan

The Easton Affordable Housing Trust adopted an updated Action Plan in December 2014. The new Plan describes the Trust’s goals, strategies, and multi-year budget to help the Trust address Easton’s primary housing needs including more affordable rental units, family housing, and options for older adults.

To help create the updated plan, the Trust solicited feedback from other town officials and interested members of the public at a community workshop, facilitated by JM Goldson. Based on this feedback and the Trust’s own assessment of priorities, the Trust identified ongoing initiatives to continue and new initiatives to launch, such as working with the Housing Authority to expand its stock of affordable housing for families.

Easton Action Plan FY16-20