HANSON — Selectmen and the Planning Board voted, in a joint meeting on Tuesday, May 21, to approve a Housing Production Plan aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing in town.
The Board of Selectmen also approved a grant application to fund an electric vehicle charging station at Town Hall.
Town Planner Deborah Pettey and consultant Judi Barrett with Barrett Planning Group LLC of Plymouth and Thomas Thibeault, executive director of the Hanson Housing Authority met with Selectmen to review what the Housing Production Plan would mean for the town.
“We all have some responsibility in talking to the public about what housing need means,” said Barrett. “There are seniors in this community who are really poor, who are barely holding on to the homes that they have. You have single parents in this community who grew up here, who are barely holding on to what they have. … It’s your community, it’s a nice town, so help your neighbors.”
Selectman Matt Dyer had asked how low income housing is actually defined in light of the stigma attached to the phrase, as well as what the town should look into for investing new funds resulting from the program. Pettey said an affordable housing trust is an option as well as investment in infrastructure.
The median income for Hanson is about $98,000 — with affordable housing income guidelines at 80 percent of median, that puts Hanson at about $65,000 per year for a family of four in this region.
Barrett explained that the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development adopted a regulation several years ago urging towns to create such a plan, with the incentive that such plans could earn towns a break from requirements that they approve Chapter 40B comprehensive permits.
“If you have a plan and you’re producing new, affordable housing, you become eligible for the ability to take a break,” Barrett said. “It could be very helpful to you, especially if you’re going to start seeing more comprehensive apartment activity in your community, it might be nice to have a plan that communicates to land owners and developers that this is what the town would like to see and to get credit for production that might keep something you don’t want away.”
The plan includes a housing needs assessment, including demographic and economic growth information; Chapter 40B information, a state law that establishes a regional fair-share standard designating 10-percent of a town’s housing stock as low or moderate income; and implementation strategies.
“The Housing Production Plan says if you’re working toward that 10 percent and you’re doing it in a fairly systematic way — in your case, are you creating at least 18 new units a year of low to moderate income housing — then you get some credit for that, which might mean you get a break from having to deal with a lot of comprehensive permit activity,” Barrett said. The plan is intended to ask the community, which is predominantly single-family homes, what type of housing it would be willing to consider in order to create low income housing and where it should be located.
Hanson’s affordable housing stock runs at about 4 percent, which is not unusual for a small town, according to Barrett.
Now that the two local boards have approved the Housing Production Plan, the state will consider approval. The plan also includes a provision that, should 40B development increase school costs above taxes generated by that development, the town would be eligible for additional aid to the schools, according to Barrett. While not every town receives it, that brings in $350,000 per year for the town of Lakeville and $100,000 in Lunenburg.
Housing Authority member Teresa Santalucia said several groups in town also back the Housing Production Plan, including the CPC and Housing Authority.
Pettey also reported to Selectmen that a grant from National Grid, which is almost automatically approved, would provide the town $25,000 for the installation of two charging stations for electric vehicles. The stations would be located on the upper parking lot at Town Hall.
“It’s a rebate,” Pettey said. “The town would get reimbursed for it.”
There will be four plugs, two on each station. The town can charge $1 per hour to people seeking to charge hybrid or electric cars there. A fund would be set up, into which to funnel the charging revenue, for the payment of network fees.
Dyer said Green Hanson members are “ecstatic” about the plan.
“If we can lead the way and have that, it would be great. It sends a good message,” said FitzGerald-Kemmett, who added that she is considering purchasing an electric car.
Town Administrator Michael McCue said the Green Communities program is also moving toward electric vehicles for town-owned purchases they support.
Selectmen also approved a bylaw last year requiring the town to replace most of its vehicles with electric vehicles going forward.
Planning Board member Joe Campbell said cellphone apps can be set up to ping the location of the charging station for motorists seeking one.
“It’ll become pretty popular, if it’s PR’d the right way over these apps that they have out there,” he said.