To the editor:
Why the Town is “partnering” with a developer in a dense 52-unit village despite having well exceeded our 40B requirement? At 12.8%, we are in the top 5% of the state in Chapter 40B housing. To put in perspective, there are 57 family units on all of Morse Street, and there would be 52 family units on this one six-acre parcel.
The board of selectmen (except McGowan) ascertains there is overwhelming support for more 40B housing projects as evidenced by strong attendance at affordable housing discussions. However, voluntary 40B consistently came in near the bottom of potential strategies in the development of the Housing Production Plan. Relaxing restrictions on in-law apartments and senior tax-breaks were preferred solutions. It is not diversity or affordability that is opposed, it is the density these projects necessitate to be amenable to the developer.
If this is the solution these jam-packed meetings have been waiting for, where was the support? Not one interested buyer voiced support. There is no evidence that any residents will benefit from this project. Well, that is not entirely true. Mr. Saegh contends we will benefit from lower property values. “Because there is such a lack of supply in the whole state, if you come on with 50 houses, that may take some of the pressure off some of the other homes (costs) rising as quickly as they have been rising.”
Support for the project came from a developer (former partner of Mr. Saegh), and a realtor. The developer wants us to focus only on this project and not concern ourselves with Walnut Street, etc. I disagree. We need a comprehensive approach, not a piecemeal one. The realtor erroneously states traffic concerns are unfounded as this is the “outskirts” of town and not near a school district. He mistakes starting salaries for average salaries and contends most of our teachers and police officers would qualify for the affordable housing units. Sometimes the data we use to support a solution is flawed, only further placing agendas in a vicarious position.
The planning department is understandably frustrated by today’s national housing crunch. But let’s not grasp at solutions that may not actually fix the problem, and in fact, might create new ones. We are driven by the fear of “doing nothing” so we just “do something”. Keep in mind 62% of residents said they, “have the means to stay in town long term even if nothing changes.” Housing markets fluctuate. Let’s not set a precedent for building these dense housing projects especially in the very areas our residents want protected (wetlands).
Are we supporting the residents we purport to be supporting? While no residents came to support this project as the solution to their housing concerns, several Morse Street residents who plan to “age in place” spoke up against this project. They have modest homes and it is neither an option nor a desire for them to “downsize” to $500-$600,000 unit. Let’s step back. The town should be applauded for exceeding our affordable housing quota. But we need to tap the brakes, take a breath, and look at the whole picture, long term. Just who are we helping and which residents are we hurting?
Kathy VandenBoom, Foxboro