north attleboro town hall building

North Attleboro Town Hall

NORTH ATTLEBORO — Town economic development coordinator Lyle Pirnie wants to add attracting affordable housing to his job description.

Pirnie says he would like to work with private developers to get them to include more affordable units in their housing projects, but he is not talking about public housing. The town’s housing authority already handles that.

Pirnie told selectmen recently that housing and economic development are closely related and in many places, such as state government, the same person is responsible for both. He would like to have the same arrangement in North Attleboro.

Town Administrator Michael Gallagher agreed.

“Housing and economic development go hand in hand,” he said.

Pirnie said affordable housing is a top priority of Gov. Charlie Baker and he believes the state will soon mandate that cities and towns take stronger action to increase the housing supply.

As it stands now, he said, North Attleboro is well below the state goal of affordable housing being 10 percent of the housing stock in every community.

Some ideas to accomplish the goal would be allowing smaller houses to be built on smaller lots and permitting more units in developments.

“For us to move forward we are going to have to make zoning changes,” he said.

Pirnie made his comments during an annual report to selectmen. He did not ask the board to add housing as one of his responsibilities, as the board will dissolve July 1 when it is replaced by a town manager.

Later he said he will ask the town manager and the town council that will be elected June 18 to give him the housing responsibility.

The most recent affordable housing figure for North Attleboro, he said, is 2.6 percent, measured in 2013.

Pirnie said he has no reason to believe the percentage has improved since then.

During his report, he said he would like to see a board of directors appointed to be his overseers and disclosed that he is working on getting several abandoned properties cleaned up and sold.

He said he could not release details yet.

With the town so far below 10 percent, he said, it is vulnerable to a developer coming in with a so-called 40B project.

Such projects include affordable units that developers can build with an exemption from some zoning rules.

They are often larger and denser than communities want.

Pirnie said there are plenty of large homes in Massachusetts but there is a shortage of affordable housing.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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