LETTER: ZBA Should Support Affordable Housing

The following is a letter to the editor from Paul Cully. Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the views of WestfordCAT. To submit your own letter to the editor, e-mail [email protected]

While it is always heartening to see housing projects proposed that include an affordable housing component, I would like to point out that the affordable housing portion of the Alder Point and 75 Graniteville proposals is the minimum under Mass. State provisions to qualify as “Affordable Housing”.  Every ten years, following the census, the “quota” of “Affordable Housing” that municipalities are required to have is recomputed and ALL units built in the past ten years are included, which increases the “quota”.  Thus, when developments are proposed wherein only ten percent of the units qualify as affordable under state guidelines, the proposal is doing nothing to reduce the deficit of units that a municipality is required to have. 

The criticism from ZBA Member James Kazeniac that Graniteville is the target for affordable housing in Westford, is heard just about every time a proposal comes forward for land that is anywhere near the actual boundaries of Graniteville, but is hardly a valid criticism.  Graniteville does not extend all the way to I-495, and does not have anywhere near all the Mass. State approved affordable housing in Westford.  Abbot Mill and Graniteville Woods both have minimal, small percentages of qualified affordable housing, while Parent’s Market has none.  And Stony Brook School is built on land that the town originally set aside exclusively for affordable housing, and the affordable housing built there has taken much more than a decade to become a reality – it is the school that has usurped the land, not the affordable housing.  Mr. Kazeniac could educate himself by consulting with the Affordable Housing Committee and/or the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee and learn where all the Affordable Housing in Westford actually does exist. 

Finally, the proposal for the land at 75 Graniteville is reported to offer two homes to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell.  I hope this offer is approved by Habitat since they do not, as a rule, accept new, already built homes.  One reason for this is that they require the prospective owner to put in at least 400 hours of “sweat equity” into the building of their home.  If the proposal is just to supply Habitat with the lots, then the question of waste treatment and water must be addressed.  Does the proposal include hook-ups to these resources?  Without that, lots of the proposed size, within such a dense cluster, are useless.  Or is the offer just a nice thing that the developer threw into the proposal to make it sound nice? 

The ZBA would do well to do more homework on these two “affordable housing developments”.