Chapter 40B in Hancock Village "Smart Growth"
Affordable units would be rented to families making half of the median income in the Boston area, bringing the town nearly halfway to its affordable housing goal.
Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR), developers at the Hancock Village neighborhood filed new plans in August to build 271 new rental units to Brookline between 11 three-story buildings and one 5-story building containing 145 apartments.
"This new housing will go a long way towards the Town's goal of creating new affordable housing. Also since there is so little land available for housing in Brookline, using some of the extra land at Hancock Village for additional housing is an example of Smart Growth," said CHR president Edward Zucker in an Aug. 10 press release.
Of those 271 units, 55 units will be considered affordable housing, making the project eligible for Chapter 40B of the State's Affordable Housing Zoning Law. A provision of this law allows for construction of affordable units regardless of zoning, if the less than 10 percent of the housing in that town is affordable.
Brookline currently stands at a little over 8 percent, and needs around 517 homes to exceed the standard. Should the project be approved as rental apartments, all 271 units in the project will count toward the town's total (if the units had been condos, only the 55 affordable units would count).
The map of housing in the town indicates a significant majority of the town's affordable housing is north of Route 9. Brookline currently has 2,104 affordable housing units, according to the May 10 Mass Dept. of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) Subsidived Housing Inventory. Of those, less than 30 are in South Brookline--around 1.25 percent.
Between the 2011 report from the Housing Advisory Board (see PDFs), and the 2012 DHCD numbers, Brookline added 102 affordable units.
Because Hancock Village is intended as a rental project, the Chapter 40B units must be offered at 50 percent of the area's median income.
According to the CHAPA fact sheet, the median income for a family of four in the Boston Area (which includes Brookline) is $96,500. Meaning that, to qualify for affordable housing, a family of four would have to earn $48,249 or less.
The town can designate 70 percent of the affordable units for "local preference," offering them to people who are already connected to the community. Margaret Murphy, a spokesperson for Chestnut Hill Realty, told Patch that the Town has not yet discussed local preference with the developers.
Units set aside for affordable housing will be indistinguishable from regularly-priced units, and renters will be subject to background and CORI checks, she added.
In the CHR press release, it describes the units as providing "rental housing for singles, couples and families who want to live in Brookline," as well as "barrier-free alternative housing" for seniors. The document goes on to say it can give the option for people who grew up in town to move back to their hometown.
At last year's Fall Town Meeting, members approved both the Neighborhood Conservation District warrant article, and the NCD around Hancock Village. This followed the Selectmen in January calling for "rigorous scrutiny" of the studies performed by the developers, Chestnut Hill Realty, studies which called for more seniors and fewer families.
To aid the town through the Chapter 40B process, the town took on legal counsel from Boston law firm Krokidas and Bluestein at last week's Board of Selectmen's meeting.
CHR's Murphy outlined the next steps in the Chapter 40B process: First, the town will receive a letter from MassDevelopment, one of the state's financial and development authorities, with their findings regarding the project. After which the town has a 30 day comment period to state its case.
After the letter, the project goes before the local zoning board of appeals (ZBA), who can approve, approve with conditions, or deny the project. However, because of Chapter 40B, there are fewer that reasons the ZBA could deny the project.
The conditions, or the denial, can be appealed at Housing Appeals Court. Typically, she said, the developers and the town reach a compromise at this point, and a version of the project similar to that proposed will go forward.