Affordable Housing Committee
Guidelines for Affordable Housing
Local Initiative Program Applications
Grafton seeks to reach a goal of having 10% of its housing stock affordable as
defined by MGL c.40B. The purpose of these guidelines is to establish standards
and procedures for the Grafton Affordable Housing Committee to review and act
upon applications for Local Initiative Program (LIP) projects. Compliance with
these guidelines will insure that proposals are treated fairly and objectively,
reduce public opposition to affordable housing applications, and minimize the
time needed to reach consensus. The Housing Committee seeks to meet the housing
needs of all segments of Grafton's population by working with developers to
encourage projects that are compatible with the Town's character. Finally, these
Guidelines are intended to resolve issues of affordability and site design in
order to facilitate their approval by other municipal Boards and Departments.
It is the intent of the Committee that applications before it comply with the
1. Proposals shall meet an identified housing need in Grafton and provide
affordable housing for low and moderate-income groups that are under served by
2. Projects shall be located in areas that are served by sewer and water systems
that have the capacity to accommodate the number of units proposed without
causing any deficiencies in service to existing customers.
3. The proposed density shall not be so high as to impose negative impacts on
the Town and neighborhood, including traffic, drainage, and fiscal impacts.
4. Developments shall be designed to protect natural resources and provide open
space for enjoyment of residents and enhancement of site design.
5. Proposals should include features for energy efficiency and sustainable
design that will reduce building utility and operating costs without
unreasonably increasing construction costs.
3.0 Density and Building Types
Overall project density shall generally not exceed eight units per acre for
development of previously undeveloped sites, unless the Committee finds that a
greater density will provide significant benefits to the Town without causing
substantial detriment to the neighborhood or the public health and safety.
Density for re-development of existing sites shall be designed to be compatible
with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
The type of structure proposed by the applicant shall be discussed with the
Committee with preference given to structures with fewer units. It is preferable
for structures to contain 1 to 4 units, with large multi-family buildings the
Unit sizes shall vary depending upon the segment of the population targeted for
occupancy. As a general rule, the affordable units may be smaller and contain
fewer amenities than market rate units, but shall be of the same style and
appearance and shall be integrated throughout the development to prevent
segregation based upon income.
At a minimum, 25% of the affordable units shall have facilities to accommodate
individuals with disabilities and special needs.
4.0 Location Criteria
1. Preference shall be given to projects that are located in areas served by
existing water and sewer systems without the need to extend service more than
2. Preference shall be given to infill projects, i.e. those that are located on
lots in existing neighborhoods that are currently vacant.
3. Preference shall be given to projects within walking distance to bus routes
or the Town's commuter rail station.
4. Preference shall be given to projects that result in adaptive reuse of
buildings that no longer meet the needs for which they were originally designed
and can be converted to housing without undue neighborhood impacts.
5. Preference shall be given to projects located in or near the villages of
Grafton and that contribute to neighborhood revitalization.
6. Town-owned land, or land taken for failure to pay taxes, may be targeted by
the Town for affordable housing. In such instances, the Town may issue an RFP
for disposition and shall only consider proposals that are consistent with these
7. Renovation of existing residential properties is encouraged where renovation
will return blighted, abandoned or fire damaged properties to active use and
restrictions are put in place to assure long term affordability.
8. Subdivisions designed as flexible developments may be proposed as LIP
projects but must provide significant benefits to the community greater than
conventional subdivisions to obtain the support of the Committee.
9. Sites that either have been identified as containing solid or hazardous
waste, are unsuitable for development due to sensitive natural resources, or are
located in areas with incompatible land uses shall be discouraged by the
Committee from proceeding as LIP applications.
10. Land zoned Community Business (CB), Office/Light Industry (OLI), and
Industry (I) are not favored by the Committee for affordable housing in order to
remain available for economic development purposes. An exception may be made in
the case of abandoned or dilapidated industrial/mill buildings that are no
longer suited for their original purpose.
5.0 Housing Preferences
Grafton wishes to promote housing that meets its local needs, and residents and
Town employees shall be given priority over others to the extent allowed by law.
A Grafton resident is defined as one who is currently a resident of the Town and
has lived in Grafton for at least 3 years. A Town employee is defined as one who
is currently employed by the Town, or who is retired and had previously worked
for the Town for at least 5 years. LIP units should address the following
1. In order to meet the diverse needs of elderly residents, whose needs change
as they grow older, the Committee wishes to promote alternative living
arrangements that can allow elderly residents to continue to live in Grafton.
Preference will be given to proposals that provide units not readily available
in Grafton and shall include units for those with physical limitations.
2. Housing for families is needed to help maintain a diverse population. In
order to limit the impact on the school system, no more than 25% of the units in
the development shall contain more than two bedrooms.
3. In order to promote homeownership for families, ownership units are generally
preferred to rental units, particularly for first-time homebuyers. For elderly
households, rental units are generally preferred to allow such residents to do
away with the responsibility of owning their own home.
4. In addition to meeting the minimum affordability requirements specified
herein, the Committee encourages projects that provide housing affordable to
households with a wide range of incomes, not just the highest prices or rents
the market will bear.
5. Consideration will be given to proposals that address regional needs for
homeless elderly, individuals with special needs, and veterans.
In order to receive Town endorsement for a LIP project, the Board of Selectmen
must by simple majority vote determine that the project on the whole will be a
benefit to the Town and will address the Town's needs for affordable housing in
a manner that does not have significant negative impacts on the surrounding
neighborhood or the Town. In order to assist the Board with this decision, the
Affordable Housing Committee will review LIP proposals and shall submit a
recommendation to the Board of Selectmen after completing a thorough analysis of
It is recommended that the applicant meet with the Committee prior to submitting
a formal application. The intent of this action is for the applicant and
Committee to discuss the project in a general way and to identify possible
problems or concerns with the site. While no specific submittals are required at
this time, the developer should be prepared to present an overview of the
project concept. The Committee will inform the applicant of its preferences for
affordable housing and whether it believes the proposal is consistent with these
6.2. Plan Review
The applicant shall prepare a Site Plan to assist the Committee in conducting
its review of the development. The intent of this review is not to usurp the
role of other boards and committees. Rather the Committee will concentrate its
review on issues of affordable housing, neighborhood compatibility, and
environmental quality. The Committee may waive one or more of these requirements
for projects of 20 or fewer units, or for those that propose to reuse existing
Twelve copies of the following information shall be submitted:
a. A site plan prepared by a registered professional engineer delineating
property boundaries, lot lines, wetlands, vernal pools, watercourses, flood
plains, ground water recharge areas, proposed buildings, location of affordable
and market rate units, names of abutters, easements, open space, recreational
facilities, parking lots, internal roads and driveways, and topography of the
land in a general manner.
b. An aerial photograph of the site and surrounding area.
c. A design narrative that describes the design concept shown on the plan and
how the proposal will fit into the context of the surrounding neighborhood.
d. A general description of proposed surface drainage in a general manner within
and outside of the area shown on the plan, including adjacent existing natural
waterways intended to receive drainage discharge.
e. A summary of the total number of proposed housing units, type of units
(rental or owner, family or elderly), style of development (single family,
townhouse, garden apartment, etc.), number and percentage of affordable units,
gross and net project density, a tabulation of the size of units in square feet
and number of bedrooms, duration of the affordable housing restrictions, and
handicapped accessibility features.
f. General information and resumes of the development team, including property
owner, developer, architect, engineer, and attorney. Document the team's
experience in completing other affordable housing projects and in working with
communities to secure approval.
g. Evidence of site control.
h. Evidence that the project developer is a nonprofit, a public agency, or a
limited dividend organization.
i. Proposed subsidy program(s).
j. Preliminary development pro forma, including anticipated rents or selling
prices of the market and affordable units, project hard and soft cost estimates,
and sources and uses of funds.
k. Narrative discussion of existing conditions, including buildings to be
removed or retained, roadway access, and significant natural and cultural
features e.g. wetlands, streams, ponds, rock outcrops, stone walls, trails,
historic or archaeological features.
l. Narrative discussion of amenities to be provided, such as open space to be
permanently protected, recreational facilities for residents or the public,
common buildings or personal services for residents, internal hiking and walking
paths, or other special site or building features.
m. Architectural elevations and unit floor plans.
n. Proposed manner of sewage treatment, whether connecting to the municipal
system or providing on-site septic systems. If on-site septic is proposed,
identify the proposed location(s) and provide results of soil tests.
o. Proposed manner of water supply, whether public or private. If on-site wells
are proposed, provide information on the source, water quality, and pumping
p. Abutters list certified by the Assessors of property owners within 300' of
any portion of the site.
q. Zoning classification and location of any zoning district boundaries that lie
within the locus of the plan, including any overlay zoning districts. Identify
any near-by local historic districts and any scenic roads abutting the
r. List of zoning waivers requested.
s. The applicable filing fee to cover expenses of advertising, abutter
notification, and processing the application.
6.3. Review by Other Departments
The Committee shall distribute copies of the submitted materials to the
following boards and departments for information and comment: Town
Planner/Planning Board, Board of Appeals, Water and Sewer Departments, Highway
Superintendent, Building Inspector, Town Engineer, Conservation Commission,
Board of Health, Police Chief and Fire Chief. Such boards and individuals shall
have 30 days to submit comments to the Committee. The Committee shall hold a
working session with Town staff within 21 days after determining the application
is complete to insure coordination among departments and to identify early on
specific public improvements that may be needed to accommodate the project.
6.4. Consultant Reviews
To assist the Committee in evaluating the proposal, the applicant shall submit a
fee for the Committee to hire professional consultant(s) with expertise in the
field of affordable housing. The Committee may waive this requirement for
projects of less than 20 units if it determines that planning issues can be
adequately addressed without the need of such a consultant. While such fees are
the applicant's responsibility, the applicant may apply to the state for grant
funding to cover the cost of the consultant services.
6.5. Public Meeting
For every LIP application, the Committee shall hold a public meeting to which
interested parties shall be invited to attend to offer their comments. Notice
shall be provided to abutters within 300' of the site. A meeting notice shall be
advertised twice in a newspaper of general circulation in Grafton for two
successive weeks, the first notice to occur not less than 14 days before the
meeting. The meeting shall be held within 45 days of the filing of the
application and may be continued at the discretion of the Committee.
If the Committee and applicant are unable to reach a consensus on contested
issues, both parties may agree to engage the services of a professional
facilitator or negotiator. The cost of such service shall be borne by the
applicant. The findings or recommendations arising from this process shall not
bind either party, and the Committee may incorporate any of the recommendations
in its decision as it deems appropriate.
6.7. Decision of the Committee
The Committee shall vote on a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen within 45
days of the close of the public meeting unless a time extension is mutually
agreed upon. The decision shall be by a majority of the entire Committee. A
written decision shall document the reasons why the project was approved or
disapproved, and may contain conditions to protect the neighborhood, preserve
the environment, or to enhance the affordable housing benefit to the Town. The
decision shall be filed with the Town Clerk within 21 days of the vote.
6.8. Action by the Board of Selectmen
The Committee shall forward its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. The
Board may endorse the project as recommended by the Committee, endorse the
project with additional conditions, or vote not to endorse the project. The
applicant may amend the proposal to gain the support of the Board, but must
first forward any such amendment to the Committee for a recommendation prior to
action by the Board.
6.9. Comprehensive Permit Applications
Upon approval by the Board of Selectmen, the applicant may seek approval from
the applicable funding agency, and if necessary, file a comprehensive permit
application with the Board of Appeals pursuant to MGL c. 40B. Endorsement by the
Committee and Board of Selectmen does not otherwise lessen the duties and
responsibilities of the Board of Appeals in acting on the comprehensive permit.
7.0 Affordability Requirements
7.1. Number of Affordable Units
The applicant and Committee shall negotiate the number of affordable units to be
provided in the development. While not meant to be minimum requirements, Grafton
prefers that at least 25% of the units be affordable by households whose annual
incomes do not exceed 80% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for family
size as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As
an alternative, 20 % of the units may be affordable to households earning up to
60% of the AMI.
7.2 Marketing Plan
The applicant shall submit a marketing and resident selection plan for the
affordable units. This Plan shall describe the buyer or tenant selection process
for the affordable units and establish a plan for outreach and affirmative
marketing to minorities and persons with disabilities. Residents of the
affordable units must meet income eligibility requirements. The Marketing Plan
shall also include a preference for local residents for and Town employees of up
to seventy percent (70%) of the affordable units.
7.2. Affordability Calculations
For purposes of determining eligible income limits, the most recent income data
provided by the Mass. DHCD shall be used. For rental units, monthly rents
payable by a household exclusive of utilities, shall not exceed 30% of the
monthly income of a household earning 80% of area median income based on
household size. For ownership units, initial purchase prices and resale prices
shall be established so that households are not required to spend more than 30%
of the income of a household earning 80% of area median income for annual debt
service on a mortgage (at 30-year fixed-interest rates at the time of initial
sale), taxes, insurance, and condominium or homeowners fees with no more than a
five percent (5%) down-payment, including any required entrance deposit.
7.3. Duration of Affordability
Preference shall be given to project in which the affordable units are available
to low and moderate income households in perpetuity, but in any case, for not
less than 30 years for construction of new units and 15 years for substantial
rehabilitation. A use restriction shall be recorded at the Registry of Deeds to
insure such units are restricted for the intended period of time. (A use
restriction restricts occupancy of such housing to households at specified
income levels and provides for administration and enforcement of the restriction
during the term of affordability.) The restriction shall contain a right of
first refusal upon the transfer of such affordable unit in favor of the Town or
its designee for a period not less than 120 days after notice thereof. A local
public or quasi-public entity must be a holder of the restriction with the right
and the obligation to enforce it during the term of affordability.
7.4 Regulatory Agreement
A Regulatory Agreement will be required to be executed by DHCD in which a
developer agrees to develop low or moderate-income housing in accordance with
the use restriction. Model rental and ownership Regulatory Agreements prepared
by DHCD are included in Appendices B and C.
8.0 Selection of Qualified Households
Prospective applicants for the affordable units shall be income qualified by
either the Grafton Housing Authority or by a non-profit housing corporation
approved by the Committee. The designated entity shall use methods for
determining income as are common practice to insure only eligible households are
permitted to purchase or rent a unit.
Upon notice that such units are available for rent or purchase, the Committee
shall hold a lottery in which only income qualified households are entitled to
participate. The Committee shall give preference to Grafton residents or
employees and may reserve 70% of the units for such individuals. There shall be
no discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, handicap,
marital status, sexual preference, national origin or any other basis prohibited
by law in the leasing or sale of units.
Affordable Unit: a dwelling unit reserved for occupancy affordable to persons or
families earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income for the Worcester
Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area under the applicable guidelines of the
Commonwealth's Department of Housing and Community Development.
Low or Moderate Income: household income, computed pursuant to Department
guidelines, which does not exceed 80% of area median income based on household
size as determined by HUD.
Regulatory Agreement: an agreement, in a form required or approved by the
Department, in which a developer agrees to develop Low or Moderate Income
Housing in accordance with Use Restrictions, which Use Restrictions may be
included as part of the Regulatory Agreement. For rental housing, the Regulatory
Agreement shall require a developer to operate and manage the housing in
accordance with the Use Restrictions and other material terms and shall provide
for effective monitoring, administration and enforcement during the term of
affordability. For ownership housing, the Regulatory Agreement shall specify the
terms of development and require the developer to impose an approved Use
Restriction on each Low or Moderate Income Unit at the time of initial sale of
Use Restriction: a contract, mortgage agreement, deed restriction, condition of
zoning approval, or other legal instrument approved by the Department which
effectively restricts occupancy of Low and Moderate Income Housing to households
at specified Low or Moderate Income level(s) and which provides for effective
administration, monitoring and enforcement of such restriction during the term
"Getting Started: Building Local Housing Committees
Massachusetts Housing Committee Fund, July 1999
The following checklist is intended to assist the Grafton Affordable Housing
Committee in evaluating LIP applications.
AFFORDABILITY ISSUE CHECKLIST
1. Does the project meet all affordable housing program requirements?
2. Does the percentage of affordable units exceed the program requirement?
3. Are the sales prices and/or rent levels calculated to meet the need for
housing for low and-moderate income families in the community?
4. Are there a wide range of prices/rents to offer a variety of housing
opportunities for households of different incomes?
5. Does the housing type, number of bedrooms, living space and outdoor space
address Town housing needs and objectives as most recently identified?
6. Are affordable and market rate units indistinguishable from the exterior?
7. Are affordable units dispersed throughout the development?
8. Are buildings sited in harmony with the topography, vegetation and any other
9. Is the development complementary to the character of the neighborhood?
10. Are all units appropriate in size and do they provide facilities adequate to
meet the needs of the households expected to occupy them?
11. Are a minimum five percent of all units accessible to physically handicapped
12. Are projected sales prices of market units within 10% of recent sales prices
of similar housing units in community or in adjacent communities?
13. Does the cost information reflect industry standards?
14. Does the buyer selection plan for marketing the project conform to the
SITE DESIGN CHECKLIST
A. THE LANDSCAPE
1. Is the project in harmony with the landscape and does it blend in with the
2. Is the project complementary to the existing character of the neighborhood?
3. Will the development pose any conflicting land use concerns?
4. Is the scale of the project consistent with the immediate area?
5. Will the development block scenic vistas with buildings, signs or parking
6. Does the plan keep as much the existing ground covered as possible?
7. Should additional planting be required?
8. Will the plan preserve all significant natural features?
9. Will the development destroy the natural quality and attractiveness of the
10. What means will be used to protect the site from poor drainage, erosion,
11. What consideration has been given to construction damage to the site?
12. What precautions will be taken to eliminate construction damage both on and
B. SUBDIVISION/DEVELOPMENT DESIGN
1. Does the proposal meet all structural requirements?
2. Is the plan well organized for good lot arrangement?
3. Does siting of structures promote energy conservation?
4. Does construction avoid hilltops?
5. What is the planned construction sequence and timetable?
6. What is the relationship of the project to commercial shopping areas,
7. Does the project abut conservation land?
8. What precautions will be taken to protect conservation land?
9. Is there a buffer that separates the development from major roads, commercial
areas or conflicting land uses?
10. Should a buffer be considered?
11. Are dwellings placed to look away from unsightly views?
12. How much of the site is dedicated to open space? (For aesthetic, safety and
13. Is the open space arrangement good?
14. Is an active recreation area planned? (i.e. playground)
15. Could setbacks be improved or be more effective?
16. What are the existing and/or proposed storm drainage systems / structures?
17. What is the planned utility placement?
18. Are the landscaping plans for structures, parking lots, open space, and
19. Is the proposed development attractive?
20. Are the placement and size of the signs appropriate?
C. FACILITIES, UTILITIES AND SAFETY
1. Does the circulation pattern follow natural contours?
2. Are there any traffic safety concerns?
3. What is the public access?
4. Does the circulation design discourage outside traffic?
5. What is the street capacity?
6. Does the design meet the projected need?
7. Does the traffic plan meet the community's design standards?
8. Are the parking plans for residents and visitors adequate?
9. Does the traffic plan provide good vehicular movement?
10. Will pedestrian movement be both safe and convenient?
11. Are any adverse traffic impacts possible?
12. What is the utility capacity of the site?
13. What will the energy source be for the development?
14. Is emergency access adequate?
15. Are the plans for exterior/safety lighting adequate?
16. Are there any potentially hazardous areas in the immediate vicinity of the