Grafton Affordable Housing Committee

Guidelines for Affordable Housing

Local Initiative Program Applications                    DRAFT


1.0 Purpose

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.

2.0 Objectives

It is the intent of the Committee that applications before it comply with the following objectives:
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 the market.
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 least preferred.

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 500 feet.
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 guidelines.
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 categories:

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.

6.0 Procedures

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 the application.

6.1. Pre-Application

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 Guidelines.

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 buildings.

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 rates.
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 development.
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.

6.6. Negotiation

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.

9.0 Definitions

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 the unit.

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 of affordability.


Appendix A
Evaluation Checklist
From
"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 natural features?
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 persons?
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 Town's guidelines?
SITE DESIGN CHECKLIST
A. THE LANDSCAPE
1. Is the project in harmony with the landscape and does it blend in with the natural surrounding?
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 lots?
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 area?
10. What means will be used to protect the site from poor drainage, erosion, etc.?
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 off site?
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, schools, etc?
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 privacy reasons.)
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 buffers sufficient?
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 planned development?