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Deerfield plans for future housing

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Right now, only 1.5 percent of housing in Deerfield qualifies as affordable by state definitions, well below the 10 percent threshold sought by the state.

As a result, the town would be required to expedite low-income housing developments with one-stop permitting procedures under a state law called Chapter 40B, allowing developers an easier time building in town than otherwise.

To gain more control over the future of housing in town, the Planning Board is working with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to develop the town’s first housing production plan. On Tuesday, the board held a community workshop on the plan, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

The housing production plan identifies the housing needs of a community. The plan is good for five years, after which it must be updated and resubmitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for approval.

The process started earlier in the year when the Board of Selectmen recommended the Planning Board determine what the housing priorities of the town are, Planning Board Chairman John Waite said.

Chapter 40B was enacted in 1969 to make affordable housing more available and encourages cities and towns to maintain at least 10 percent of year-round housing stock as “affordable,” said Alyssa Larose, a land use planner for the regional council.

Affordable housing can be anything from rental to home ownership to single family or multi-family to rehabilitated housing.

The state defines affordable as within reach of a household earning less than 80 percent of the area median income. About 37 percent of Deerfield households make less than 80 percent of that income level.

In towns with less than 10 percent of affordable housing, like Deerfield, the state allows developers zoning relief, through the comprehensive permit process, if the developer is building at least 20 percent of affordable housing in a development, Larose said.

But a housing production plan gives towns like Deerfield more control over the permit applications if the towns are making progress in producing affordable housing yearly.

According to the regional council data, for a $250,000 single-family home price, which is about $1,703 per month, the estimated household income needed is $72,975.

For a $200,000 single-family home, which is about $1,363 per month, the estimated household income required is $58,420.

A median condo costs $197,000 or about $1,287 per month, and requires a $55,155 household income.

A two-bedroom rental cost of $925 per month requires a $37,000 household income. A one-bedroom or studio rental cost of $700 per month needs a $28,000 income.

The total number of housing units in town is 2,181 with 2,053 occupied. About 75 percent of those homes are owner-occupied, while 25 percent is rental stock, which has decreased by 82 units since 1990, while home ownership has increased by 140.

Over the last 12 years, 88 building permits were issued for new housing units, but all of these were for single family homes.

The town’s population is projected to grow by 405 people by 2035, according to COG data.

To accommodate the projected growth in Deerfield residents over the next 20 years, there would need to be 250 new housing units created.

The town will also have to consider senior housing.

Almost a quarter of Deerfield’s population is projected to be over the age of 65 by 2035.

As Deerfield looks to develop housing, one of the options it may consider is the 16-acre Oxford site off Jewett Avenue, Larose said. In 2008, the old pickle factory land was eyed for 30 housing units, 72,450 square feet of retail and 38,000 square feet of office space.

The town is in the process of working on an request for proposals for the sale of the property.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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