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Deerfield plans for affordable housing increase

SOUTH DEERFIELD — To meet state-mandated housing goals, the town would support a greater diversity of housing types in the village center, turn the former Oxford Food site into mixed commercial and office space, revamp the Hotel Warren, and create 11 affordable housing dwellings in one year.

This would be the future of housing in town if it follows its first-ever proposed five-year housing production plan.

The town is nearing completion of the plan. Over the last few months, the Planning Board has worked with the Franklin Regional Council of Govern-ments to develop the plan and hold meetings for public input.

On Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall, the town is holding its final open space and recreation plan meeting for residents to view the maps for the plan and comment on the latest update. The public comment period closes Dec. 20.

The 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 state requires cities and towns to have at least 10 percent of year-round housing stock qualify as “affordable.” The state defines that as within reach of a household earning less than 80 percent of the area median income. Deerfield has 37 percent of households making less than 80 percent of that income level.

Only 1½ percent of housing in Deerfield qualifies as affordable by state definitions.

If a town doesn’t meet the 10 percent threshold, developers can get zoning relief through a comprehensive permit if at least 20 percent of units qualify as affordable.

A housing plan, however, gives towns more control over the permit applications if they are working toward the development of affordable housing.

For Deerfield to receive a one-year state certification of compliance with its housing plan, 11 affordable dwellings must be created in town within one year. For a two-year certification, the town must have 22 affordable dwellings created within one year.

Goals include the diversification of housing types to include a larger percentage of two-family and multi-family homes, the rehabilitation of vacant, substandard housing and the creation of accessory apartments. To provide options for older residents, the town would support a variety of senior housing options from affordable and assisted living facilities.

To simultaneously maintain the town’s rural character and support a mixed use village center, the town would target new housing within walking distance of the village center. Preferred spots include the former Oxford Food site, where a mix of commercial and office spaces and affordable housing could be combined.

Privately owned sites, such as the St. James Church and rectory could be transformed into affordable housing. The 2.1-acre site has a 2,052-square-foot church and a 3,784-square-foot rectory with 25 to 30 parking spaces.

The public also expressed a desire to revamp the Hotel Warren on Elm Street. While the hotel and bar does serve as a form of affordable housing, the units are not eligible for the state’s subsidized housing inventory, the regional council said. The plan suggests the use of tax money to support the historic character of the building and the creation of affordable housing.

Another location for development of mixed use housing is along Routes 5 and 10, where existing structures could be adapted to provide new housing options without turning the road into a commercial strip.

To make these goals possible, the plan suggests creating a municipal affordable housing trust and a part-time housing coordinator position in town or a part-time or full-time town planner position.

The draft plan is available at www.deerfieldma.us or at the Town Hall at 8 Conway St.

Comments can be directed to Alyssa Larose, a land use planner for the regional council at alarose@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x127.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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