Senior housing development moves ahead

  • 120 North Main St., Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/7/2017 11:37:17 PM

SUNDERLAND — The Selectboard has decided to enter negotiations with a nonprofit developer to build 34 affordable senior housing residences at 120 North Main St., the next step in bringing the affordable senior housing project to town.

Town Administrator Sherry Patch said Tuesday “the board voted unanimously to accept the proposal as recommended by the 120 North Main St. Advisory Committee, and to enter into negotiations with (Rural Development Inc.)” at Monday night’s Selectboard meeting.

Valley Community Development Corp., another nonprofit organization, is a partner with Rural Development Inc., which was created by the Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority in 1991.

Patch noted there are a number of steps Rural Development Inc. and Valley Community Development Corp. must take before the project becomes a reality, including securing financing. Patch added, “for now, we’re excited and hopeful.”

“We have to negotiate an agreement with the town for the purchase of the land,” Rural Development Inc. Executive Director Frances Pheeny said about what those next steps will be.

”Simultaneously, now that we’ve been officially selected as developer, we’re going to put an application into the Community Preservation Act committee asking for a grant to help with the development.”

At the same time, Pheeny said they’ll begin looking for state money both from grants and low income housing tax credits. Generally speaking, Pheeny said application deadlines are about a year away.

Based on preliminary designs, the three-story development will have 34 residences in a two-wing building on 2.8 town-owned acres. Units are outlined as one or two bedroom.

The proposed development includes 54 parking spaces along a single roadway, shaded by 55 trees. Along with a common area, the proposal features a patio and deck, a library, a community garden and outdoor seating.

If built, its 34 residences would count toward the town’s affordable housing quota, as outlined in Mass. General Law Chapter 40B, which requires towns to have more than 10-percent affordable housing to avoid certain regulations. As of 2014, 0.5 percent of housing in town was listed as affordable.

The state’s definition of ‘affordable housing’ defines that housing shouldn’t cost more than 30-percent of a homeowner or renter’s gross monthly income, as based on regional averages.

According to preliminary plans, the development will be age restricted for seniors and could have up to 70-percent residential preference — the highest percentage allowed by the state.

Funding for the North Main Street project is planned to come through state grants. Town officials also intend to ask residents to allow Community Preservation Act funds to be used to supplement construction costs and help subsidize some of the units. Use of Community Preservation Act funds requires a town vote.

“There’s a real need for housing for seniors in the county, and we know we have an ever growing population in the county. A lot of seniors need housing that’s appropriate for them so they can age in place,” Pheeny said.

“There’ll be more housing in the community that’s safe for them, and that they can afford in the long term. I think it’s going to be a great project. And the town has put so much work just to getting to this stage.”

You can reach Andy Castillo


or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo

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