MassHousing, one of the agencies that 40B developers run their plans by to move forward on affordable housing projects, has asked the developer on a pair of proposals to revise plans for structures that would bookend one Wellesley neighborhood near Sprague Elementary School. The proposals have already been criticized by town officials and immediate neighbors.
The density and design of proposed developments at 680 Worcester St. (Rte. 9 east) and Stearns Road has been deemed inappropriate at this time by MassHousing. “This letter is not a finding of project eligibility for either project. Rather, it serves to update you on the status of MassHousing’s review of the projects, and to request certain modifications to your proposal,” MassHousing writes (read entire response letter below). The Town actually lists the MassHousing response as a denial, though MassHousing stresses that it has neither rejected or denied the plans.
These 40B projects, whose developer would gain leniency on zoning rules in exchange for building affordable units, are among a host of proposed developments that have cropped up this year in light of Wellesley falling well below a threshold set by the state for communities to have at least 10% of their housing stock deemed affordable (See also: Wellesley’s Affordable Housing Challenge video).
Residents near the proposed 680 Worcester St., and Stearns Road proposals have been particularly vocal about what they see as intrusive building plans in their neighborhood. They’ve stressed that they’re not opposed to more affordable housing in Wellesley, but want to see it located in areas where it makes the most sense for the town and for new residents. The town is making moves to create a housing production plan that would give it more say over development going forward.
Stearns Road’s Pete Buhler, one of those spearheading the Our Affordable Wellesley campaign, says “Our work is far from over since there are still an unprecedented 8 hostile 40Bs casting a dark cloud over our affordable future. Our town government is making amazing progress by expediting a Housing Production Plan and ‘second track’ to expedite affordable housing initiatives that will increase our [subsidized housing inventory] percentage on our own terms and prevent more abuse of the 40B statute. Unfortunately, our town’s neighborhoods are still fighting these outside, profit-driven takeovers as we speak and more are certainly on the way.”