Does Wellesley need a housing coordinator?

The Wellesley Planning Board at its Tuesday night (Feb. 28) meeting will discuss the possibility of adding a housing coordinator to the town’s administration as a way to help address what seems like an increasingly unwieldy number of possible projects. While Wellesley has reached its state-required number of affordable housing units, efforts are underway to address needs for a wider variety of housing options for everyone from down-sizers to town employees, and to comply with new rules like the state’s multifamily zoning requirement for communities near MBTA stations.

Chair Jim Roberti broached the topic at the board’s Feb. 6 meeting (about 1-hour, 48-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording), noting that he had been in touch with a housing coordinator in Groton, Mass. (pop. 11,000-plus), who works part-time for that community and whose salary is funded through the Community Preservation Committee (Wellesley’s CPC will take part in the Feb. 28 meeting). Groton’s Fran Stanley has agreed to take part at the Wellesley Planning Board’s Feb. 28 meeting, which might also include input from those who have reached out to communities such as Arlington and Needham regarding their housing coordination efforts. Coordinators can keep communities on top of housing-related grant opportunities, among other things.

Getting the discussion going now could leave Planning enough time to include such a position in its proposed budget, if it decides to go that way, for Town Meeting at the end of March.

The Select Board recently has discussed the possibility of adding a transportation coordinator to its budget, but decided at its Feb. 7 meeting to hold off. During that last Select Board discussion on that topic, board member Ann-Mara Lanza (also co-founder of the Building a Better Wellesley affordable/attainable housing advocacy group) made a plea for considering a housing coordinator before a transportation one (not that she doesn’t see value in a transportation coordinator).

She pointed to the town’s 2018 Housing Production Plan calling for creation of a housing coordinator to take a proactive approach. That plan reads in part “there needs to be a central ‘point person’ with the time, authority, and resources to work on housing policy and housing strategies in Wellesley.”

Lanza said during the Feb. 7 Select Board meeting:”If we want to do something about our carbon footprint, let’s figure out how to create housing that allows people who work in Wellesley to live in Wellesley, significantly reducing long commutes and traffic.”