Plan to increase affordable housing topic of joint meeting in Easthampton

  • Easthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/16/2021 8:33:15 PM

By JACQUELYN VOGHEL

EASTHAMPTON — The City Council will hold a public hearing with the Planning Board on Wednesday night to adopt a plan intended to promote housing for low-and moderate-income families and individuals, reduce housing production barriers in the city, and address local and regional housing needs.

The city last released a Housing Production Plan in 2014. But according to City Councilor Tom Peake, the council at the time did not reach many of the goals laid out in that plan. The plan, detailed in a 102-page draft document, seeks to address continuing concerns in the city surrounding affordability and housing choice. 

According to the plan, which details steps to take from 2021-2026, Easthampton “has very few of the regulatory tools that communities use to promote housing diversity and affordability,” and a “limited inventory of affordable housing,” along with other general difficulties that do not address the housing needs of lower-income residents.

The new plan outlines six goals: Creating a variety of affordable, mixed-income housing to foster "a welcoming, inclusive community"; increasing affordable and market-rate housing options for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities; meet state affordable housing assistance requirements through producing at least 38 qualifying units per year; encourage development and repurposing of existing buildings into mixed-income housing; and promote the development of the mills and town or institutionally owned properties into mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods.

“It’s no secret to anyone that the cost of housing in Easthampton has increased substantially over the last decade,” Peake said, “and it’s becoming an issue that I hear about a lot from constituents.”

While some homeowners appreciate that the value of their homes have gone up, he added, “there are also a lot of people who are starting to ask serious questions about whether they can afford to continue to live in this community, and whether their kids will be able to afford in this community when they grow up.”

If the city does not address affordability issues, he added, it also risks losing communities that have long characterized and enriched life in Easthampton.

“Easthampton has a long history of blue collar residents,” Peake said, “and it also has a long history, especially recently, of being a place for artists. If we become a community that is unaffordable to those populations, those are important contributors to our civic life that we could lose.”

At the Wednesday night meeting, Peake will propose two zoning amendments intended to complement this goal. One amendment would relax current zoning barriers that can restrict the production of accessory dwelling units, such as attached in-law apartments, tiny homes or backyard cottages. A second amendment streamlines the permitting process for multifamily housing developments that include certain percentages of affordable housing.

The meeting will be held virtually on Wednesday at 6 p.m., and can be accessed via a Zoom link on the city’s Agendas & Minutes webpage. 

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com



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