South Hadley to examine housing needs at forums

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Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2018 11:44:23 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — Choosing between basic needs such as shelter, groceries and medication may seem like a nightmare for some, but for those struggling with housing expenses, weighing these necessities is an every day reality. 

According to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, census data shows that 35 percent of South Hadley residents are housing cost-burdened, which means that at least 30 percent of their income goes towards housing expenses.

“The more money that you spend on housing, the more you have to start making tradeoffs,” said Ashley Eaton, a land use/environment planner at Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. In severe cases, she said, people are sometimes forced to forgo necessities in order to keep up with housing expenses.

“In many cases it’s not that extreme, but it can be, especially if housing costs continue to rise,” Eaton said. 

A public forum has been scheduled Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Loomis Village Community Room to provide residents with an opportunity to address future housing growth in South Hadley.

According to Eaton, the financial burdens of housing occur across people of all income levels in town with some residents earning between $55,000-$75,000 per year struggling with housing expenses because of high rent, she said. Homeowners may also struggle to pay mortgages that were once manageable, but have since become challenging. 

At the forum, attendees will have the opportunity to voice their ideas on topics such as implementation of the town’s 2016 Housing Production Plan.

According to the plan, the town is anticipating issues such as an increasing need for housing suitable for an aging population; higher demand for both affordable and market rate rentals; and rising homeownership expenses caused by large lot zoning requirements, which can create barriers for first-time homeowners in particular. 

In order to tackle these needs, the town is looking into creating smart growth zoning overlay districts or starter home zoning overlay districts, and is seeking public input on where these possible districts should be situated. 

At a Town Meeting, voters elected to create a smart growth zoning overlay district around the site of the former Big Y plaza on Newton Street. 

Smart growth and starter home zoning districts fall under the state’s Chapter 40R program, which provides incentives for communities to create dense mixed-use or residential zoning districts that include a significant number of affordable housing units. 

A second forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24 from  6:30–8 p.m. at the South Hadley Town Hall auditorium for those who were unable to attend the first session. 

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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