There were a number of Pioneer valley real estate related news stories in several communities recently ranging from stories about affordable housing, schools, student housing, raises in community tax rates, green energy initiatives, and commercial building design.
Several communities had recent news regarding affordable housing. The Amherst Housing Authority is looking for ways to avoid reducing subsidies in the face of a $154,000 shortfall, according to Masslive.com. Masslive.com also reported that a 38-unit affordable housing development in Easthampton came another step closer to reality when Northampton-based Valley Community Development Corporation awarded the construction contract. The development will be located at 69 Parsons Street. It is expected to open in 2015. The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a story about how South Deerfield is considering a 5 year plan to create more affordable housing to meet goals mandated by the commonwealth, which is 10% of housing stock. The Gazette reported that currently only 1.5% of housing qualifies as affordable.
As South Deerfield works to come up with its own plan to meet the 10% affordable housing mandate, a story in South Hadley highlights how town officials can lose a certain amount of control over development if they don’t meet it. Under Chapter 40B, the law that governs affordable housing in Massachusetts, a developer can be exempted from community zoning laws. According to Mass.gov, Chapter 40B, “enables local Zoning Boards of Appeals to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules if at least 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. After the South Hadley Planning Board rejected a proposal to build a 27 unit development because the town’s zoning law doesn’t allow for such density in a single location, the developers are now proposing a 60 unit development armed with state approval to use the affordable housing law. A zoning board of appeals meeting has been scheduled.
Architectural guidelines for commercial real estate development in Belchertown were published on the town’s website. They were put together by the town’s planning board in consultation with a University of Massachusetts graduate student. The guidelines will be put before Town Meeting in May for approval, The Gazette reported.
It was reported by Masslive.com that Amherst and Belchertown will see an increase in real estate tax rates. It was reported that the new rates need to be approved by the commonwealth, which is always a requirement. Amherst’s property tax rate will rise 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $20.39 to $20.97. Belchertown’s tax rate will rise from $17.11 to $17.72.
The structure of a school district was also in the news. Masslive.com reported that the Amherst Regional School District Planning Board, which includes Pelham, Shutesbury, and Leverett, is exploring amending the regional agreement to include all the schools in the four towns. Currently Leverett and Shutesbury elementary schools belong to a different district.
Student housing was the topic of a couple of stories in Amherst. The Amherst Planning Board held a well-attended meeting regarding a student housing project known as The Retreat in the Cushman area of town, which has been met with opposition from neighbors because of the impact it would have on the historic village. Since that meeting, Masslive.com reported that the planning board wanted 20 modifications to the proposed plan.
The same source reported that a new housing study confirmed what Amherst residents already know: That there isn’t enough housing in town to meet demand created by students of the three colleges located there. However, Masslive.com reported that the preliminary study offered different solutions to the problem like, “including zoning changes from allowing multi-family homes by right instead of special permit; enabling infill development at existing apartment complexes; and to ‘transition away from the traditional minimum lot area approach to a units-per-acre system of density control.’”
Homeowners in Amherst, Chesterfield, Whately, and Williamsburg will be able to install solar panels on their homes for less thanks to their inclusion in the commonwealth’s Solarize Mass program. This is the second round of towns that have been selected to participate, according to the press release. As more people in the community sign up, the less expensive the installation is for participants.
If you are planning on buying or selling a home in the Pioneer Valley, make your first call to Michael Seward at 413-531-7129. Michael Seward is a Certified Residential Specialist, a Certified Buyers Agent, a Certified Loss Mitigation Specialist, a Certified New Homes Specialist, and Green designee of the National Association of REALTORS®.