Partnership Actions and Plans

CURRENT ACTIONS:

* Continue to find sources for affordable housing.

Over the last year, the Lexington Housing Partnership and LexHAB became aware of additional Massachusetts communities that had implemented affordable housing assistance programs, many of which used CPA funding, and decided it would be useful to learn more about these initiatives before proceeding further in its advocacy and program development efforts. Therefore, the Housing Partnership and LexHAB amended its previous CPA funding request and received funding approval to survey other existing comparable programs and to define the parameters for an achievable program that suits Lexington’s needs and concerns. Both the Housing Partnership and LexHAB wanted to learn from the experience of other communities to establish a Statement of Programmatic Objectives and a Program Summary to meet these Objectives, leaving program details for another day. The following is a report of other Massachusetts Municipal programs:

Affordable Homebuyer Assistance Programs
Attachment 1: Summary of Programs
Attachment 2: Similarities & Differences with Lexington

 

Highlights of past activities:

* Supported the Planning Staff in coordinating with the WestMetro HOME Consortium and producing the Consolidated Housing Strategy and Plan for FY 2006-2010, a necessary action to be eligible to receive federal funds to support affordable housing initiatives beginning in FY2007.

* Formed the Lexington Housing Foundation, a non-profit tax exempt housing trust, to receive funds and apply them in support of affordable housing objectives.

* Worked with a consultant and the Planning Staff to produce bylaw changes to simplify the rules for accessory dwellings, clarify adaptive reuse rules for existing non-residential structures and to adopt the Town’s affordable housing guidelines.

* Provided support for the 2004 warrant articles to provide 97 affordable rental units at MetState and the LexHAB Rangeway project for a two family affordable rental unit.

* Promoted awareness of the need for affordable housing in Lexington through posters, presentations and the print media.

Planned Activities*

  • LexHAB Project Support: LexHAB has a strong 17-year record of achievement in constructing, managing and acquiring affordable housing. The Partnership will continue to provide support to LexHAB to help fund and promote their efforts.

  • Increase the Supply of Rental Housing: Avalon at Lexington Square is an excellent example of utilizing public land to increase affordable rental housing and promote diversity within Lexington. This new community will have 387 apartment homes situated around a town green. Twenty-five percent of the units will be affordable in perpetuity to households earning no more than 80 percent of area median income. Another ten percent will be affordable units for the Department of Mental Health through a combination of on-site housing (5% of the units) and off-site housing (5% of the units). Sixty of the units will be age-restricted. The Partnership will study the qualifications for renters of affordable units and assist in providing information to applicants.

  • First-time Homebuyer Program: The Partnership will study the way funds may be acquired and used to support the establishment of a first-time homebuyer program in Lexington. Participation in the State’s Soft Second Loan Program will provide first-time homebuyers with an affordable mortgage financing option. Participation of local lenders will be encouraged to enable young adults and Town employees to live in Lexington. The Partnership will look into ways that financial support can be obtained from both the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and mortgage lenders.

  • Lexington Center: If rezoned as a mixed use district, residential uses would be permitted above commercial buildings in Lexington Center. This could provide affordable housing near businesses, services, and public transportation, supporting Smart Growth principles. The Partnership will support efforts of the Lexington Center Collaborative to examine the necessary zoning changes and the positive and negative aspects of the rezoning. There are major issues associated with providing sufficient parking and affordable housing. Obstacles to be overcome include the resistance to permit more housing in the center and the inclusion of upper stories in the center. The Historical Districts Commission must approve all physical changes and must be persuaded to allow Lexington to take on its historical multi-story look from the past.

  • Accessory Apartments: The Town has encouraged affordable accessory apartments through the simplification of the zoning bylaw. Now it is also possible for new construction to contain an accessory apartment. The Partnership will study the ways that affordable accessory apartments can be maintained over time.

  • Conversion of Non-residential to Residential: Current zoning to facilitate such development in structures other than schools or town owned buildings does not exist. If feasible, the Town wants to allow such projects through a simple special permit process. Obstacles include neighborhood resistance to a potentially higher density project, but history indicates that conversions have been widely accepted as long as they are compatible with the existing neighborhood. The Partnership will support the work to provide zoning changes that apply to conversion of non-town owned buildings.

  • Program to purchase affordability deed restrictions from low-income homeowners. The Partnership is working on a program that would provide incentives to residents to accept an affordable housing restriction on their home . This would result in creating more affordable housing assets in town. Current studies are focused on locating potential homeowners who might be willing to participate and on finding funding sources to support the program.