Much of what has passed as ‘affordable housing’ development around here has been anything but, which makes the Noquochoke Village plan in Westport so refreshing.
Massachusetts calls it 40-B, Rhode Island calls it the amended Low and Moderate Housing Act, but they amount to the same thing. If 10 percent of a town’s housing supply doesn’t meet “affordable” standards — and no town around here comes close — then that town’s zoning is in trouble. Developers who designate a token portion of their project ‘affordable’ are given license to ride roughshod over zoning — to shoehorn bunches of dwellings into too small, sometimes too wet places.
But a deal inked last week by Westport’s Board of Selectmen bucks that trend. The Community Builders, a non-profit housing developer with respectable track record, promises that at least 80 percent of the 50 units will meet ‘affordable’ guidelines. Developers of other proposed affordable projects around here have offered as little as 20 to 25 percent affordable.
Some have grumbled about the deal, saying Westport didn’t get enough back from the developer ($58,000 plus repayment of a $206,000 state loan) to justify the $750,000 the town put up to buy the land.
But it wasn’t as though Westport was awash in offers. Some developers took a look but said there wasn’t money to be made — unless perhaps the town pitched in some construction cash to sweeten the deal. The Community Builders was the only one to make a serious proposal.
Judging by what The Community Builders company has accomplished in other places (check out their website for a look at their Chatham project among many others), Noquochoke Village should not merely be affordable, it should be a nice place to live. Attractive houses will be surrounded by ample open land in an appealing part of town.
Profit, not any sincere interest in affordable housing, has been the driving force behind most affordable ventures seen here. Most are little more than gimmicks designed to skirt town zoning.
But Noquochoke Village and its non-profit developer appear to be a step in the right direction for a region where many have been priced out of the dream of staying in their home town.