BURLINGTON - A total of $30,000 will be transferred from Burlington’s Affordable Housing Fund for an affordable housing needs assessment.

Town Meeting decisively passed the financial transfer warrant article by a clear two-thirds majority, last Monday night. For a refresher, “affordable housing” refers to public and/or subsidized housing. This can be seniors housing at reduced rents to Section 8 vouchers. It also means housing that is affordable to someone making the median income of an area, such as an entry-level home that is affordable to a first-time homebuyer or a market-rent apartment that is affordable to an average worker.

There are two separate entities in Burlington that are primarily responsible for overseeing affordable housing. They are the Burlington Housing Authority and the Burlington Housing Partnership Committee. The former manages two affordable housing development for seniors and people with disabilities (Birchcrest Arms & Tower Hill Apartments) and manages the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Programs. The latter is a separate entity, responsible for “other” affordable housing opportunities in town, like first-time homebuyers looking for a reasonably priced home.

The Burlington Housing Partnership Committee brought this $30,000 funding transfer request to Town Meeting last Monday night in an effort to augment the community’s affordable housing prospects. The committee considers housing needs in Burlington with particular attention to housing opportunities that are affordable to residents of all income levels and abilities. The 7-member committee is appointed by the Town Administrator, and the committee serves as an advisory group to the Select Board.

Burlington gets funding for affordable housing from monitoring and developer fees, and has collected approximately $800,000 primarily from $600,000 received from The Davis Companies agreement finalized in 2015.

In 2015, the town of Burlington initiated a Comprehensive Master Plan, encouraging new developments of Class A multifamily housing in or near commercial destinations, in order to meet the demands of Burlington’s growing young professional and senior citizen populations. The town was forward thinking in terms of its housing stock and mindful of its commitment to providing thoughtful affordable housing for its residents. With the completion of The Reserve, Burlington’s affordable housing stock increased to 13.3 percent, surpassing the 10 percent threshold following the 2020 census update.

Standing at 270,000-square-feet on Corporate Drive, along Route 128,I-95, The Reserve at Burlington provides more amenity space than any other Class A project along Route 128 and features a full spectrum of studio to three-bedroom apartments with over 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenity spaces, including a two-story lobby with a concierge desk, a clubroom lounge with a catering kitchen, a two-story fitness center, four elevated courtyards, a resort-style pool with outdoor kitchen and bar, flexible common space and outdoor fireplaces, as well as a 422-space, covered parking garage. This development, alone, boosted Burlington affordable housing rate from 10 percent to 13.3 percent. As part of the deal, The Davis Companies provided $600,000 to the town for its affordable housing endeavors.

Burlington housing needs assessment

Town Meeting sought it fit to pass this warrant article, allowing the Burlington Housing Partnership Committee to conduct an independent and objective housing needs assessment. The assessment only costs $30,000 and will be significantly more detailed and comprehensive than the work done for the housing component of the town’s Comprehensive Master Plan.

The assessment will be conducted by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a regional planning agency for 101 municipalities in and around Boston. The process will analyze demographic data and housing stock showing trends and characteristics helping to explain housing needs and demands, including both quantitative and qualitative components for data and community outreach, respectively.

A final report will be presented to Town Meeting and available to the public. This assessment will ultimately inform the direction of a Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. Such a trust is a public entity, created by the local legislative body to create and preserve affordable housing. It would be led by a Board of Trustees focused on supporting local control of housing initiatives. A key facet of the trust is to actually engage in real estate activity, by acquiring, purchasing, and preserving affordable housing. Funding would come from a “variety of sources.”

Town Meeting stood firmly in support of this initiative, recognizing inflated housing costs in recent years have disrupted hopeful Burlington parents in their 50s and 60s hoping to pass their homes onto their children.

“It is a bargain with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council able to come in and do a study that will lead to not only an assessment, but will help lead us to a way forward and some backup for future plans,” stated Town Meeting member Catherine Beyer.

Town Meeting member Jonathan Sachs called it a “no-brainer” with the $30,000 transfer coming from Burlington’s Affordable Housing Fund.

Town Meeting passed this $30,000 warrant article by a clear two-thirds majority.

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