BURLINGTON - The key to expanding opportunities for seniors to find smaller homes when the time is right will come with a combined effort between state and local government, and private sector redevelopment.
This was the message delivered at a recent forum at the Burlington Council on Aging hosted by State Representative Ken Gordon and highlighting presentations by Chrystal Kornegay, the Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development, as well as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing Kevin Honan (D-Brighton). Also on the panel were Burlington Selectman Mike Runyan and local attorney Bob Buckley, of Riemer & Braunstein.
The panel addressed the needs and concerns of seniors who reside in larger homes but are looking for condominiums or apartments that require less maintenance. After sharing their thoughts for about a half-hour they listened to concerns of residents of Burlington, Bedford, Wilmington and surrounding communities.
“The number one challenge for our seniors in Bedford, Burlington and Wilmington is affordable housing,” said Rep. Gordon. “And we heard this, again, loud and clear. The Undersecretary spoke about programs proposed by the governor that will help our towns develop new options for our seniors. The Chairman identified funding sources that can be used by the Administration and our towns and cities to create opportunity.”
Kornegay used the opportunity to describe the governor’s policy on senior housing, which will concentrate not only on multi-family construction in cities and gateway communities, but incentives for developers and towns to access grants to add stock to suburban locations.
“Providing stable, accessible and affordable housing for the Commonwealth’s seniors is a critical piece of the Baker Administration’s approach to addressing economic security for Massachusetts’ elders,” said Kornegay.
The focus of many of the questions fell to attorney Buckley, who has represented several entities engaged in redevelopment including the construction of residential units. “When developers come to a town like Burlington, they are often willing to make concessions to meet the needs of the community, and become good neighbors,” he said. “So when we have someone looking to build in the various towns in the Commonwealth, I discuss with them the need to set aside affordable units. For the towns, it’s important to stay above the statutory minimum so they keep control. For the builders, it’s important for their good will.”
More than 75 seniors packed the senior center to participate in the discussion.
“Housing is a huge issue in Burlington where many seniors don't feel they have any options other than staying in a home they can no longer do the upkeep on, whether physically or financially. The large crowd that gathered today is a strong indication that they want options,” said Marge McDonald, Director of the Burlington Council on Aging. “Many choose to stay in their homes but many don't want to or can't stay in their home and we need to find ways to remedy the situation and give them more choices especially for those that fall in the middle and don't qualify for low income or affordable."
Chairman Honan shared the same opinion.
“Making sure our seniors have safe, affordable housing is one of the most important issues we address on the housing committee,” he said. “I want to thank Representative Ken Gordon for the opportunity to speak with seniors at the Burlington Council on Aging about the resources we have at the state and local level for senior housing and share how my neighborhood, Allston-Brighton, has had success building affordable senior housing thanks to incredible community organizations like the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, B’nai B’rith, and the Allston Brighton CDC.”
The matter has been a priority for Selectman Runyan, since the first days of his service in elected office. “I saw the need for our seniors to find appropriate housing,” he said. “It’s a real problem. We will continue to address this issue and working to support our seniors.”
The broadcast will be re-broadcast on BCAT’s COA Activities program.