By Dot Bergin
“There is probably no town in the Commonwealth more deserving of our Housing Hero award than the town of Bedford,” said Clark Ziegler, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, at the June 8 MHP Housing Institute, where our town and two other organizations were honored for their affordable housing achievements.
On hand to share in the Bedford honor were Town Manager Rick Reed, Assistant Town Manager Mike Rosen, Planning Director Tony Field, Selectman Margot Fleischman, former Selectman Mark Siegenthaler, and three current members of the Bedford Housing Partnership – Jean Hammond, Jane Puffer, and Christina Wilgren.
In citing Bedford’s successes, Ziegler said, “For 30 years the professional staff, town boards, and residents have worked together to create more housing. Here’s one statistic: Bedford has 16.9% of affordable housing, the fourth highest percentage in the Commonwealth. When communities ask MHP how to get more affordable housing done, we often point to Bedford as an example.
“Many trace Bedford’s legacy back to 1988 when Town Manager Reed arrived. At that time, there were three housing-related committees ‘who didn’t talk to one another,’ (a remark which brought a chuckle from the audience.) Reed merged them into the Housing Partnership.
“Key steps along the way were the 1994 creation of a local housing trust, [I]n 2001 Bedford was one of the first towns to take advantage of the Community Preservation Act (which allows for funding of affordable housing), and the Town passed inclusionary zoning and accessory apartment bylaws. Although Bedford approved some large 40-B developments [which helped toward its 10 percent affordable component,] it backed smaller scale efforts as well.
“Bedford created affordable homes for sale and supported veterans’ housing with the local VA Hospital – and the list goes on and on and is still growing. Today the town worries about tear-downs of starter homes. That issue came to a head recently with the disposition of a former Coast Guard property, which the town feared might go to a developer who would create large single-family homes. Ziegler cited the town’s action in acquiring the federal property and turning it to a developer who will create mixed-income homes.
“And,” concluded Ziegler, “Town Manager Rick Reed is still on the job!”
In accepting the Housing Hero award, Reed said “It’s truly an honor for the town of Bedford to be recognized by the MHP. “It starts with the Selectmen,” Reed added, “Supported by the Bedford Housing Partnership, the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, the Community Preservation Committee, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, and our great staff team.
“Where we are today represents more 30 years of sustained effort. Key steps are building consensus, working with boards and committees to talk about adding affordable housing, building momentum, one project at a time, and building administrative capacity.”
Reed also mentioned Bedford’s affiliation with surrounding towns in the Regional Housing Services Office, looking toward a regional approach to affordable housing.
Two other organizations were named Housing Heroes during the ceremony: South Shore Chamber of Commerce (the first time the award has gone a business organization) and Harborlight Community Partners, an Essex County group advocating for affordable housing in North Shore communities.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, visit their website: www.mhp.net