The Bedford Housing Partnership spent a good portion of their Feb.1 meeting asking questions about this legislation that requires towns served by the MBTA to provide multi-family dwellings within a given radius of a commuter rail station, or in Bedford’s case, a bus stop. Shawn Hanegan, Planning Board chair and member of the Partnership, reviewed the status of the legislation.
Partnership Chair Christina Wilgren noted that in her study of the new law she found no mention of affordable housing. Hanegan concurred and reminded members of the two-month window for public comment that ends on March 31. A question about the omission of affordability would be a good one to ask, he said. Here is the link to the Draft MBTA Guidelines and space for public comments https://tinyurl.com/3869mp3e
The question of a new town position to be called Sustainability Director, which Hanegan advocated for, was discussed at length. In Hanegan’s view, “affordability and sustainability go hand in hand.” Members were unclear about the duties and scope of work of the proposed new position. Although the Select Board has currently opted for hiring an Energy Manager, rather than a department-head level position, the outcome is not yet final.
How does sustainability relate to the 2019 Bedford Housing Study? Goal 3 of the Study states:
“Goal 3 – ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE HOUSING Recognizing the value of ‘embodied energy’ of existing buildings, encourage preservation and rehabilitation of the existing housing stock and the reuse and conversion of existing buildings to housing. For new construction, encourage housing that produces as much energy as it consumes, uses minimal, if any, fossil fuel, and contribute no additional carbon to the environment. “
Motion made and passed unanimously that “the Housing Partnership take a position in favor of a town position that will support Goal 3 of the Housing Study in terms of producing environmental and sustainable housing.”
In the only other vote taken at the meeting, the Housing Partnership supported transferring Community Preservation funds to the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. As Wilgren noted, funds are needed in the Trust in order to negotiate with builders and developers to support affordable housing. The motion passed 5:1:1, with one member abstaining and one member opposed.