Redevelopment Authority makes plans to work with MassHousing

Aug 7, 2019

The Wareham Redevelopment Authority is collaborating with Mass Housing to find a developer for Littleton Drive, a long-abandoned piece of land that was slotted to become a subdivision in the 1970s.

The members of the authority hope that at least some of the units will be affordable senior housing. The demand in town — and across the region — for affordable senior housing far outstrips the supply, and voters expressed enthusiasm for that goal at the last Town Meeting.

MassHousing could play a variety of roles in the project, including connecting the town with developers, working on an RFP, or assisting with funding.

This spring, voters approved transferring the land, which had been owned by the town, to the Wareham Redevelopment Authority. The property, which was approved to become a 47-lot subdivision in 1971, was foreclosed on in 1979 and transferred to the town in 1981.

The land will be developed by a private developer, so the project has to be attractive to developers financially. The board discussed the possibility of a development that included both affordable and market-rate senior units, or a mixed-use development that could include some commercial spaces.

Town Planner Kenneth Buckland said that he thought mixed-use would only be appropriate if the commercial space was used for amenities or other uses that would serve the population living there.

The group also discussed adding shared space to the development, like gardens and community meeting spaces.

Buckland is working on a document outlining the authority’s goals for the site to give to MassHousing, which will then reach out to developers.

A representative from MassHousing visited the site last week, and expressed her enthusiasm for the project.

“I’m very happy they’re excited to work with us,” said Authority member Richard Swenson.

Buckland noted that the development could help the town reach the ten percent affordable housing threshold. As long as Wareham’s housing stock is made up of less than ten percent affordable units, it has little recourse to prevent developers building under Chapter 40B rules, which allow them to bypass some local zoning and planning bylaws.

In a quirk of the law, if some percentage of the apartments in a new development are affordable, as long as all the other units are rentals, the entire count goes towards the ten percent marker.