On November 4, the town held a virtual “Housing Production Plan” open forum.  (I was unable to find notice of the forum on the town’s agenda page and there is no video of the virtual meeting available on ELCAT.  Nevertheless, a reporter from The Reminder was in attendance and all information that I have regarding the meeting comes from that paper’s November 11 edition. Click here for the article)

The meeting was attended by members of the Housing Production Plan Working Group and led by a representative of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC).  According to PVPC’s website,

PVPC is a consortium of local governments that have banded together under the provisions of state law to address problems and opportunities that are regional in scope.

The main topic of the meeting was a proposal to develop low-income housing projects in the Town of East Longmeadow.

The development would be done in accordance with Massachusetts’ state laws and regulations that aim to impose a minimum of 10% “affordable housing” on all cities and towns in the Commonwealth.  See Chapter 40B Housing Production Plan and 760 CMR 56.00 for the pertinent laws.)  By complying with the state’s 10% “affordable housing” goal, the town would win eligiblity for additional grants and, in the words of the PVPC representative,

contribute to the economic growth of the area.

Currently, just 7.6% of East Longmeadow’s housing fits the state’s criteria for “affordable.”  In the greater Springfield area, a household of four members that annually spends more the $67,300 (about $16,825 per member) on housing needs is outside the state’s definition of “affordable.”

The town has sent out two surveys to residents seeking their thoughts on introducing more low-income housing into the community.  Over 500 residents responded to the surveys.  Not surprisingly, according to the Reminder,

respondents rated creating denser housing areas as a low priority.

The members of the Housing Production Plan Working Group who attended the virtual meeting seemed to have the opposite view.  Again, according to the Reminder, 

A poll of the forum participants showed…half want more variety in housing options and to become a more welcoming and diverse town, including accommodating differently-abled individuals.

Despite their stated interests, most of the meeting’s participants acknowledged that implementing such a plan may negatively affect the town.

Participants cited losing the town’s history and small-town charm and increased traffic congestion as concerns around changes to housing.

During a “brainstorming session” members at the meeting suggested that those opposed to housing develops in their community simply need to be re-educated.

Proposed solutions to address these issues included education on how affordable housing can be integrated into the existing community and dispelling the negative connotations around affordable housing.

The proposed plans will likely be finalized in late December.  Shortly thereafter they will be submitted to the planning board and town council for approval.