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New Princeton Properties Complex on Littleton Road Gets $25 Million Loan

The upcoming affordable housing complex on Littleton Road was the subject of a $25 million construction loan last week.

Pittsburgh-based HFF arranged the deal with Princeton Properties & Guggenheim Real Estate LLC. To secure a three-year, floating-rate construction loan with two one-year extension options through First Niagara Bank’s Boston office.

The 200-unit development, expected to be completed later this year, is just down the street from another affordable housing project coming to Chelmsford, with groundbreaking beginning at that project later this summer. 

Sam January 27, 2014 at 08:16 AM
That is what I am looking for. So we are basically chasing this because of ideology and nothing less. While I agree there is some need chasing this percentage adds to our tax burden at a generally reduced rate of return. Seems foolish
Bruce Caldwell January 27, 2014 at 08:19 AM
The people and town of westford have little control over 40B developments. They are built by pofit seeting entities (usually corporations/wealthy developers) and are able to subvert our local zoning. in 2010 there was a referendum to repeal 40B. The citizens of our state voted to NOT repeal. The vote was close around 495 but the urban/rural areas overwhelmingly voted NO. 1. The 10% number is completely arbitrary 2. The law is pretty flawed (lax auditing, developer cheating) 3. A Westford school teacher will have difficulty affording a home in Westford. At least the new development is apartments. Most likely ones that our teacher can afford. I believe that most 40B single family home developments are just profit vehicles for builders and do little to help our town, and in fact detract from the common good.
Steven Sadowski January 27, 2014 at 09:05 AM
Another thing, which is kind of a funny tangent, is that we can all kiss the ground and be thankful for septic tanks. It seems as though since 99.9% of Westford uses septic tanks as opposed to sewers, this greatly reduces the ability to build up, which cuts down drastically in the amount of housing, affordable and otherwise.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 27, 2014 at 09:58 AM
Steven, the comment above about the shed is incorrect. The town doesn't build anything, the developers do. The town is a regulatory body that provides guidelines. 40B projects get to waive many of those guidelines in exchange for meeting certain criteria. I'll try to get more information on 40Bs in a stand alone article, I still have a lot to learn as well.
Prometheus January 27, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Please do check....but from my understanding....the town can choose not not allow 40b projects....at the expense of the State withholding money for roads/schools etc. A kind of legal extortion.
Sam January 27, 2014 at 10:29 AM
P: That is what I was getting at. hat is the amount they would withhold if anything.
Steven Sadowski January 27, 2014 at 10:43 AM
Andy, with all due respect, I realize that. It was a joke, a little hyperbole to illustrate a point that when building housing, if it's under 40b, there has to be 10% allocated for AH---at least in theory (these regs get skirted by developers). So my joke, about the shed, was meant to demonstrate the expectations on the building process as it applies to 40b.
steve forte January 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Can 40 b ever be met? If we have under 10% now and you add 200 units with only 10% affordable are you not basicly about the same number you were at before?
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 27, 2014 at 01:15 PM
Prometheus - there are some exceptions, there might be more that I'm not aware of. Outside of the 10 percent rule, the main one I've seen/heard of is the "safe harbor" rule -- a town that has just put in a 40B of a certain size gets a certain timeframe where normal zoning oversight applies -- this is happening over in Chelmsford right now --> (http://chelmsford.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/mill-road-40b-will-get-further-study-likely-at-minimum-108-units)
East/West January 27, 2014 at 02:10 PM
Chapter 40B is the state law allowing private developers to ask for a waiver to local zoning laws if a town does not have 10% of its housing units as "affordable." In exchange for the waiver of local laws, the developer must make 25% (sometimes only 20%) of the development's units be "affordable units." So a development of 100 units would need to have at least 25 units be affordable for the developer to qualify for a 40B development. The towns/cities have no option on this. It is state law governing how private citizens get to use their private land and develop it they way they want with less interference from local rules. The town can try to reject a 40B development because the developer is asking to waiving certain local zoning laws, but the developer can easily appeal to a state board called the Housing Appeal Committee (HAC). The HAC almost never ever sides with the town unless there is a proven safety hazard to approving the 40B development. The HAC pretty much just looks at whether the town has 10% affordable housing or not. If not, they make the town accept the 40B development. With developers only required to build at most 25% of their units as affodable and the other 75% being regular market rate units, you can see that every 40B development actually DECREASES the percentage of affordable housing a town has. There is no way to reach the 10% if the town remains passive. Smart towns can, however, utilize certain strategies and certain laws to actually increase their percentage. But it is difficult and requires the full cooperation of the town government and the citizens. One such option is to give town land to an affordable housing developer but in exchange for giving the land, require the developer to do more then 25% of the units as affordable. Westford has done this a few times. The Cottages in the Woods development on Boston Road is an example where the developer made 100% of the 20 units affordable in exchange for the town land. There are other tricks the town can utilize as Andrew has eluded to, but again, it is not easy to do. I have simplified the explanation a bit here, but this is the gist of things.
East/West January 27, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Oh geez, you can't do paragraphs in posts? Ugh!
Steven Sadowski January 27, 2014 at 02:42 PM
That's depressing. The more you learn the worse you feel.
steve forte January 27, 2014 at 02:51 PM
Well Steve maybe I can cheer ya up a little. If Im not mistaken affordable means 70% of market value. Dosnt that still leave an affordable condo in Westford in the $300k range or so?
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) January 27, 2014 at 02:52 PM
Thanks Jim! I feel like I have so much to learn, glad you could shed some light here (yeah, I hate the paragraph limitation too. )
Steven Sadowski January 27, 2014 at 03:01 PM
Question,...now that we're getting a better picture here of what 40b is would you support a candidate that ran on a platform of trying to overturn the law or at least reduce the impact to towns?
Prometheus January 27, 2014 at 03:05 PM
I would support a candidate who supports people over towns, towns over the state, and the state over the fed. Keep power and the money to control the power local.
Sam January 27, 2014 at 03:07 PM
Yes! Depending of course what the rest of his platform looks like
Dan D. January 27, 2014 at 05:30 PM
Maybe. If he had a workable plan to overturn it, but I wouldn't vote for or against a candidate based on one issue. I echo Prometheus' approach also.
Dan D. January 27, 2014 at 05:35 PM
40B should be called: "The Developers Prosperity Act", not whatever misleading label is being used now. I have no problem with developers making a ton of money, but it would be nice if the state kept their hands out of what should be local decisions.
East/West January 27, 2014 at 06:19 PM
One other thing that helps a town reach the 10% affordable requirement is rental developments. The state allows towns to count ALL rental units in a 40B rental development to count towards the percentage requirement. So even the market rate rental units count as "affordable" toward the 10% goal. So for example, Princeton Properties will have a total of 200 rental units (almost all of which will be only one or two bedroom apartments which reduces the amount of school children added to the system). Out of that 200 only 50 apartments will be technically affordable and the rest are rented out at normal market rates. But, Westford gets to count all 200 units as "affordable" towards reaching the 10% goal required by Chapter 40B. It is a trick the state allows to promote more rental units being built. In fact, Princeton Properties was promoted by the Affordable Housing Committee and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee exactly for this reason. Wesford's percentage of affordable units will jump up from something about 3% affordable to about 7%. Again, I am somewhat simplifying things but this gives you a good idea.
East/West January 27, 2014 at 06:38 PM
By the way, affordable units are housing units that can only go to a person/family that makes no more then 80% of the median income for a region. This total depends on the size of the family too. The bigger the family the higher the total. Westford uses the Lowell area region so 80% of median income for a family of four is about $64,000, I think.
Dan D. January 28, 2014 at 07:56 AM
What happens when the income goes up? For instance, someone has a job or business with wildly varying earnings. For a couple years he/she makes $60K, then the business takes off, and earnings climb way up...say 200K. I assume if an affordable house was bought, they get to keep it as long as they want?
East/West January 28, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Yes Dan, the income limits are only for when the family first buys the affordable unit. They get to keep it even if they increase their income. They can, however, only sell the unit to a person/family that meets the affordable standards because all such units have a restriction in the deed requiring it. A covenant that runs with the property. Most of these deed restrictions last for "in perpetuity" now that the courts allow it. Used to be for 10-30 years until the courts cleared that issue up in the early 2000s.
Sam January 28, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Really great information Jim. Seems to me that we need to get a few more of these rental situations in town to get over the 10% and be done with this developers feast. At least for a while. I don't see an issue with have more apartments in town.
Amber January 28, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Sam: I agree, but the so-called "beautiful people" in town don't want rentals, either. For many of the same reasons they don't want drive-through windows at McDonalds - they're of the fear-based country club mentality which is concerned with 'what happens when *that* element is introduced to town'. Also, renters attending and voting at Town Meetings when they don't have a vested stake in their property taxes has been a previously stated concern. Rentals really are the answer in terms of retaining autonomy, though in the spirit of 40B it does kind of suck when only a small percentage are truly affordable. Westford's housing costs are out of control - as are most in Massachusetts.
Prometheus January 28, 2014 at 02:52 PM
Agreed. Would you say it is akin to an illegal with voting rights, or perhaps a voter who pays no taxes? No taxation without representation AND no representation without taxation!
Sam January 28, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Amber: Well it seems to me these same "beautiful people" don't want new developments in town either. Especially near their beautiful homes. All towns are not going to be places of equality. That is not going to happen. Like it or not, there is a reason our town's schools and general way of life are sought after and it's not because there is an abundance of affordable houses or apartments. As we approach what this program is designed to do we erode what we have. That is simple fact. No offense meant here either. I liken this to the straw hats in town that love to run their businesses in the center of town causing all sorts of traffic tie ups then freak out when talk of a rotary of traffic light comes up. Alas as time passes promises are made and broken (ie. "The Gateway to Westford") etc. Just another simple fact. The 40B at the new and revised gateway now has a beautiful stockade fence surrounding it. What do you suppose was the original design for the screening was? It was beautiful plantings, tress and shrubs. This got changed in the developers favor under such foolishness as saving water to keep these areas growing etc. Who do you suppose made out there? Who do you supposed pushed for the developer to be able to do this? Dig deep. The whole thing is a mess. Here I agree with most and just wish the state would leave the towns alone and let us decide what we do and not do. I am not looking to shut everyone out of town, that is just not right but this model is for the birds. The same goes for our Town Meeting model and much more. Just my opinion.
Steven Sadowski January 28, 2014 at 03:35 PM
I've said a trillion times, the more politicians we send to Beacon Hill who believe in a top-down approach to management, the more top-down mandates you will receive from the state. There is very little that we actually control. I swear to god, if it isn't Common Core and state mandates on education, it's 40b, highway/utility/infrastructure funding, this and that funding, mandates for this regulations for that, and now we're a "Green Community" who wants to bet there are no strings attached on that? We're slowly "evolving" into an Empire. 10 Amendment? What 10th Amendment?
Cori Ryan January 28, 2014 at 09:19 PM
If anyone is interested in learning more about affordable housing at a more granular level and is interested in participating in local government, there is a 3 year term for the Westford Housing Authority that is available and currently has not candidate running for that term. If you want to learn about running for local office, the LWV has a program Wednesday night at the library on how to run for office and there will be a panel of citizens who have served for a Q&A session: http://www.westford.com/lwv/?p=976
Amber February 05, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Sam, I don't disagree with you. Just stating the prevailing center-of-town attitude. Some people like the atmosphere. I like my kids being in a school district where there is more socio-economic diversity. Less entitlement issues then they'd be subject to in sought-after overpriced suburbia. ;) It IS possible to be a renter or of less-than-affluent banking and car status and still be a good, law-abiding, non-deadbeat person. And plenty of affluent suburbanites are criminals and druggies and deadbeats. Of course everyone is free to be what they want to be, but I don't think money or zip code is an indicator of character. The whole rich elitist snob NIMBY thing isn't for me, but that doesn't mean I think the state should wrest zoning control from the town, unless the town's planning officials are being discriminatory. Unfortunately, the loss of that regulation also has very real impact on the diversity the town offers. :)

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