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The town will apply for a $20,000 state grant to investigate affordable housing options. Town Planner David Anderson said the state is providing this incentive to encourage communities to consider moderately priced housing and higher density housing.
"This will be just a study to help us determine what the housing needs are in the town of Madison," Anderson explained. "We hope to look at what percentage of the population will need what type of housing in the future."
One example of a future need, he said, could be housing for seniors. Just last month, the Senior Services Commission provided the Board of Selectmen with a fact sheet that said, based on the 2010 U.S. census, seniors-defined as age 65 and older-account for 25 percent of Madison's population. By the year 2020, estimates predict the town's senior population will grow to 33 percent.
Will some of these seniors, as they age and begin to live on limited incomes, seek to downsize? Anderson thinks so. The study grant would provide more information. And there has been a senior group in town asking the Board of Selectmen and other town commissions to consider privately developed housing for seniors. The study grant could provide more information.
Anderson said there may also be a need for housing options-townhouses, condominiums, and apartments-for recent college graduates, singles, and single mothers.
"Madison's housing stock is about 93 percent single-family homes," which are not appropriate for everyone, he explained, also noting that the town's median income is $85,000.
In a presentation to the Planning & Zoning Commission last month, Partnership for Strong Communities Policy Director David Fink said the grants are being provided to local communities to investigate how affordable housing units might be placed within their boundaries. Once the grants are awarded, he said, towns will be able to hire a consultant to initiate a study to recommend the best places to locate affordable housing as well as the type of residential units desired by the town. There are no strings attached, he emphasized.
"This is an opportunity to explore the issue," Anderson said.
Although the town must apply by Jan. 31, when the grant would be awarded is not clear.
"What I would like to do is form a subcommittee with representatives from the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Senior Services Commission, Economic Development Commission, perhaps Youth & Family Services, and a few citizens," Anderson said. "This subcommittee would guide the work of the consultant. There would be outreach efforts to gather information and meetings to disseminate information to the public."
Based on this study, Anderson said he would look at the town's present regulations to see if any would require change to provide for the possibility of affordable housing options.
"We would be planning and analyzing. We would be thinking about it based on the information we collected," Anderson said. "It does not mean we have to create it" if the town accepts the state grant.
Anderson reminded the Planning & Zoning Commission that one of the goals of its recently adopted Plan of Conservation and Development was to investigate affordable housing options for the town.