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Peabody preparing five-year plan to expand affordable housing

Posted by Amanda Stonely  November 21, 2011 10:03 AM

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The city recently hired a consultant to prepare a new five-year plan for expanding affordable housing in Peabody. The firm, Karen Sunnarborg Consulting, of Jamaica Plain, was awarded a $17,050 contract, according to Stacey Bernson, the city’s assistant director of Community Development. Under the state law Chapter 40B, residential developers can bypass local zoning if their projects include a minimum required number of affordable units and less than 10 percent of the community’s overall housing is affordable.

But municipalities that fall under the 10 percent threshold can still block unwanted projects if they develop a state-approved affordable housing production plan and are certified by the state as using it to create a minimum number of affordable units in a year’s time. Peabody exceeded the 10 percent threshold until recently, when it fell below it due to new housing data generated from the 2010 federal census.

The city created a housing production plan in 2003, but it would no longer meet state requirements, Bernson said. The consultant will work with Abacus Architects and Planners, of Boston, in developing the new plan, and hold hearings to seek public input. The city hopes to have the plan ready for submittal to the state Department of Housing and Community Development by next May.

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