Town takes next steps on affordable housing development

Oct 31, 2022

With some apprehension, Dartmouth is one step closer to meeting its affordable housing threshold.

During its Oct. 31 meeting, the Select Board voted 4-1 to sign a regulatory and use agreement to move forward on the “Dartmouth Woods II” affordable apartment complex, which is expected to be built near the intersections of State and Reed roads.

According to attorney Karis North, the special counsel representing the town, the agreement affirms provisions such as use restrictions, rental instructions, tenant selection and what happens in case of change of ownership. Currently, the owner of the property is First Dartmouth LLC, who first presented the project to town officials in late 2017“It’s a really straightforward document,” North told the board.

With the signing done, the next step is to have things notarized and sent back to First Dartmouth LLC, along with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

It is unclear when construction on the project will commence, as crews have spent some time cleaning up environmental issues on land, which has been littered with past pollution problems.

The 288-unit apartment complex was approved for a comprehensive permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals in March 2021 as part of the state’s chapter 40B affordable housing law. The law allows developers to bypass certain municipal zoning requirements if the town’s affordable housing stock is below 10%.

As of last year, 7.9% of the housing stock in Dartmouth was deemed “affordable.”

Of the 288 units in the proposed complex, 72 (25%) will be classified as “affordable” — restricted to households with incomes at or below the 80% of area median income, according to the Town of Dartmouth.

Rent is estimated to be $1,515 a month (with a $283 allowance for utilities) for a two-bedroom apartment. A three-bedroom unit will cost $1,682 per month with a $355 utility allowance.

It was those prices that raised some concern from members of the Select Board.

“These are totally out of touch,” said board member Shawn McDonald, who was the lone vote against signing the agreement. 

“It does sound high,” concurred fellow board member Frank Gracie III.

According to North, the rates were set by the Department of Housing & Community Development and are “based on the statistics for income” in Bristol County.

While the agreement has been signed, it was done so under the stipulation that attorney North would work with the state to attempt to lower the rent.

North said she will reach out as soon as possible. Results of that conversation will be sent to Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes.

While some board members were optimistic that the state might budge on the rent, McDonald was not so sure.

“They’re not going to change their mind,” he said.