To the Editor:

When the 40(B) project was announced, many thoughts occurred to me.  While most were concerns about the environmental and fiscal impact, I did recall the Master Plan and comments from town officials that Manchester needed to have affordable housing for its residents to “allow community members to age in place”.  At first glance, this project seemed to satisfy that.  Then, I read the “fine print” – and discovered “local preference” is an exaggeration if not a misnomer. 

There are at least 3 hurdles facing a local applicant, including:

  • The clause on local preference states: “Applicants that meet the Local Preference requirement will be given the opportunity to lease some, but not all (emphasis added) of the affordable apartments first”. (11.3 Affordable Housing Information Packet, page 6).  This continues stating “The town of Manchester-by- the-Sea has established a local preference for 70% of the affordable apartments”(11.3 Affordable Housing Information Packet, page 17).  Thus, if the proposed project offers 40 affordable units, the number available for local Manchester residents is diminished to 28;
  • the housing agent (affiliated with the developer) has the ability to prioritize applicants based on household composition, rejecting an applicant if a larger household has eligibility. This will drive density, impacting our schools and certainly seems to disadvantage our “aging population”.   The document states “Regardless of the order drawn, all households of appropriate size for each apartment size will be given the opportunity to lease an apartment before any smaller household”(11.3 Affordable Housing Information Packet, page 11).  As 61% of houses in Manchester are 1-2 persons (Master Plan, page 9), this could preclude many of our residents from affordable 3 and 2 bedroom units and perhaps even thwart a widowed or single individual from renting a 1 bedroom unit. 
  • further, the documents state that 27.0% …”is the minimum percentage of minority applicants that must be in the local preference pool” (11.3 Affordable Housing Information Packet, page 17). The language further suggests that “adjustments will be made to the local preference pool”…with a “drawing comprised of all minority applicants who did not qualify for the local preference pool…until the percentage of minority applicants in the local preference pool is equal for the percentage of minorities in the surrounding HUD-defined area”, which is 27.0 %. (11.3 Affordable Housing Information Packet, page 17).  The marketing plan has 23 pages (11.5 Affordable Housing Marketing Plan) enumerating the intended advertising to religious institutions, social organizations, community groups, newspapers and websites well beyond the Cape Ann area to realize this quota. 

Assumptions will vary about the possible number of units which will actually be allocated to our local citizens.  However, it is certain that there won’t be many.  Given the complex labyrinth local applicants must navigate to secure a unit, it is a farce to say this is a meaningful response to helping our local residents.   

Brenda Furlong

Manchester