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North Suburban News

Housing Complex Will Bring 190 Units to Wakefield

Dec 13, 2018 10:16PM ● By Christa Case Bryant

Wakefield’s Zoning Board of Appeals is considering a major new affordable housing project that would push the town’s percentage of subsidized housing units above 10 percent and help alleviate a housing crunch across the Boston metro area.

If approved, the project would bring the town in line with a state threshold established in 1969. Achieving that minimum threshold would give Wakefield more discretion over such proposals in the future. Proponents say it would also help to diversify the community and bring in young families who might otherwise be priced out.

The location for the new project is on Tarrant Lane, a dead-end street just north of Rt. 95. Developer Anthony Bonacorso has proposed erecting three structures with a combined 190 rental units. A quarter of those units would be affordable housing, but under state law all 190 would count toward Wakefield’s affordable housing quota, according to a Wakefield Daily Item report, because all of the units will be rentals.

Mr. Bonacorso filed the request for a comprehensive permit under Chapter 40B. The law incentivizes developers to build affordable housing by allowing them to bypass zoning regulations in municipalities which do not the 10 percent threshold. In the Boston metro area, including Wakefield, individuals making less than $56,800 and families making less than $81,100 qualify for affordable housing.

Bonacorso, whose company Bonacorso Construction and Development LLC, would oversee the design and construction, says that the 40B process promotes healthy engagement between developers, municipalities, and residents.

“It’s not a ‘shove the project down the town’s throat’ kind of approach,” he said in a phone interview, noting that his company made a number of modifications based on meetings with Board of Selectmen this spring. After an initial Nov. 14 hearing before the Board of Appeals, he said he will appear before the board for a series of subsequent meetings to examine various aspects of the project, including architecture and traffic considerations. The first such meeting will be in January

Repeated interview requests left with colleagues or on voicemails for the Board of Appeals, the Wakefield Housing Authority, and the town planner all went unanswered.

Wakefield’s affordable housing stock currently stands at 8.2 percent of its roughly 10,600 dwellings, according to town administrator Steve Maio, a bit shy of the 10 percent target threshold. The most recent state data shows that as of October 2017, only about 20 percent of the state’s municipalities have achieved that threshold.

Boston’s housing crunch and resulting high prices have made national headlines. The Wall Street Journal wrote this week about Gov. Charlie Baker’s efforts to push through legislation that would make it easier for towns to relax their zoning rules regarding high-density housing projects.

In recent years, conflicts have arisen between many developers and municipalities, who accuse each other of subverting the original intent of the 1969 law – developers by seeking to reduce permitting time and costs, and local government by blocking projects without providing alternate plans for increasing affordable housing stock. Affordable housing projects, which tend to be far denser than other rural and suburban housing, can result in higher traffic and noise – while the below-market value results in comparatively lower tax revenues for the municipality.

But Maio said the increased affordable housing can benefit Wakefield by enabling new young firefighters or police officers employed by the town to settle here without breaking the bank. Those who are able to buy homes could help boost the vibrancy of the downtown, he adds.

“So they’ll go down to Hart’s Hardware and they’ll buy a garden hose and maybe some grass seed. Maybe when they go down there, they’ll go to Cafe Italia for lunch,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way,” he added, noting zoning changes in recent years – such as the ones at to include at least 18 percent affordable units.

The complex at 600 North Ave., for example, includes 24 units four of which are affordable. And the one at 175 North Ave., which includes Tonno’s restaurant, counts eight affordable units among its 60 total units.

“We’ve tried to address this part of the social compact,” says Maio.

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