Barrington seniors on fixed incomes could benefit from an idea to create more affordable housing that was tossed around Tuesday night by the Housing Board of Trustees.
Plenty of details still need to be fleshed out by the housing board before the idea is turned into a proposal to go before the Town Council.
But the idea floated by Steve Martin, chairman of the board, would involve putting deed restrictions on existing homes to turn them into “affordable” homes. This would boost Barrington’s effort to meet the state mandate for affordable housing while also possibly helping certain seniors stay in their homes -- a problem for many seniors with low to moderate incomes.
“My opinion is that Barrington’s greatest need is for senior housing,” Martin said, “but that will be a major challenge.”
The idea of applying deed restrictions would be an attempt to deal with that challenge.
For the deed restrictions, home owners would receive some form of subsidy or benefit – such as a fixed property tax rate for up to 10 years or a freeze on the assessed value of the home for up to 30 years.
“All affordable housing needs some type of subsidy,” said Martin. “But it does not need to be cash considerations.”
Locking in the assessed property value of the home would be a subsidy, he said.
In short, the idea could possibly deal with the challenge of both senior housing and affordable housing without building more homes.
Paul Dulchinos of the Barrington Planning Board, a liaison to the housing board, presented a list of more than 250 homes in Barrington that could already meet the prices of affordable homes at Walker Farm Lane, Barrington’s affordable housing complex on County Road near Hundred Acre Cove. Those prices are $169,000 or $210,000, depending on income and cash subsidies.
Many of the homes are in the Bay Spring neighborhood or along Maple Avenue, Dulchinos said. But there are homes all over town. And many of those homeowners also benefit from the "circuit-breaker" tax reduction in Barrington.
Homeowners interested in turning their properties into affordable units would have to meet certain income guidelines: no more than 80 percent of the mean income in Barrington.
Richard Staples, a housing board member, said some homeowners might be able to cut their property taxes by up to half by making their homes “affordable.” This incentive could allow them to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives instead of forcing them to sell simply because they can’t afford their property taxes.
Applying deed restrictions on a home might upset an owner’s heirs, Staples said. But a homeowner using a reverse mortgage to meet expenses could leave nothing behind when they pass on, so this might be a better option because there would still be some value in the property.