By Brian D. Jones
The aging population has created an ever growing need for specialized housing for seniors. Those individuals who no longer want to or are able to care for a personal residence often choose to move to an Assisted Living Residence.
Assisted Living Residences are able to provide care to people who are having difficulty living independently, but do not need the daily nursing services provided in a nursing home. These projects are typically welcomed into a community because of the low impacts and added revenues from property taxes. The projects themselves generate little traffic, and the traffic that is generated is traditionally off-peak. Also, the Assisted Living Residences do not add children to the school system. The developments are also seen as a community asset allowing seniors to stay within the town they currently reside.
However, even projects that are popular and fill a need must comply The Comprehensive Permit Law, also known as Chapter 40B was created to help address the shortage of affordable housing units throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This statute encourages affordable housing development by granting the developer the right to exceed local zoning and wetland restrictions in return for building affordable housing. This statute also applies to Assisted Living Residences in order to expand the affordable housing options for seniors. Although many assisted living developers find that the 20% to 25% affordable unit requirement does not meet their development model, some developers are seeing the untapped potential that lies in the 40B pathway. Take for example a developer that has identified a market for an Assisted Living Residence. They have located an appropriate building site within that market, but are unable to pursue the project because the use is not allowed within the zoning district, or the dimensional requirements are too restrictive to allow proper siting of the building. The developer may then try to re-zone the property, but this is a time-consuming and uncertain process.
Alternatively, the developer may pursue the project under the Comprehensive Permit Law and inject some flexibility into the zoning requirements. This allows the developer to choose the right site, not based on a Zoning Bylaw that may be decades old and could not have envisioned the needs of today, but based on market conditions and the availability of good The need for Assisted Living Residences will continue to grow while the availability of properly zoned buildable land will remain constant or decrease in numbers. Developers looking for building sites for these projects should not overlook the Chapter 40B pathway. It may require a re-evaluation of the financial model, but it opens the door to a greater number of sites than than are available under the conventional permitting process.
Brian D. Jones, P.E. is senior project manager at Allen & Major Associates, Inc.