Orange enters agreement with FRCOG for housing plan

  • Alec Wade, community development director in Orange, speaks during a virtual Selectboard meeting last week. SCREENSHOT

  • South Main Street in downtown Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2022 2:44:57 PM
Modified: 3/1/2022 2:45:02 PM

ORANGE — The town has entered an agreement with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) to conduct a housing production plan to strategize how Orange can maintain and possibly increase its affordable housing in a manner consistent with state statutes.

Alec Wade, the town’s community development director since October 2019, explained Orange secured $6,000 from FRCOG’s District Local Technical Assistance program in January to begin work on the project, including a demographics analysis. The town also got a $24,000 state grant in the fall that will finance the agreement.

Wade said every city and town in Massachusetts is required by state statute to maintain at least 10% subsidized housing in its community, meaning it can be rented for short, immediate terms or is kept under a certain price threshold so it is affordable.

“Here in Orange, it’s always exciting to share that we are actually above the threshold here, at 11.3%,” he said at last week’s virtual Selectboard meeting, adding that the objective is not necessarily to generate more affordable housing, but to develop strategies so the town can preserve its ratio.

“I am a firm believer that someday this 10% number will increase, and so to have a housing production plan in place and ready at the waiting is a powerful tool for our community,” he said.

Wade also acknowledged that 1.3% above the legal requirement is “not a whole heck of a lot.”

FRCOG will also be asked to evaluate market-rate housing and identify sections of town that can accommodate additional housing. In a phone interview, Wade said his office has “heard countless cries that the town needs greater market-rate housing.” He said FRCOG’s finished product will enable Orange to “safely and sustainably grow our housing stock.”

Wade’s point of contact at FRCOG is Megan Rhodes, a senior land use and transportation planner. Rhodes said the work will begin in the spring and must, by terms of the grant, be completed by the end of June 2023. The work entails the collection of data pertaining to Orange’s age demographics, population projections, average household income, and other statistics and trends.

Rhodes said there will also be a great deal of public outreach to glean “what the town residents feel like they need in terms of housing” and create “kind of a menu of recommendations.”

Rhodes said one focus of the plan will be subsidized housing.

FRCOG recently finished assisting Sunderland with its housing production plan, Rhodes said, and is about to start work on Whately’s.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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