In Ceremony, State Formally Awards Housing Study Grant to Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Jerrard Whitten. (Courtesy photograph.)

The state formally granted the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission $150,000 to update the region’s Housing Production Plans during a ceremony yesterday.

During the first of three planned phases, Haverhill-based Merrimack Valley Planning Commission will conduct a comprehensive update of the region’s housing plans, focusing on solicit public input about key housing issues. These involve the communities of Amesbury, Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newbury, North Andover, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury.

“Our administration is proud to award over $2.3 million to help cities and towns undertake a variety of planning projects for green spaces, infrastructure, multi-modal transportation, housing and opportunities to promote private investment,” said Gov. Charlie Baker during a presentation in Barnstable on the Cape. He explained, “These projects are dedicated to increasing housing development across the state, including updating zoning to meet the new MBTA Communities zoning requirements.”

As WHAV previously reported, cities hosting an MBTA service must designate districts that would accommodate a minimum 15% of its total housing stock for multi-family units. For Haverhill, the state estimated a minimum of 4,189 units. There are also 10% minimum requirements for so-called “MBTA adjacent” communities such as Methuen, Groveland and West Newbury. Draft guidelines, however, note, “It is important to understand that a multi-family district’s unit capacity is not a mandate to construct a specified number of housing units, nor is it a housing production target.”

Baker was joined Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, Undersecretary of Community Development Ashley Stolba, Assistant Secretary for Communities and Programs Juan Vega and Department of Housing and Community Development Community Services Division Director Louis Martin to celebrate the Community Planning Grant Program awards, which include $2.4 million to 40 projects.

The Community Planning Grant Program provides money for technical assistance for community planning projects based on the community planning or zoning project’s nexus with housing, transportation, infrastructure, economic development and community development.

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