Essex County

Lynnfield faces year-end deadline on affordable housing

LYNNFIELD, Mass. — Select Board members have a major task ahead — one that could stress Lynnfield’s infrastructure and even change its small-town character.

By year’s end, town leaders must come up with a plan to build hundreds of affordable units — something mandated by the MBTA Communities Act. It identifies 177 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts that either have direct MBTA service — or benefit from service nearby.

Lynnfield falls into the latter category. It has no rail service. But Wakefield, next door, does.

“If you’re going to have access to all these various cities and towns via commuter rail or any other type of transit, people should afford to be able to live there,” said MBTA customer Michael Fiorentino. “And plus get from Point A to Point B without it being too much of a burden on them.”

Abutting towns like Lynnfield have no choice but to follow the law — communities that don’t risk losing state funds — and could even be sued by the state — as Milton recently learned.

“Someone like me on a fixed income, we just have so much money to live on month to month,” said Sharon Fiorentino, who also uses the MBTA commuter rail. “And it’s outrageous. That’s why a lot of people are moving away.”

Fiorentino said anything over $1,500 a month rent would be difficult to swing, but some ‘affordable’ units near the Wakefield commuter train station start $300 higher — and that’s for a studio at Grayson Lofts. A two-bedroom ‘affordable’ unit in the building runs around $2,300 a month. By contrast, standard rents at Grayson range from $2,300 a month to $3,600.

“What’s affordable to some people is not affordable to all,” Fiorentino said.

In fact, income guidelines for ‘affordable’ units at Grayson Lofts max out at $91,000 a year for one-person households and $130,000 a year for a family of four.

Even though Lynnfield doesn’t directly benefit from MBTA service, some say the issue of affordable housing in Massachusetts can’t fall victim to parochialism.

“I think there’s an incredible shortage of affordable housing,” said Heidi Nelson, who moved to Peabody from Vermont and feels lucky to be paying $2,000 rent. “Prices keep going up. The economy keeps rising. I think that anybody can benefit from affordable housing.”

“I think towns are part of a bigger community,” said Jason Calianos, who lives in Danvers.  “And affordable housing is a part of that, especially in this area. Housing is the number one issue in Boston and the whole area. You cannot find affordable housing.”

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