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Affordable Housing - General Information

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing is housing which is reserved for, and affordable to, families or individuals who make less than 80% of median household income for the area, as determined by US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Past and current income guidelines are available online at

Towns and developers may seek to provide a variety of housing to target different income levels, such as 80%, 50% and/or 30% of area’s median income, according to the needs of the Town.

Who is eligible for Affordable Housing?

Norfolk is in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (BMSA). According to the ‘Income Eligibility for Affordable Units in Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area’, the 2006 Median Income for a family of 4 in this area is $84,100.

The 80% Income Guidelines for 2006 are adjusted according to the number of persons in the household as follows:

1 PERSON: $46,300
 2 PERSON: $52,950
3 PERSON: $59,550
4 PERSON: $66,150

Thus, in general terms, a four person family with income less than $66,150 would qualify to purchase affordable housing. It should be noted however, that any assessment for eligibility, for individuals or households, depends on a variety of factors including debt and asset levels. Prospective applicants for affordable housing should be pre-approved by a lender.

Local preference: Often a percentage of affordable units can be marked as local preference meaning that first preference will be given to  people with ties to Norfolk: residents, immediate family, employees working in Norfolk, etc.

What is the sale price of affordable housing?

To be considered affordable, housing must be priced so that a qualifying household will spend no more than 30-33% of their annual income on housing. Calculations of affordability must include consideration of interest rates, related fees, real estate taxes, insurance and other factors. In approximate terms, an affordable housing unit in Norfolk, in 2006, might be in the region of $140,000-170,000. The affordable units in the Town Center Condominiums development are priced at $153,000 for the two bedroom units, and $168,609 for the three bedroom units.

What types of housing can be ‘Affordable’?

Affordable Housing can include housing for a variety of age groups and family styles: students, singles, couples, families and seniors. Housing units can be new or existing, homeownership or rental, single or multifamily, condominium or townhouse, group homes or accessory apartments and many other variations. New development proposals may include a percentage of affordable housing units ‘mixed-in’ with, and having exteriors indistinguishable from, regular market rate housing. Rehabilitated and subsidized housing, in addition to units funded under the Community Preservation Act or developed by Habitat for Humanity, may also be considered affordable.

To be designated affordable, the property has to be restricted with a deed rider ensuring that the property will remain affordable with each sale and resale (see Section 9 of Norfolk's Affordable Housing Plan).

How much affordable housing do we have?

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) tracks the progress of each community on the State Housing Inventory (SHI). As new affordable units are approved, the Town may notify the DHCD to update the SHI. The most recent SHI can be viewed online at As of January 2007, Norfolk shows 3.89% (111units) of affordable housing on the SHI. In addition to 16 Department of Mental Health and Dept of Mental Retardation (DMR/DMH) units, Norfolk has 95 affordable housing units, including 11 affordable units in the Town Center Condominiums project (see Affordable Housing Options in Norfolk).

How much affordable housing do we need?

The State mandates that in all communities statewide, 10% of the community’s housing inventory should be affordable. Communities are encouraged to work towards that goal at a rate of 0.75% per year. In Norfolk, 0.75% would be 21 units of affordable housing.

How are affordable housing units created?

The Town can create affordable housing via 40B developments (typically 25% of the units are affordable), inclusionary zoning (10%) units or Local Action Units (upto 100% affordable) projects. It is also possible that existing houses or other buildings may be renovated or converted to create affordable homes.

What is a ‘40B’ development?
A 40B development is one which is built according to the provisions of Chapter 40B, also known as the Comprehensive Permit Law. Chapter 40B is the State’s affordable housing zoning law.

Under Chapter 40B, local Zoning Boards of Appeals (ZBAs) can approve affordable housing developments, by issuing a Comprehensive Permit, provided at least 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. As the permitting authority, the ZBA is the enforcing agent for all local regulations and may grant waivers as necessary. The project must comply with all state regulations, such as the Wetlands Protection Act and Title 5. Residents and the Town may work with developers to modify the project to local needs.

What is a ‘friendly’ 40B?

A 'friendly 40B' is one which is generally in keeping with the needs, goals and objectives of the Town. The developer, the Town and in many cases the neighborhood residents, may provide input to produce a best case scenario that addresses, to the extent possible, the various needs of the parties. Negotiation during the ZBA public hearing process may, for example, change the styles of the housing, the road layout, create buffer zones, preserve a portion of open space or incorporate a neighborhood recreation area.

What is an ‘aggressive’ 40B?

An aggressive 40B is, in general terms, a 40B proposal which the Town considers is not in keeping with the needs, goals and objectives of the Town. Often 'aggressive' 40Bs have what the town considers to be an excessive number of units, an inappropriate location or consist of housing of an significantly inappropriate type or style. If the local zoning board ultimately rejects the proposal/project, or imposes conditions that that the developer considers uneconomic, the developer has the right to appeal to the State Housing Appeals Committee (HAC).

What is inclusionary Zoning?

Inclusionary zoning requires, via a local zoning bylaw, that developers make a portion of the housing units in their project affordable. At the Town of Norfolk's Fall 2006 Town Meeting, the Town voted in favor of inclusionary zoning for residential and mixed use zoning districts. In accordance with the new zoning bylaw, when a project results in a net increase of ten or more dwelling units, the project must include at least ten percent affordable housing. The affordable units can be built on-site or, with the approval of the Planning Board, may be developed at an off-site location.

What is a Local Action Unit (LAU)?

Local Action Units result from Town action or approval and are often new construction, or building conversion or rehabilitation. LAUs will have zoning based approval, utilize substantial financial assistance from Town funds and/or make use of land or buildings that are owned or acquired by the Town and conveyed at a substantial discount from fair market value. Local action units are developed through the Town's zoning and permitting process.

What is a Local Initiative Project?

Local Initiative Projects are projects developed through the 40B comprehensive permit process, via the ZBA, with the documented support of local government.

What is the Local Initiative Program (LIP)?

The Local Initiative Program is a state housing program administered by the Dept of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The program addresses Local Action Units and Local Initiative Projects.

What is the Affordable Housing Plan?

"An affordable housing plan is a plan that identifies the housing needs of the community and the strategies by which the municipality will make progress in facilitating the development of affordable housing... In many cases, it is not necessary for a community to create an entirely new plan to meet the requirements. Many communities have already adopted a plan or a series of plans that contain some or all of the required elements. Executive Order 418 Community Development Plans and Housing Strategies, in particular, may contain most if not all of the necessary information."

Source: Dept of Housing and Community Development, Guidelines for the Planned Production Regulation
under MGL Chapter 40B,760 CMR 31.07(1)(i)

Where can I find out more about Norfolk's Affordable Housing Plan?

More information is available by clicking on this link - Affordable Housing Plan

Norfolk Town Hall, One Liberty Lane, Norfolk MA 02056  Phone: 508-528-1408
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