Workforce housing proposal revived for Peterborough’s Evans Flats property

  • The Evans Flats property is bordered by Elm Street and Evans Road in Peterborough. Courtesy image—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/31/2020 4:53:36 PM

The Peterborough Economic Development Authority’s affordable housing subcommittee is ready to share designs for a potential affordable housing project on Evans Road with the Select Board.

Hope Taylor introduced the subcommittee’s proposal at a Select Board meeting on Aug. 4, describing multiple routes for building 16 two-bedroom apartments that could rent for as low as 750 to 850 dollars a month, unsubsidized, on a section of Evans Flats, a property currently owned by the town. That’s just about what an entry-level employee at New Hampshire Ball Bearings could afford, Taylor said. The intent of the project is to create housing for residents with entry-level incomes, she said. “This idea needs help from the town,” she said.

Although there are local investors already interested in backing the concept, Taylor said that one way to reduce project costs and subsequent rent would be to grant building ownership to a partnership of the local contractors who construct the units. Such an arrangement could halve total costs, Taylor said, making room to negotiate the cost of the land and utility hookups with the town. The subcommittee has been working on the proposal for seven months, she said, working up architectural drawings and surveying the town’s Evans Flats property, a 26.72 acre parcel bordered by Evans Road and Elm Street.

This isn’t the first time Evans Flats has been eyed for affordable housing, Town Planner Danica Melone said. The town conducted an in-depth land use analysis in the early 2000s following a proposal to build recreation fields on it. Workforce housing emerged as a major community concern at that point, Melone said. 2006 saw a feasibility study that wrapped a 10-acre subdivision off Evans Road for workforce housing in with potential commercial, retail, and municipal applications on the site. The project fizzled at that point, Melone said, in part due to its large scope, and in part because of pushback from abutting Evans Road residents.

“Right now, we’re back on this topic where workforce housing is an issue, we need housing for people making less than $60,000 a year,” Melone said. To her knowledge, the specific people who raised concerns in 2004 no longer live on the street. RSA 674:58-61 defines workforce housing, as it pertains to rentals, as being affordable to a household with an income 60 percent of the county’s median income for a three-person household. Evans Flats has been town property for centuries, originally deeded by an 18th-century selectman named Asa Evans, Melone said. Currently, the area is used by the town to pile up snow after storms, she said.

“Everyone in the Task Force understands that this kind of housing is needed in town,” Community Task Force on Housing Chair Karen Hatcher said. “We need young people and young families to be able to live in town.”

When asked for further details on the proposal, Taylor and subcommittee member Pelagia Vincent said they were waiting to follow up with the Select Board at an in-person meeting to detail all the project’s designs and studies before speaking further on the project, adding they want to discuss the proposal directly with abutters as soon as there’s indication the town could move forward on it.

 “Our goal and mission is to bring affordable housing to Peterborough,” Vincent said after the meeting, and to retain community members who would otherwise be driven elsewhere by housing costs. “That continues to be mission regardless of what the Select Board does with this one,” she said.

At the  Aug. 4 meeting, Deputy Town Administrator Nicole MacStay said that in order for the town to do anything with the property, it would need to go through follow a legal process involving public hearings, opportunity for other stakeholders to issue proposals, and input from the planning board and conservation commission.

Depending on other Select Board business, the follow-up meeting to review project schematics could occur as soon as the meeting on Sept. 1, a representative for the town offices said.


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