One Pathway to Housing: Let’s Consider Zoning

By  Robert  Gillis

bobgLocal town and city zoning ordinances reflect a community’s desire to maintain its character and stability. This makes sense.   None of us wants dramatic changes to our neighborhoods which could adversely affect our collective quality of life.     Zoning strategies used toward this end in our North Shore communities include increasing the minimum lot sizes upon which to build new homes and eliminating or restricting the ability to build multi-family housing.  These restrictions were also put into place to prevent excessive auto traffic, over-burdening the public schools, and stress on public works, such as sewer systems.

One consequence of these zoning restrictions is that there is an insufficient supply of new housing being built to accommodate the demand for decent, affordable housing. So, demand exceeds supply and prices go up for both apartment rentals and home ownership. Basic economics.

As housing prices accelerate, those folks among us earning less than median income have a harder time keeping up. We might not think about it, but we all know people in our communities making less than median income.   They might be our neighbors, people who wait on us in a restaurant or supermarket, or perhaps even family members. These are people who are quietly struggling to make ends meet.   They might be young families, seniors living on fixed incomes, working people, and folks with disabilities.   They are typically paying too high a percentage of their incomes than is affordable and/or live in inadequate conditions.   Exacerbating this is that, according to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership report Unlocking the Commonwealth, instead of responding to the need for housing for these folks with increased production, the state has produced less housing. In addition, there has been a shift away from multifamily housing and toward more single-family homes and larger lots. This option is out of reach for many of these families of median and lower income.

Zoning reform legislation in Massachusetts was recently introduced and passed the Senate ( An Act Promoting Housing and Sustainable Development  S.2311) but did not make it through the House of Representatives.   The issue needs to remain in the forefront in order for our communities to meet the needs of all our citizens.  Zoning is by far the most difficult hurdle to overcome when working to preserve or create affordable housing for families in our area.   The Massachusetts Housing Partnership asserts that the primary cause of the affordable housing crisis is restrictive local zoning laws.     With this in mind, Harborlight Community Partners is working with local and state leaders and housing advocates to create an impactful dialogue around local zoning.

I am proud to represent Harborlight Community Partners, an organization which has as its mission to address the housing needs of people at the lower end of the income scale. Harborlight does this well. The challenge we have is clear.   Working with great organizations like Harborlight Community Partners we really can improve the lives of many and make our communities better.

Robert J. Gillis, Jr., President

Harborlight Community Partners


About our Guest Blogger:

Robert J. Gillis Jr. is Executive Vice-President of Cape Ann Savings Bank. Bob has been with the bank for many years, and knows the Cape Ann community well. In that time, Bob has served as  president of the Rockport Rotary Club, president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the board of directors for the Community Land Trust of Cape Ann,  The Open Door community food pantry,    and the Cape Ann YMCA. Bob loves connecting with people and making an impact for those in need.

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Look in the mirror

FullSizeRenderBy Jason Silva

To me, it’s actually pretty simple. People deserve a safe place to live and call home. Let’s do this.

When you hear the words affordable housing what comes to mind? Think about it for a second. What does it look like? Who lives there? Where is it located? Here’s what comes to mind for me.

A family with a single mother of 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls. Unfortunately, this family had financial difficulties and was evicted from their apartment. Thankfully, they had a network of family to take them in and had enough space to allow them to stay for a few years. Without this, this family would have been homeless. After waiting 3 years, they were granted an apartment in a public housing development. Believe it or not, it was a great place to raise a family tons of kids and families, a basketball court, huge playing fields and, most importantly, a roof over the family’s collective head.

This apartment, along with support from friends and their extended family, allowed this family to get back on track. Eventually, they were able to move out of public housing and into a home which they owned. All of this made the dream of owning a home a reality, one that just 10 years before seemed impossible.

I’m going to now focus on the oldest of the kids, one of the 3 boys. He was a shy, quiet, short and skinny kid. He was a decent student and heavily influenced by not only his mom, but by his grandparents too, who helped raise all the kids in the family. He was addicted to basketball. He played every day. It occupied all of his free time. He learned a lot from basketball hard work, team work, communication, relationship building. All of which he needed to learn.

He received support from an extended family of friends and also from a network of amazing people in the community. As he moved through school he met his high school sweetheart, who he ultimately married. Her support was critical to his success in high school and college.

Upon graduation, influenced by his experience growing up, he decided he wanted to go into public service. He interned in Washington DC, worked on political campaigns, and for an advocacy group, local and state government and a non-profit. He also decided to run for office locally, with the intent to give back to the community that gave him and his family so much. He’s now serving his 3rd term on the City Council.

Personally, he just celebrated his 12th wedding anniversary, owns a home and has 3 young boys he loves very much.

So, you’ve probably guessed by now that this story is my own. I share it because it tells a story of what a safe, affordable home can mean to a family and an individual. It is also a great example of the importance of a community – an extended network of support – that cares about those that need help.

People and families who need housing – affordable, workforce, low-income housing – aren’t scary or dangerous or faceless. Look in the mirror. They’re people like you and me. People, who if given a chance, can reach success and happiness. They’re our friends and neighbors. Their kids attend the same schools, are in the same classes and play in the same parks. They want the same things.

Remember too, affordable housing should be offered in everyone’s neighborhood. It should be built well, should look attractive and be of high-quality.

About our Guest Blogger:

Jason Silva is currently serving his third term on the Beverly City Council.  Silva has extensive experience as a public servant having worked for local and state governments, in the non-profit sector and for an advocacy organization. He has also worked at all levels in the political arena.   He is a graduate of Salem State University and is currently attending Suffolk University.

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Excerpt of Andrew’s UU Church of Essex sermon, given 4/17/16

The DeFranza Family Andrew, Eden (8), Megan, Loren (10)

The DeFranza Family
Andrew, Eden (8), Megan, Loren (10)

This Housing Matters Blog post is excerpted from a sermon I was invited to deliver at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex, MA on April 17, 2016. I did my undergrad in Biblical Studies and I went to seminary, though I try not to admit it in public. For the full text of the sermon, link HERE.

What follows is the message that I hoped to impart. I do not often talk of my personal motivation for this work. This was that unique opportunity to do so.

*                   *                   *

My name is Andrew DeFranza. I am a short, working class, Italian guy from New Jersey with an accidental white collar education. Most of what you need to know about me you now do.

I work with Harborlight Community Partners. We develop and manage housing for people with limited incomes:

  • Parents, grandparents, working families ¦.people with disabilities.
    • People whose work we depend on ¦who grow and serve our food, care for our children and parents, cut our grass, pick our fruit, and pour our drinks!
  • We are involved with nearly 420 units of housing of which 370 are on the North Shore.
  • We are working in 8 soon to be 9 communities and support homes for 500-600 people.
  • This includes places like Turtle Creek, Turtle Woods, Pigeon Cove Ledges, Rockport High School Apartments, Whipple Riverview Place, and the Community Land Trust of Cape Ann.
  • We spent a lot of time doing very boring and painful things the result of which is that economically vulnerable people can be included in our community.
    • This is all harder than it should be.

I don’t often get to talk about the work we do and my personal motives. I grew up in a very conservative Church setting. We were the Italian Baptist connection of South Jersey (which is kind of strange). It worked for us. My parents are the most faithful people I know. They used all they had to pursue their convictions. I am barely the scent of their faithfulness.

(Within this context), our definitive directions (as I see it) are:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself

The first, in many ways, being evidenced by the second.

Neighboring  – having much more to do with our behavior being consistent with the second greatest commandment than anyone’s physical proximity. Someone standing as our neighbor is about our character and behavior and not their zip code. Part of what we do act to right wrongs and to bring the good.

One of those wrongs  in our community is related to housing. We have in our region a history of housing policy that is and has been designed to exclude. It is designed to exclude based on race and income ¦.and it has been wildly successful as evidenced by a stroll around many North Shore communities or a quick look at the census data on

There were ways this was done before like redlining and strategically placed roads and bridges. There are ways it is done now like large lot, no multi family zoning and intentionally limited infrastructure around transportation, water, and sewers or septic systems.

75% of land that can be developed in the State is zoning only for single family housing.

We have fabricated a shortage of land for multi family housing creation which has driven up the costs of housing we need for people.

Our primary cause of the affordable housing crisis, according to a recent Mass Housing Partnership report, is restrictive local zoning laws.

Community Preservation Act funding that is supposed to go to housing is at times going to reports, staffing, planning, and rental assistance ¦.with no housing ever being built.

Lack of public sewer and water is used as a means to control growth.

Only people then with significant resources can buy the land, the water and septic systems, and the transportation access.

Others without that type of income cannot.

We make then for ourselves gated municipalities without gates ¦but to the same effect.

We get largely white and largely affluent communities because our policies intended it.

We have local discussions about diversity and fair housing. We set up committees to explore and support racial inclusion and housing access.

We house homeless families in our Churches through Family Promise and yet despite all this we are bewildered by how hard it is for people to find a place to live.

This is at best sadly ironic. At its worst it is morally incoherent.

But unlike many of the wrongs far away that we have little ability to address ourselves—this wrong we own. This wrong we can change.

We can support changes in zoning locally and at the State level.

We can support the use of Community Preservation Act resources for actual housing creation.

We can tell our leaders and neighbors that our collective and structural pattern of exclusion is not right and that we need to act to fix it.


We can change these unfair land use systems.

This will be hard but we have hope and motive ¦and so we act.

~ Andrew

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I’m just one of the success stories of Harborlight’s ongoing run of good housing and good communities.

Alberto “Berto” Oyola  is a young man who moved into an HCP property with his family when he was just 13.   Coming from an urban neighborhood, the family welcomed this new beginning which brought with it a safe neighborhood, engaging schools and sports activities for Berto and his brothers, and a vibrant faith community. Recently, Berto spoke at an HCP Board of Director’s meeting to share his experience growing up in an HCP home and the impact that has had on him.   With his permission, we share Berto’s experience on Housing Matters.   He is a thoughtful and well spoken young man, who illustrates by example the great things that happen when families with young children and teens have an affordable, safe, and dignified roof overhead.  We thank Berto for allowing HCP to share his meaningful testimony.

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Defying the Odds Because of Housing

By Stacy Randell

Stacy CroppedThe home page of Harborlight Community Partner’s website begins with the heading Providing Homes and Community Support.  Imagine a world for a second where everyone has those two essential ingredients for success. The first sentence of the organization’s description is, Everyone deserves a home.  This small glimpse into the mission of Harborlight Community Partners demonstrates why I serve on the HCP Board of Directors.

Safe, affordable housing and support allow every person the opportunity to live rather than simply survive. They are the great equalizers in the game of chance called life a life that is largely shaped by where and to whom you are born.   Having a reliable place to lay your head is step one.   As of August 2015, there were approximately 4,250 families with children and pregnant women in the Massachusetts shelter programs and 1,244 these families were being sheltered in motels. Close to 6200 families received Emergency Assistance in 2015, but almost 12,000 applied for it (the assistance provided via the Commonwealth’s Emergency Assistance Program). Although the majority of homeless children in Massachusetts are under 5, there were 9,493 high school-aged students in public schools who experience homelessness on any given day.

We must have conversations about the need for affordable housing and income parity regularly, with everyone in our circles of influence personally and professionally. The HCP Resident Advisory Council, on which I also serve, will help to facilitate those conversations and allow for those  who know firsthand the benefits of affordable housing to speak about the difference it has made for themselves and their families.

I am one of those people.   My son is one of those people. As a single parent household living at or below the poverty line, there are all kinds of dire statistics that could have characterized my son’s future. He is one of the 20 million children in the US who grow up without a father in the home. Fatherless children are 20 times more likely to go to prison. Ten times more likely to become addicted to substances;  44% more likely to live in poverty. 90% of all runaway and homeless youth. 9 % more likely to drop out of school.

Poverty.   Substance Abuse. Low Educational Attainment. Criminality and Violence. Poor Physical and Emotional Health.   None of these describe my son, a junior at Roger Williams University, on the Dean’s list with a double major of Biology/Chemistry. A home and community support.   He was blessed with both.

This difference for us? Having the opportunity to buy a first-time buyer affordable home, where we have lived for the past 18 years, was a tremendous protective factor that enabled him to escape the fate described by nationwide data.

I was not only able to pay my mortgage; I was able to finish my Masters Degree. I was able to save, and therefore to dream.   Able to live and not merely survive.

As a nation and a state, we have spent a staggering amount of money on the emergency shelter system while mostly ignoring the development of sustainable, affordable housing the only true solution to homelessness.     The fiscal costs are minuscule compared to the human costs.  Poor children, families, veterans, individuals, people with disabilities and senior citizens are paying these costs – too high a price – with their lives. They have been paying for way too long.

People of all ages and family size need and deserve affordable housing.   It is so much more than a roof over your head.   It is the foundation for your soul.

About our guest blog author:

Stacy Randell is the Director of the Adult Learning Center at North Shore Community College.   Previously,  she worked as the Director of Cape Ann Families at Wellspring House, Inc., and as a Resident Service Coordinator for The Caleb Group. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies in Boston and is the recipient of several awards of excellence from the McCormack School.   An outspoken advocate for the need for affordable housing in our communities, Stacy  served as  the former chair of the Gloucester Community Preservation  Committee and is currently  the president of the Haven Terrace  Condo Association. Stacy also serves on the Board of Directors for Harborlight Community Partners and was the recipient of HCP’s 2015 Resident Partners Award.

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What is our responsibility to ensuring there is high quality affordable housing in our communities?

By Reverend Julie FlowersFlowers, Julie

When Harborlight Community Partners approached me about writing a piece as a guest blogger for their site, I was honored. As a minister at First Baptist Church in Beverly, the church that helped to form HCP and to give the fledgling organization its start, I have long been a believer in and strong admirer of the organization, its mission, and its work. The importance of working hard to provide affordable housing with dignity for people in our wider community cannot, in my opinion, be overstated; and Andrew DeFranza and his team at HCP have been pursuing this goal bravely and tenaciously. We are lucky to have them working in Essex County because the work of providing affordable housing is about more than just creating domiciles.   It is, quite literally, about building up communities. It is about making communities stronger by inviting people in, making it possible for them to put down roots, feel safe, and not just find housing but to build a home. It is about welcoming families and elders and young people. It is about leveling the playing field so that it is no longer the wealthy who can afford to make our corner of Massachusetts home, but instead ensuring that all types of people can settle here, feel safe here, shop here, eat here, go to school here, live here. Affordable housing work is about building communities up, from top to bottom, in every way imaginable.

I believe, with all my heart, that everyone deserves a home. I believe that each one of us shares a part of the responsibility to make that dream of every person having a safe place to call home a reality. When we look at our communities, when we consider housing costs of market value apartments or of homes listed for sale on the market, it is incumbent upon us to notice and to name the reality that the cost of living in our little corner of the country is scandalously high.

When we talk about making communities accessible and affordable, when we talk about welcoming all sorts of people into our communities by providing affordable housing, there is a danger of falling into an us/them dichotomy. There are those of us who can afford to pay market value for rent or who can afford the outrageous money down to purchase a home, and then there are the others,  those who cannot afford these things. This kind of thinking puts us in a dangerous place, because it relies upon a false sense of security, on the one hand, that we would never find ourselves in a position where we could not afford the things we needed, and, on the erroneous assumption that the others  are unlike us. The truth is, they are us; and we are them. We are, all of us, human beings, sharing this earthly journey, striving to do the best that we can with the time that we are given. Money is not doled out in accordance with goodness or righteousness. That is not how it works. So it is important that those who have not fall into the falsity of thought that says we are entitled to much while others are not. What we see, too often, is an increasing stratification of those who have and those who have not that divides communities and drains them of the richness and diversity that they could otherwise have.

The cost of living here is expensive. Perhaps some of the most damning evidence against our ability, as a nation, to maintain a cost of living and market value on housing that are attainable for the majority, lies in the fact that, as of a year ago, a full 30.3 percent of millennials were living back at home with their parents. Or the fact that one-in-five young adults in our country are living in poverty.   Or that the national median income for millennials is $33,833, despite the fact that the number of young adults holding college degrees is at a record high in our country.[1] It used to be, the story went, that if you went to college and you worked hard and got a degree, you could make it. You could graduate and go out on your own and get a job and buy a house ¦and the rest would fall into place. That is no longer the story for many young people in our country. The cost of living, coupled with crippling student debt repayment and low income levels, make it impossible for ever-increasing numbers of young adults to live into that story. When it costs more per month to rent a market value apartment than they make in a month, what option do they have but to move home, if they are lucky enough to have parents who can continue to support them? For those without such a safety net, things are even more difficult.

If these young people, however, cannot grow and graduate and enter into the workforce and build homes and put down roots in our communities, it is all of us who suffer. It is the community that suffers. We lose something of the richness and the complexity and the diversity that we would otherwise have had. We lose the unique perspectives that these young people bring as they step into adulthood. We lose the next generation of families moving into our neighborhoods. We lose.

So, what is our responsibility to our neighbors when it comes to ensuring there is high quality affordable housing in our communities? For me, the answer is not only about our responsibility to our neighbors although it certainly is that it is also about our mutual responsibility to and for one another and for our very communities. Creating and supporting housing that is affordable and welcoming new and different people into our communities is imperative, both from a social justice perspective and from a practical standpoint. It just makes sense. If we want strong social connections and strong communities; if we want schools filled with vibrant schoolchildren; if we want to see young people stepping out and following their own path; if we want intergenerational connections that offer strength to all of us, it makes sense. And, more than that, it is, I believe, what we are called to do.

In one of my very favorite passages of scripture, from the book of the prophet Micah, the question is raised: What does the Lord require of you?  and the answer comes, To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.    Whether you profess a life of faith or not, I think those words can resonate I believe they are our shared calling along this earthly journey. We are called to do justice. We are called to love kindness. And we are called to walk humbly on the journey.

Our communities cannot wait. Young people cannot wait. Elders cannot wait. Families cannot wait. We all, the human family, cannot wait. I believe Harborlight Community Partners’ work achieves all three of the things the prophet Micah cites. The work that they do of building up community is vital.   When we support them in their efforts, when we cheer them on, when we donate to their work, when we stand with them, when we stand up for the cause of affordable housing in our communities, we are doing it, too.

Won’t you join us?

[1]   Last checked 03.31.16.

About our guest blog author:

Rev. Julie Flowers is a member of the ministerial staff of the First Baptist Church  in Beverly.  She graduated in 2001 from Wellesley College; she holds a BA in English and Spanish. She received her M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School in 2007, where she was a finalist for the prestigious Billings Preaching Prize. Julie has also served as chaplain intern at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. She is a member of the Beverly Rotary Club, through which she is able to meet with many other community members and to be engaged in active and lively community service, like that practiced and valued by the church. In her free time she enjoys skiing and sailing (depending on the season!), reading, going to local Farmer’s Markets, and spending time with her son, Emmett, and their dog, Madeline.


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A Sign of North Shore Housing Discrimination

We have had a lot going here at HCP lately.

We are working every day to provide good, safe, and affordable housing all around the North Shore.

This is housing for retired, fixed income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families.

This is housing that, as a community, as a county, and as a state, we need more of and in varying forms.

Currently, HCP is working through a court process for a Wenham project (Maple Woods), as we passionately defend our permit to build 60 affordable senior units. The legal process is hard, expensive, and time consuming. While we pour ourselves into this struggle, the human and financial resources expended preclude us from working in other ways and in other communities to help people who need it.

HCP is also looking into and contemplating new housing in Hamilton, Beverly, and Rockport. There will be much more on these potential projects in the near future. This is not easy.   The hurdles are difficult to navigate, be they complicated financial structures, addressing environmental concerns, being strategic in planning for human needs into the coming decades, and more. But the most distressing hurdle is the one which became very evident on busy Route 1A, as we begin to explore a new project.  This discriminatory and erroneous sign, in reference to a potential mixed use family and elder development, is the hurdle which most saddens us, gives us pause, but ultimately, strengthens our resolve.

In the midst of myriad meetings, late nights, emails, phone conversations, and too many cups of coffee, I was profoundly struck by two things, which not just gave me pause, but stopped me in my tracks.

  1. One, a plea for help. We received an email last week from a family. Essentially, the email stated.We have children. We work full time at a local health care facility. We are in a local homeless shelter. We have first and last months rent. We can move in anytime. While we receive these emails daily, this one came in the midst of our preparation for court regarding Maple Woods. The email came in as we think about and talk with other communities about what it will cost to pursue unit creation for this working family and too many others who reach out to us. But most poignantly, It came just before this afore mentioned sign was erected.
  2. The next moment came as I told my seven year old daughter about the email from the family. It was told in part to explain to my child where dad had been all week and why. Her response was, without hesitation, Dad ¦.they could live with us! 

I was trying to teach her something my daughter. Instead she is teaching all the rest of us.     Dad they could live with us.

So how about it North Shore? Can they live with us? Can teachers, firefighters, nurses, retirees, carpenters, office staff, and others live with us?

If we want them to live with us, then we all need to stand up and say so.

Good people of good will need to use their voices in each community on the North Shore and say that it is good and right and responsible for us to make housing available across the region for our elders, our disabled neighbors, our children, our employees and those upon whose services we depend.

So how about it? What are you going to do about it now that it is on your mind? Please do something. It’s time to do something. Do what you can do to help make this happen.

You can do it.

~ Andrew

Hate Sign Hamilton March 2016a


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People, not buildings, are the core of the Wenham Maple Woods project

This is  entry is a repost of Andrew’s Letter to the Editor, published in the Salem News, March 21, 2016.

In the coming weeks, Harborlight Community Partners will be in Superior Court, where the fate of the proposed senior  housing project, Maple Woods, sited on Maple Street in Wenham, will be decided.

After three years of thoughtful planning, careful consideration of community concerns, responding to the needs of various  sectors, and eventually securing all permit approvals, this is not where we had envisioned or hoped we would be. But here we are. Some may ask why? Why would a nonprofit organization, with limited resources, choose to devote these  precious resources to this project? Why stay the course?

Mission. Our steadfast commitment to ensure members of our community have access to decent, quality, affordable  housing, most especially, our elders ” who deserve nothing less.

The impact of such goes far beyond the individual; it ripples outward to sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren,  employees, neighbors ” anyone who is concerned about or must care for a loved one approaching their golden years.  Knowing that a senior family member can live independently and affordably in a service-enriched, engaging and friendly  environment brings peace of mind that is truly priceless.

Perhaps this is best understood in the words of a caring daughter, who recently wrote us after her mother, a 25-year  resident of our Turtle Creek home in Beverly, had to leave her apartment. This family had originally lived on Puritan Road  on the west side of Wenham for many years. With her permission, we share this with you, as it exemplifies why we are  staying the course.

March 6, 2016

Dear Andrew:

I am writing to say thank you on behalf of our family, especially my sister Suzanne and me for the life-enriching  experience my mother, Georgette Hewson, enjoyed during her 25 years’ residence at Turtle Creek.

Our father died in 1987 at the age of 65, and my mother, a long-time resident of Puritan Road in Wenham, but then living  in a small apartment in Beverly, was left without much of a nest egg. Fortunately, a friend recommended Turtle Creek and  spoke about the fine management of the community complex for seniors without significant assets. After a waiting period,  her application for residence was approved in 1990.

Because of the caring environment, cheerful ambiance, thoughtful and responsive management, my mother soon realized  she had found a perfect home, making friends, participating in group outings, classes, and informal lectures. Throughout  her entire stay there, she was able to work a small plot of land on the grounds, planting annuals and perennials, enjoying  cut flowers in her apartment and even harvesting tomatoes. She especially enjoyed the company of the other gardeners  who in recent years tended raised boxes side by side through spring and summer.

My mother was able to live the independent life she cherished at Turtle Creek. Though she was invited to live with my  sister and her husband in her early 80’s, she was so happy there, it is only now, upon turning 95 years of age and facing  some health problems that she has relinquished her independence to go to New Mexico to be with them.

Our family is deeply grateful to the fine people ” her neighbors, the service coordinators and managers ” who looked out for  my Mom in recent years. We congratulate Harborlight Community Partners for the extraordinarily safe and positive  environment you have created for her and so many others.


Gail Hewson Hull

People, not buildings, are the core of this project and our mission. For all the Georgettes on the North Shore, Harborlight  Community Partners will press forward with vigor and dedication to bring Maple Woods to fruition. Thank you to everyone  in Wenham for your support. This is a community effort and we would not have gotten this far without you.

Andrew DeFranza

Executive Director

Harborlight Community Partners

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UPDATE 10/23/15 : Thank you everyone for your support. Gov. Baker has  signed his approval for  HPSTF, H. 3673. We are hoping to participate in creating supportive housing for the formally homeless in Salem.

1)  We have been participating in a regional Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness  (Bev/Peabody/Salem/Danvers). Hopefully this will extend to Cape Ann:)

2)  Out of this we are working on two projects for homeless people: one for families and one for individuals.

3)  As of last night we have a permit to create 26 studio apartments with on site supportive services for formerly homeless individuals in Salem. This is in two buildings on Boston Street that are now very tired rooming houses.

4)  The House and Senate (State level) have approved a type of funding in the State budget to support just this kind of project and we are ready to apply shortly. The house and senate just recently agreed on this.

5)  It was thought that this funding in HPSTF, H. 3673 was a lock but there is now concern the Governor may move to veto this very quickly.

So ¦.if you are up for it I am asking you to consider calling the Governors office at 617.725.4005 and log your support for HPSTF, H. 3673.

You can also email the Governor at

Here is the pitch:

My name is (________________) and I live in (__________________). I am involved with Harborlight Community Partners. We have a project permitted just last night and to go that can provide 26 units of housing for the formerly homeless in Salem. The Mayor, State Senator, and Ward Councilor are supportive. To make this work we are asking the Governor to sign HPSTF H. 3673 into law. Thank you 

Thank you for your efforts to get the word out.

~ Andrew




Andrew DeFranza


Executive Director


PO Box 507


Beverly MA 01915


978-922-1305 x207


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Andrew’s Testimony Given in Support of H.1111

My name is Andrew DeFranza and I live on the North Shore where I also work with Harborlight Community Partners ”a regional affordable housing developer and property manager. Senators Lovely, Tarr, and McGee cover our general footprint. We are concerned about the housing needs of our region and the State at large. There is not enough housing across the income spectrum.untitled

According to the MAPC report, we know we need to create 17,000 housing units a year for over two decades to secure the kind of housing necessary to accommodate Massachusetts workers, retirees, and others. Housing developers will never be able to approach that number without policy changes that can support this goal. With this context in mind I would like to speak in favor of H.1111  by touching on three elements in the bill.


The current zoning system is designed to exclude and is effective in that effort. Not long ago we used to exclude or segregate people by income and/or race with tools like redlining, roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure. These tools became publicly unacceptable so we have shifted now to others. Currently zoning and limiting public infrastructure serve these same functions, isolating and excluding portions of the population. The result is that many communities wield zoning laws with the intent to support only single family housing on large lots, blocking multi-family housing, especially housing that may accommodate children. I spend many hours in zoning and planning board meetings and I would be embarrassed to repeat what some people say about human children in their efforts to discourage family housing. Most land in the State (over 75%) cannot be used for multi-family housing and many communities have built nothing but single family housing for a very long time.

The result is predictable. Communities with resources use vast amounts of land cobbled together in 2 acre lots to house very few people effectively keeping out certain other groups of people.

Communities without resources are then often in the opposite situation with a much higher ratio of multi-family housing. This self-imposed zoning then results in fewer multi-family units being created while at the same time raising land cost in these communities which exacerbates economic segregation. In the face of our 17,000 unit need, these practices cannot be continued. As Mass Housing Partnership has noted, this local zoning challenge is the primary cause  of our housing predicament. Thankfully, since this is a self-imposed this structure, we have the power to change it ¦and we should. This bill would allow this urgent change to take place.

Small Scale Production

In the region where Harborlight Community partners works and in many others there are very small communities with limited infrastructure and strictly single-family houses. And yet, some of these same communities have substantial CPA accounts. In our work, we have encountered a number of communities with locally controlled, fallow, and housing-restricted capital. Many of these communities have a political constituency willing to support housing. However, they have a high degree of difficulty working on a project that is of any large or moderate size. If we could offer a path for these communities to engage in smaller, contextual projects (such as 20 units or less), it would allow us to put this fallow capital to use in addressing our 17,000 unit need. It would also create access to different income groups in these communities.


When we are in meetings working to convince communities to support affordable housing initiatives, we often get asked two questions which reveal the ways in which communities oppose multi-family housing: 1) Do you pay taxes? and 2) Will there be kids? As a matter of policy and ethics I can say yes to the former. We do pay taxes. Yet the latter question concerning children seems to be the primary driver of opposition to multi-family, multi-bedroom housing. The argument is that municipalities feel pressured regarding their school budgets and any addition children will cost the community more money. Even when the logic can be proved false, it is remarkably politically effective.

40S provides a tool that can create an answer to this kind of opposition. It can help solve the problem. It can also expose more nefarious motives should a long list of other reasons surface after education costs have been addressed.

There are two technical items to highlight here:

  • If the state does decide to expand 40S outside of 40R boundaries, it would be helpful to have the affordability requirement travel with the 40S use.
  • If a City or Town were given a window of time so that they could rely on 40S, this would help housing organizations navigate local political concerns. Right now there is no guarantee past the year at hand. This puts City or Town politicians at risk because, while they take what they perceive to be a long term risk on education costs, they could lose access to the 40S revenue stream they may have used to sell the concept to their constituents. A fixed minimum 40S window would give local officials political space to manage their local challenges in the event they want to support a project but feel they cannot without a commitment of 40S from the State on an ongoing basis.

Thank you for letting us attend and speak.

Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director

978-922-1305 x 207


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