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May 11, 2013

Workforce housing project opens

WINDHAM — Windham’s first workforce housing development opens today.

Many people in town never thought it would. Some people in town tried to stop it. Twice voters rejected workforce housing at Town Meeting.

Phil LoChiatto isn’t one of them, though.

The selectmen’s chairman is the man who brought Deacon Place home.

The townhome-style development is in a new cul de sac, Wentworth Circle, just off Mammoth Road, a mile south of Route 111.

“I’ve been at this so long,” LoChiatto said yesterday, touring the property, “a little over three years.”

Those votes by the town against workforce zoning amendments bothered LoChiatto.

“It was a little discouraging,” he said.

But he felt the fight was worth it.

“I firmly believe this is a needed housing type in town,” he said.

Windham has a reputation as a bedroom community for Boston, a place company executives call home. Town officials last winter gave $350,000 as the average home value when talking about the budget and taxes.

LoChiatto knows other people need homes in Windham, too.

“Teachers, police officers, firemen, young kids, 26, 27 years old buying their first home — that’s my definition of workforce,” he said, conceding he dislikes the term.

“Workforce housing is a tough name,” he said. “The perception is low income or subsidized. Clearly, it is none of that.”

Start with the price. The two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath homes are marketed at $279,900.

Homeowners still have to qualify for a mortgage, which everyone knows is tougher these days after the nation’s financial crisis led to banking reforms.

The workforce element comes into play with the income cap. The idea is these homes should go to working people who otherwise could not afford to live in Windham.

LoChiatto said the income cap is just under $90,000.

There will be five workforce units at Deacon Place. The other five will be sold at market prices, now pegged at $299,900.

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