Information on number of school-aged children in smaller homes and condominiums

Published September 24, 2008 | Community Housing Office | Updated December 3, 2021 | Automatically Archived on 12/2/2021

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In these times of budget pressures and financial market downturns, this is a real concern for residents. There have been regional studies conducted to look at this issue including the most recent one – Fiscal Impact of Mixed-Income Housing Developments published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute – to determine whether mixed-income developments that have been built in the state did, in fact, place new burdens on their communities. They incorporated extensive field work in seven municipalities with mixed-income, homeownership developments, and found that 40B projects – mixed-income housing units – have the same fiscal impact as the vast majority of single family subdivisions.

On a more local level, we evaluate the impact on the school system. Research (Housing School Aged Children) finds that larger detached homes house more children than smaller homes and condominiums. This published data on Middlesex county reports that there are on average 1.6 pupils per family.

Using applicant data from affordable housing lotteries in Sudbury over three years, we find that an affordable 2 BR unit is home to 0.5 pupils. Most new affordable units are 2 BR, so we use that unit size for an example. For 3BR units, this increases to 1.6 pupils per household. (See page 10 of the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice for more information.)

Other information gathered from the Sudbury Housing Program:

  • From the last lottery in December 2007, more than half the pupils in the lottery were already in the Sudbury school system
  • Half of the affordable homes (4 of 8) are owned by teachers in the school system, and all 8 homes were purchased by households with Sudbury connections. The Town Housing program provides preferences for those who live and work in Sudbury which benefits the schools by supporting the District’s staff hiring and retention objectives and providing more local connections among its staff members, some of whom may be eligible for such housing. For these reasons, the SPS School Board has formally supported the Town Housing Program.

Exploring these figures for a 6-unit project, with a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom unit sizes; this would house 5 students, across all three school levels, contrasting to 11 students for 6 new single family homes. Students are enrolled in all grades across the four elementary schools, the middle school and the high school.

The rental model is different, and one with little data in Sudbury. However, in nearby Lexington, an affluent suburb also with excellent schools, a large 40B rental project of 387 units estimates 111 students, or 0.25 students per unit.

From the fiscal impact perspective, many families in this town do not “cover” their costs. In very general terms, it takes about a $1.5 million dollar house to cover the school and municipal costs for a household with two pupils. But the schools and other municipal services do not operate on a “pay per use” basis. We all pay for everyone. We know that Sudbury has one of the highest percentages of households with children, 51%, and this is a major factor in the Town’s operating budget and school costs. (See chart from 2000 census data)

By state statute, the density in 40B developments can be higher than what is allowed under current zoning and that may result in a higher student population due to the increased number of units.

Housing is only one component of the Town. Through Town Meeting, the community has committed to both preserve large open space parcels such as Nobscot, and also voted to create housing opportunities in areas where that makes sense. The housing and open space plans work together, serving the community’s interests first and foremost.