Williamstown Community Preservation Committee Approves 4 Applications / iBerkshires.com

The Community Preservation Committee is recommending a request for $400,000 for the next phase of the Cable Mills project, which will reserve housing for families and individuals at various median income levels in the area.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the four funding applications for approval at the May annual town hall meeting.

Two of the committee’s votes were unanimous. The other two were opposed by at least one panel member, and one ended in a 4-3 decision.

No resistance was met with a request for $100,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund and a request for $50,000 from the Williamstown Meetinghouse Preservation Fund.

The largest request for the fiscal year 2023 funding round, a request for $400,000 from the developer of the Cable Mills housing complex on Water Street, passed by a 6-1 vote after a CPC member repeatedly advocated for an additional layer of insurance on the affordability of eight limited-income housing units in the complex’s third and final phase.

A fourth request for $50,000 from the Five Corners Stewardship Association store, passed by a single vote.

Steve Stephen Dew, who occupies the CPC seat dedicated to a member of the Housing Authority, has urged Cable Mills developers David Traggorth and Bart Mitchell to commit to ensuring that eight of the 27 limited income housing units planned for the River Lofts are open to holders of Section 8 Vouchers, administered by the Housing Authority.

The developers responded that while the River Lofts will have eight units reserved for residents earning 30% or less of the area’s median income, they do not want to tie them to a separate federal program, Section 8, with its own rules that can change. overtime.

The eight units at 30% AMI and 19 units at 60% AMI (combined, half of the 54 units planned by River Lofts) will be subject to income restrictions in perpetuity, David Traggorth told the committee, as will the income units. limited in phase 1 of Cable Mills, which redeveloped an existing mill building fronting on Water Street (Highway 43).

At Phase 1, three units are available for Residents who make up to 100% AMI, and 10 are for Residents who make 80% or less AMI.

The region’s median income, determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the number at which half of the households in a region earn more and the other half earn less.

According to the latest figures from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development website, Berkshire County’s AMI (excluding Pittsfield and other select cities) ranges from $59,800 for a single person to 85 $400 for a family of four up to $112,800 for a family of eight. .

A family of four at 30% AMI would have a maximum annual income of $25,620.

Dew said that for FY23, the Section 8 program caps the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment, including utilities, at $1,016.

“So if a unit that Cable Mills Phase 3 is building, including utilities, falls under that number, $1,016, set by the federal government, it’s eligible for Section 8,” Dew said. .

Traggorth said for residents at 60% AMI, monthly rent would range from $950 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,300 for a three-bedroom apartment. For families earning 30% AMI, those rents would be about half, Traggorth said ($475 for a one-bedroom and $650 for a three-bedroom).

“What I want to be careful of is if the Section 8 program changes, if Congress changes the eligibility, changes the program, that we’re tied to that program in perpetuity, on which the city has no no control, we have no control, it’s really completely out of our hands,” Traggorth said. “We are 100% of these eight units at 30% of the AMI, the median income in the region, in perpetuity. We are applying for a project based on [Section 8] good…but it’s my reluctance to make a promise to a perpetual program where we don’t control what that program is and whether it will last forever.

Mitchell agreed.

“Steve [Dew], I would just say that at a substantial level we have a setup that ensures very low income people can live here forever,” Mitchell said. less than median, period. Whether or not we have an article 8 subsidy, we are bound to stick to that.

“If the unit had, say, an AMI requirement of 100%, its rent could be higher than the Section 8 payment voucher.”

Dew was impassive.

When it came time to vote on the committee’s recommendation, he proposed that the article going to the town hall include a “clawback” provision that requires the developer to return the $400,000, with interest, “in the event that the eight units they have promised will be available to low income – if they somehow become ineligible for Section 8 voucher holders.”

Dew’s motion to change the article received no seconds, and the committee moved to a vote on the proposal, which ultimately passed, 6-1.

The committee on Wednesday did not explain how the city would meet the $400,000 commitment if passed by a city assembly when it has about $268,000 available for all applications in the funding cycle. Fiscal Year 23. On Thursday, Chairman Philip McKnight, who serves as the CPC’s Conservation Commission, said this mandate article will likely mirror the 2007 article that committed $1.5 million for the phase 1 of Cable Mills, which said, in part, “to see if the city will vote to borrow and appropriate funds or transfer from funds available under the Community Preservation Act.”

“I think we will do the same with [this year’s] application, a combination of transferring from available CPA funds over future years and then borrowing the balance when we owe it, the later the better to reduce bond carrying costs,” McKnight wrote. in response to an email requesting clarification.

The Store at Five Corners group’s CPA application has been questioned both on the business plan for the historic South Williamstown property and on the basis that private fundraising puts the stewardship association in a position where she does not need the $50,000 in CPA funds.

Jane Patton, who serves as the CPC select committee seat, asked the candidates about recent iterations of the store at Five Corners and the challenge future operators will have in making the business a success.

Association directors Carolyn Umlauf and Alison Case emphasized that the Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association will not operate a store, but rather will find an experienced retailer to operate one. And the funds sought by the association are not for the commercial enterprise but for immediate repairs and a long-term endowment to ensure the longevity of the 19th century structure.

The plaintiffs noted that former store operators told their association that one of the problems in keeping the business operation viable was the pressure to pay a mortgage. The Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association hopes to relieve that pressure by owning the building – recently purchased for $400,000 through private donations.

This strategy drew a second question from Patton.

“If you take the pressure off the spending side…where’s the skin in the game [for the operator]?” Patton asked.

Case said the nonprofit’s board recognizes this issue and has members with experience in business and nonprofits who can select the right store operator from the candidates it seeks. currently.

“We try to split the difference,” Case said. “That’s our job. Are we giving too much? Are we not giving enough? … We have to find that line. How much do we need to effectively subsidize this business by reducing the rent to make it sustainable but not a gift? That’s what we’re here to do.”

Later, Joseph Finnegan, a community representative on the CPC, and Dew questioned the need for the stewardship association of Community Preservation Act funds.

“I think it’s a great project, but they have $400,000 [after the purchase] in the bank for a $100,000 fix, and they want to build an endowment, which is incredibly admirable,” Finnegan said. “I don’t think we’ve seen a request like this before, and I would hesitate to endorse it.”

Dew also expressed his support for the project but moved that his request be reduced to $10,000, with the remaining $40,000 distributed to the other FY23 applicants. This motion also did not receive a second before the committee votes, 4-3, to send the request to the municipal assembly.

Keywords: affordable housing, CPA,

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