Straight Talk

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The Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission–Can it do the job?

Each time I attend a meeting of the Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission (SAHC) I depart wondering if they will ever truly address this issue to any substantial degree in my lifetime.

The SAHC meeting of November 14 appeared to be lacking general organization or even a sense of direction.

The Chairman and members (in large part) arrived unprepared for this monthly exercise.

The paid coordinator was not prepared either.

The commission continues to receive reports from Jocelyn Ayer (the paid coordinator) about the virtues of accessory apartments.  This month she reports that three people in Salisbury have met with her and one of the commissioners to discuss units at their homes.  They also admit that these units will NOT be easy to do.  I thought we had made it easier with the adoption (by Planning and Zoning) of recommendations from the Affordable Housing Advisory committee concerning these types of units.

The commission also accepted Ayer’s recommendation to become an organizational member of HousingUS.  While it was not clear to anyone (even after they questioned the coordinator) what advantage this membership might have, the fact that it has no monetary strings attached was good enough to approve it.

I might also note that the SAHC somehow feels that part of its mission is to save people from foreclosure.  This one still mystifies me.

In another order of business the commission decided to recommend to the Board of Selectmen that ‘up to $9,500.00’ be expended from the Affordable Housing Fund to pay for improvements at 25 Academy Street, a property that is owned by the Town (you).  It appears that this project was executed without any commitment concerning who would pay the bills.  Mr. Dresser stated that he and Mr. Rand had discussed paying for it from somewhere in the  Town budget, however that was apparently not going to happen.  While some of the bills were paid from Town funds, Mr. Dresser said that he had paid some of the bills out of his own pocket.  He is assuming he will be reimbursed should the Selectmen approve using money from the Affordable Housing Fund.  (I wonder if the Selectmen will go along with this?)

Is this how we are conducting Town business?  Think about the paragraph above!

Ultimately the SAHC ditched a few of the agenda items so they would have time for an executive session.

The executive session was to discuss a possible property purchase … something that would have to be recommended and approved by Town Meeting.

Hopefully the SAHC will have the sense to meet with neighbors and do the preliminary work that is vital for the acceptance by those folks, unlike the time the SAHC coordinator didn’t bother to meet with neighbors concerning her ill-fated IHZ proposal for Library Street.  Affordable housing is of such a nature that the standard Salisbury government approach of ‘shove it down you throat’ will NOT work.  It takes careful planning and serious outreach to bring all of the players into the game.

I have good indication of the property that they were discussing.  It has a history which needs to be carefully considered and will certainly require a tactful approach, something I see sorely lacking in this commission.

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3 thoughts on “The Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission–Can it do the job?

  1. Was this meeting filmed? I’d love to see it…sounds like another winner.

    I’m confused about your statement that the “SAHC feels that part of its mission is to save people from foreclosure.” Admittedly, I gave up on these guys months ago and stopped going to their meetings, but at that time they weren’t the slightest bit interested in helping people who were in foreclosure. In fact, I specifically recall a particularly horrifying SAHC meeting where the Chair, responding to a question from me, actually said that foreclosure was a “good thing” because then the homeowners would be able to “move on” with their lives.

    • Wendy – This meeting was not filmed … I recall some of the same conversations that you do. That has evolved into seminars and other methods to inform people in foreclosure trouble about funds and agencies that may be able to help them.

      While this may seem like a noble cause, it distracts from the real mission of the SAHC and I still have to wonder what this has to do with affordable/workforce housing.

      It implies (at least to me) that only working class people are in the foreclosure local foreclosure picture. Believe it or not, there are those who may have been ‘well off’ who have found themselves in this situation. I consider their actions to be a waste of time and as George said, just another way to change the subject. (I know — I repeat myself!)

  2. george parsons on said:

    the problem is they are running out of ways to stall the proccess so now we are going to try and change the subject

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