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.