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Welcome to the Town of Chilmark, MA
Housing January 24 2014
C H I L M A R K   H O U S I N G   C O M M I T T E E
Tuesday, January 24, 2014
Chilmark Town Hall,

Present:  Ann Wallace, Andrew Goldman, Michelle Leonardi, Jessica Roddy, Bill Rossi, Jim Feiner, William Randol,  David Vingault (Dukes County Regional Housing Authority – DCRHA)

Minutes:  Andy Goldman moved to approve the minutes of November 7th 2013 with the amendments he had submitted. He stated that the positions he had presented at the November 7th meeting were not reflected in the minutes as originally drafted.  Ann Wallace stated that she did not remember the Committee action described in the amendment, but recalled that David Vingeault had been asked to present possible options for temporary rental relief.  Minutes accepted as amended, Ann Wallace abstained.

Andy Goldman moved to approve the minutes of November 26th, 2013.  Jessica Roddy recalled that, in its discussion of homesite housing, the Committee had noted that the $40,000 maximum price on a one-acre homesite lot could act as a disincentive to private landowners, since this sum barely covers the required subdivision and septic plans and the establishment of a drinking water well.  This issue will be discussed further in the future.  The Committee approved the minutes of November 26th, 2013.

Recording of Housing Committee Meetings:  The Committee agreed that its meetings could be audio-recorded as an aid in writing accurate minutes; the written minutes, once adopted by the Committee, will count as the official record of the meeting.

Island-wide CPC Meeting:  Andy Goldman reported on a meeting of Community Preservation Committees of five of the island towns (Edgartown did not attend).  The meeting reviewed the significant number of Island-wide proposals brought to the Committees in the recent past, including the Aquinnah Lighthouse, the Museum roof, and an affordable housing project in Tisbury that will be available to all Islanders.  The meeting had discussed establishing an upper limit for the proportion of CPC funds going to island-wide programs.  The “50-50” formula, whereby each Town’s share of island-wide projects is calculated 50% by population and 50% by valuation, was generally accepted as equitable.

Housing Committee Budget FY2015:   The Committee reviewed the proposed FY’15 budget.  The budget is essentially flat, with minor salary and COLA increases.  The Committee approved the draft budget.

Middle Line Road Financial Review Report 2013  David Vigneault introduced the Financial Statements and Review Report for the year ended June 30, 2013 of the MLR Rental Duplex units prepared by NE Kelly & Associates.  The Committee unanimously approved the report and asked Marina Lent to transmit the report to the Board of Selectmen.

Middle Line Road Temporary Rental Relief Proposal  David Vigneault presented an outline entitled “Draft Rental Relief Proposal for Discussion” (see attached) in response to the Committee’s interest in exploring avenues for assisting MLR tenants in financial distress due to a clearly unanticipated emergency such as job loss, illness, or divorce.  He noted that he, assisted by DCRHA Representative Ann Wallace, had drafted this proposal on the basis of discussions of the Committee and consultation with a range of agencies on their experience with such mechanisms.  

Andy Goldman noted that the Emergency Relief proposal was a means to respond in an ad hoc fashion to the six individuals, whereas he was interested in ensuring that the affordability of the ratio of rent to tenant income, as certified in the annual income certification process carried out by the DCRHA, could be maintained.

With regards to the question of adjusting rent levels to changes in income to maintain the recommended 30% proportion, David Vigneault recommended tying such rental adjustment to the annual recertification process, rather than conducting an ad hoc review in response to tenant notification.  (see last line of Relief Proposal).  

Regarding the Emergency Relief proposal, the Committee agreed with criteria that it should be geared to address a temporary emergency shortfall in earnings, that an annual shortfall due to expected seasonal fluctuation in earnings or other predictable expenditures is not eligible for relief, and that the relief period is to be limited to three consecutive months, with the possibility of an additional six-month extension.  Jessica Roddy supplied amendments to specify that the relief funding is to be applied first to the existing deficit in rental payments, with the balance held in reserve in case it is needed over the following two months of the relief period.

David Vigneault asked whether the Committee wished to consider both rental adjustment and rental relief.  When assured that the Committee wants both, he replied that if cost is "off the table" as a consideration, we could peg annual rentals to income, and develop a rental relief program.  However, he noted that he would need guidance from the Committee, as this is a Town decision.

MLR Tenant Arrears Situation  The Committee then discussed the situation facing one of the tenants in MLR, who has fallen into arrears going on four months.  David Vigneault stated that he has been working intensively with the tenant to resolve this issue, but that it appears that recovery will not be possible and eviction proceedings are probably necessary, and the Executive Secretary has authorized him to initiate a mutually agreed upon Notice to Quit, which he is prepared to deliver on this date.

Andy Goldman felt that the administrative process in situations such as this is not as clear as it could be with regards to the respective responsibilities of the Housing Committee and the Executive Secretary.  Bill Rossi agreed to discuss this matter with Tim Carroll.

The Committee felt it will be necessary to outline a clear process for any future such situations.  Bill Rossi suggested that David Vigneault inform the Chair of the Housing Committee early on when an arrears situation develops.  David Vigneault outlined the process usually followed by the DCRHA: on the first day of the second month without a full rental payment, the tenant is called in for a meeting to work on a payment plan.  He suggested that the Housing Committee Chair could be involved if the tenant does not respond to this initial measure. On the 10th day of the second month, if the plan has not been implemented or the arrears cleared, they set a court date for a court-ordered plan.  

Bill Rossi asked for a time-estimate if no solutions can be worked out.  According to the procedures usually followed by the DCRHA, if the first month of non-payment is in June, the actual eviction would take place in October.  Bill Rossi asked that the Housing Committee Chair and the Executive Secretary be informed of any developments in this process.

The Committee approved a motion that asks David Vigneault to deliver a 30-day notice-to-quit tonight. Michele Leonardi, who is a resident of a Middle Line homesite, abstained.

Middle Line Road Rental Adjustment  The Committee then discussed allowing rental rates to float in response to changes in income.  Bill Rossi asked for the minimum possible rental rates for these units.  David replied that a person paying 65% of the market rental rate could be earning as little as 50% of AMI, (which is an income of just under $30K), but to expand this spread would create too great a rent burden.  

Referring again to the temporary rental relief proposal, David Vingneault pointed out that if all MLR rents were reduced by 40% through rental relief, it would translate into about $8,000 loss of income to the Town.  The town can choose what level of rental relief to provide. He advised the Committee to be conservative in setting its parameters, and referred members to the Excel worksheet which shows rental income at various percentages below current levels.

Andy Goldman reminded the Committee that the pro forma is just a pro forma:  it is not tied to debt service, and has no validity other than as a pro forma.  He advised that the pro forma is not binding on the town.  

The Committee also discussed how to assess income accurately, and how to forestall the moral hazard arising from the assumption that a drop in (reported) income will lead to lower rent, with the Town making up the difference.  David stressed that, while the risk exists, it is not as dire as some might portray it. For example, experience in the rental assistance program seems to indicate that people are using this program as a transitional measure towards stabilization of their financial situation, and some have been able to move toward homeownership.

West Tisbury Housing Committee  Marina Lent reported that interested members of the Housing Committee are invited to attend the West Tisbury Housing Committee meeting of February 11, 2014 to discuss West Tisbury’s experience with the Accessory Apartment bylaw.  The program is managed by the DCRHA, and may provide a promising mechanism for increasing affordable rental housing in Chilmark.  Chilmark Zoning Bylaws would have to be amended accordingly, and this meeting will begin the process of exploring whether the Housing Committee would like to work on a draft bylaw amendment to recommend to the Planning Board, which is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of Chilmark Zoning Bylaws.  David Vigneault (DCRHA) and Christine Flynn (MVC) will also attend.  

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