Banker & Trademan reports on Medway Housing Trust

The article "Medway Board Anxious as Affordable Housing Trust Vote Approaches" by Colleen M. Sullivan, Banker & Tradesman Staff Writer, (June 5, 2011) describes the controversy as Medway's Affordable Housing Trust board members advocate for Town Meeting to appropriate its year-one budget.  The Trust is requesting $430,050 of CPA funds, which represents less that 60% of the existing funds in the CPA's Community Housing Reserve that has accumulated since fiscal year 2002. The struggle Medway's Trust faces to convince townspeople to capitalize the Trust is fairly common and highlights the need for Trusts to set a budget based on initiatives that are thoroughly vetted through community engagement.  This is the work Beth Rust and I helped Medway with earlier this year, culminating in the publication of Medway's Affordable Housing Trust Action Plan.  Medway Town Meeting is scheduled to consider the Trust's request on June 13.

The quote below from the Banker & Tradesman article sums up the main benefits of creating municipal affordable housing trusts including a quote from Mike Heinemann, chair of the Medway Affordable Housing Trust and attorney at Mingace & Heineman:

. . . , in the absence of a dedicated trust, any expenditures from the fund have to be approved by one of the town’s semi-annual meetings, along with other municipal matters.

That makes it tough to respond quickly to needs as they present themselves, says Heineman. When the owner of an affordable unit wishes to sell, they notify the town, and if a qualified buyer cannot be found they are able to sell the property on the open market, dissolving the deed restrictions that preserve its affordability. Though the town currently has 20 affordable homeownership units, “we’ve lost two in the past few years because there hasn’t been an active trust,” Heineman said.

That’s a problem the town hopes to solve. If approved, the trust will have the power to buy and sell land and housing, raise money for itself and potentially create other programs to help preserve affordable housing, including helping current owners of affordable units with capital repairs that might otherwise force them to sell.

. . . It’s a solution a lot of smaller communities are turning to, said Jennifer Goldson of Boston-based JM Goldson Community Preservation + Planning, a housing consultant who has worked with several Massachusetts towns on developing affordable housing trusts, including Medway.

Beth Rust, Kathleen O'Donnell, Jennifer Raitt, and I will be speaking on a panel about using various local resources, including CPA and Housing Trusts, at MHP's Housing Institute in Devens on June 20th.  Sign up at:  www.mhp.net.