West Newbury Reviews Affordable Housing Trust Settlement | News

WEST NEWBURY — The select committee has taken a first look at a draft bylaw to guide the administration of the newly created Municipal Affordable Housing Trust.

As part of its review of the terms of reference for the spring town meeting, council will make a recommendation at its March 28 meeting on whether voters should adopt the new bylaw.

“A formal public hearing on passing by-laws is only required for zoning – not by-laws – but it would be up to council to decide whether or not they wish to refer to a formal hearing,” the manager said. municipal Angus Jennings. “They could just make their recommendation to the city assembly.

Voters will be asked to approve the bylaw at the May 14 meeting, where they will meet at 9 a.m. to resume city business in the parking lot adjacent to the Community Bandstand behind the 1910 Municipal Office Building.

At the end of January, the AHT Bylaws Committee held a listening session to which all councils, commissions and committees, City employees and others were invited. The session was attended by 17 residents and a recorded version on the committee’s webpage was later viewed by 25 people.

Those who attended the session spoke about the impact the state mandates for affordable housing would have on West Newbury and whether the goal could ever be achieved.

To avoid unwanted Chapter 40B developments, the city must ensure that 10% of its housing stock, or 113 additional units, meets state affordability guidelines.

In West Newbury, households with an income below 80% of the Lawrence Metropolitan Statistical Area median income are eligible to purchase or rent affordable housing.

Residents have expressed concerns about whether the construction of these many new homes is compatible with maintaining the rural character of West Newbury. Perhaps reasonably priced housing to accommodate retirees, city workers and first-time buyers would be a fair and more achievable goal, even if it means leaving the city open to possible hostile Chapter 40B development, they said. declared.

The trust could help people pay for closing costs or housing assistance, or connect them to other housing assistance programs.

Transit needs near affordable development and possible zoning changes that would allow for small affordable housing projects – such as allowing two multi-family units per lot or allowing landlords to add affordable rental units to their property – were also discussed.

Various ways to fund the trust have been explored, including dedicating a percentage of Community Preservation Act funding each year, or using back taxes collected when land subject to Chapter 61 farming or forestry restrictions is sold.

The city’s inclusion bylaw states that developers must designate at least 10% of its new housing units as affordable. Where this obligation is not possible, builders must make a monetary contribution to the city before any occupancy permit is issued for the project. These contributions will be deposited in the trust.

Residents questioned whether a regional approach could help mitigate administrative and other costs the trust might encounter and whether local preference should be a policy for available affordable housing.

Also mentioned was the purchase and renovation of small houses for affordable use; examine grant opportunities for eco-villages and green communities; promote public/private partnerships to create affordable housing; and pursue new zoning to allow for more affordable rental housing.

Feedback from the listening session – along with advice from an affordable housing consultant – helped inform the wording of the draft regulations. It calls for establishing a trust of seven voting members, including one select committee member.

The remaining members would ideally have experience in areas such as affordable housing, zoning, real estate, banking, finance, law, architecture, social services or other related expertise. The Director General would be an ex-officio member. Once established, directors would serve two-year terms.

Within certain limits, and with the approval of the board of directors or the municipal assembly in certain cases, the trust is empowered to: buy, sell and rent property; accept donations; and borrow money or mortgage property using the assets of the Trust as collateral.

Actions, powers or duties not listed in the bylaws require the approval of the select board. The powers of the trustees can only be modified in a municipal assembly; the trust account will be held by the city’s treasurer/receiver.

In an annual report, the trustees will detail all “financial transactions made by the Trust, including all revenues and costs, provide a balance sheet of the liabilities and assets of the Trust, compile an inventory of all affordable housing created, sold and/or or managed. by the Trust…,” the settlement states.

A simple majority vote is required to take action, except for “any purchase, sale, lease, exchange, transfer or assignment of any interest in real estate, borrowing, mortgage and pledging of assets must be approved by at least two-thirds of the appointed trustees.

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