Williamstown Housing Committee Exploring Funding AvenuesBy Stephen Dravis
09:16AM / Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The Affordable Housing Committee is working on a list of funding options.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Affordable Housing Committee on Tuesday discussed how it can identify funding opportunities for new housing projects or first-time homebuyers.
Three members of the six-person committee are working on pulling together information on housing programs. And on Tuesday, Charles Bonenti brought the full panel up to speed on their progress.
"Van [Ellet], Leigh [Short] and I are sifting through a number of government grant programs, mortgage programs, etc.," Bonenti said.
The task group has sought input from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and local banks to compile a list of funding options, Bonenti said.
"We have a good list," he said. "Now, we have to delve into the eligibility."
Bonenti said the committee could present its final list to the Affordable Housing Trust, the town body established to facilitate funding subsidized housing, and it could list programs for consumers on the committee's website.
Another item likely destined for that website is the committee's mission statement, which also was discussed at Tuesday's meeting.
Three of the four committee members in attendance appeared ready to move forward with a draft they had before them, but member Van Ellet asked to give the text some more thought and raised some specific issues regarding the timing of the statement's adoption and the potential for overlap with the Affordable Housing Trust.
"Right now, the money is going to trust," Ellet said. "We have limited resources. If we're going to be involved in development, we need a budget."
Ellet also suggested that the committee might want to hold off on approving a mission statement and a set of goals until after April's report from John Ryan, the consultant it hired to do an assessment of the town's housing needs.
"Why would we vote on something like this until we we have more of a clarification of need - both the magnitude and [the needs of] special populations?" Ellet asked.
Committee Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto noted that the committee could always revisit the mission statement at a later date if the demographic data points in that direction, but she agreed to let Ellet suggest revisions to the statement at a future meeting.
The committee did take action on appropriating $6,700 to finish the soil remediation project at the town-owned parcel at 59 Water St., referred to as the former town garage site. It had OK'd $9,000 toward the project at its February meeting, but it needed to allocate an additional $6,700 on Tuesday to cover soil disposal and fees to the Department of Environmental Protection. The total cost of the cleanup ended up at $15,850.
In other business on Tuesday, Yamamoto asked her colleagues to begin thinking about reorganization this summer, noting that she has chaired the committee for two years and, "it might be time to give someone else a chance."
Committee member Bilal Ansari suggested the committee consider funding a part-time staff person to support its work and that of the Affordable Housing Trust. He agreed to come back to the committee with a former proposal at a later date.