AFFORDABLE HOUSNG TRUST SEEKS SUPPORT FOR RESIDENTS IMPACTED BY PANDEMIC

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AMHERST MUNICIPAL AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST MEETING (5/21/20)

The meeting was conducted via Zoom webcast and was recorded for possible future broadcast. All members of Trust participated except for Town Manager, Paul Bockelman, who was at another meeting

Vacancy On The Trust
Chair John Hornik announced a vacancy on the Trust caused by Nancy Schroeder’s resignation a couple of months ago.  Anyone interested in filling the position should fill out a Community Activity Form on the Town website.

Cares Act Funding
Hornik also stated that the town is eligible for up to $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the CARES Act .

These funds should be used mostly for housing and food insecurity.  The Family Outreach Center of Amherst has applied for funds to hire a social worker to help families in need stabilize their housing.  Amherst Community Connections has also applied for funds for services to those affected by COVID-19. The Trust voted to send a letter to the Amherst  CDBG committee advocating for housing support.  Since the Rental Assistance Program that the Trust approved at its last meeting uses Community Preservation Act funds, none of that money may be spent on services, only on housing.  The CARES money would be a nice complement to the Rental Assistance program.  

The Trust had a further discussion about the Rental Assistance Program.  The local program is meant to assist Amherst residents whose ability to afford their rent has been impacted by the COVID-19 shut down.  Those who receive support through a state funded program, such as RAFT (Rental Assistance for Families in Transition) are not eligible for the local program.  Town planner Nate Malloy said, in working on the proposal for an administrator of the program with Town Procurement Officer Anthony Delaney, it was not clear if those applying to the local program needed to be turned down by the state programs or if the Amherst program could be the first option.  Most Trust members felt the local program should be as accessible as possible, without those applying needing to delay while waiting to hear from other programs.  Hornik felt more people could be helped with the limited local funds if everyone were required to seek state funds first.  However, all members aside from Hornik and Rob Crowner voted to allow applicants to apply directly to the local program.  An RFQ (Request For Quote) will be sent to possible administrators this week, hopefully to get the program off the ground in June or early July. 

40R Zoning
Hornik and Crowner presented a summary of the May 6 presentation of the 40-R overlay zoning consultants to the Planning Board.  They noted some resistance to the proposal for siting the overlay district downtown because some of the proposed areas border traditional neighborhoods.  In general, they support the zoning change because it would allow more density in development while providing affordable housing and design guidelines which current downtown zoning does not do.  The Trust will continue to monitor the progress in this initiative.

Future Meetings
The next Housing Trust meeting will be Thursday, June 11 at 7 PM.  The Housing Coalition will meet on Tuesday, June 16 at 6:30 PM.  The Zoning Board of Appeals will probably discuss Valley Community Development Corporation’s proposal for the supportive housing project at 132 Northampton Road in early July.

The meeting adjourned at 8:35 PM

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