FinCom Reverses Vote on Affordable Housing Life Management Pilot

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

FinanceCommitteeAt their October 17 meeting, the Finance Committee reconsidered their previous vote that recommended approval of “Bedford Housing Authority (BHA) Life Management Collaborative”—otherwise known as Article 12, item 15 on the November 4  Special Town Meeting warrant.

FinCom’s first vote on October 2 resulted in a recommendation for approval of the affordable housing program, with six members supporting the proposal and two recommending disapproval. On October 17, when the Finance Committee learned the Selectmen voted unanimously on October 7 for disapproval of the article, FinCom discussed the matter again, rescinded its previous vote, and introduced a new motion to recommend disapproval. In the second vote, six FinCom members favored recommending disapproval, two were opposed to disapproval, and one abstained.

Article 12, item 15’s Life Management proposal would use $85,000 in Community Preservation (CP) funds in total— half the amount in the first year and half in the second of a two-year pilot. The goal of the program is to “break the cycle of dependency” for those in subsidized housing by providing work- and life-skills training that enables affordable housing residents to “move up and out” of Bedford’s 100 BHA-run apartments units.

To read The Citizen’s article about the BHA’s public presentation on the Life Management pilot, visit:: [https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/10/18/bha-discusses-affordable-housing-life-management-program/]

For additional information in support of the program, read BHA Chair Gene Clerkin’s letter to The Citizen: [https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/10/19/letter-to-the-editor-bha-life-management-program-follow-up/]

Town Finance Director Victor Garofalo and FinCom member Ben Thomas reported several reasons for the Selectmen’s disapproval that were expressed at the October 7 meeting. Those concerns included 1) whether residents would agree that the use of funds was “part of the mission” of Community Preservation;  2) proposing the program might erode support for the Community Preservation three percent surcharge; 3)  the current negative community climate about affordable housing associated with the homeless at the Bedford Plaza Hotel; 4) lack of inclusion of struggling residents not in affordable housing; 5) questions about how success would be measured; and 6) concern that Community Preservation reserves would be needed if the Coast Guard property on Pine Hill became available.

FinCom member and CP liaison Barbara Perry explained why the Community Preservation Committee originally approved the use of funds for the Life Management program.

“The purpose that I don’t think is understood is to get people to actually move through the system and get training and other support services, get a good job and become independent,” Perry said. “This was what was most important in my mind. There is at least one family—maybe more— that is second generation in subsidized housing. It’s best for the individuals involved—and for the town—not to have people just stay on the system indefinitely.”

[For a summary of Community Preservation’s vote on the Life Management program, see The Citizen’s September 24 article https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/09/24/community-preservation-makes-recommendations-for-november-town-meeting-vote/ ]

FinComChair Mike Seibert added that the BHA has emphasized the additional revenue that would be realized to the town if the Life Management outcomes are positive. “If this program is successful, rents can go up and we have to subsidize less,” Seibert said.

“A program like this is more likely to succeed on a local level than the billions of dollars we throw at things haphazardly on a [higher government] level,” said FinCom member Stephen Carluccio. “I actually think programs like this are more appropriate on a smaller level. And the reality is that with CPA funding, you have to spend it on certain categories of things and housing is one area that the reserves build up on. [This seems like] it’s serving motivated people, it’s not a lot of money and it does seem in the spirit of a pilot program.”

Perry said she believed the timing of the vote on the proposal was not ideal but that she would vote to approve the program in the future. FinCom member Stephen Steele said he felt the goals of the program should be more clearly defined.

As an important final note, Member Meredith McCulloch added that the Community Preservation Committee received confirmation from the Town’s legal counsel that this type of use for the CPA funds is allowable, beyond the usual “bricks and mortar” affordable housing construction.

Because the Special Town Meeting warrant has been printed and distributed, the Finance Committee will announce its vote reversal on Article 12, item 15 when the issue is discussed on Town Meeting floor.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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W.tom
W.tom
8 years ago

The comments here clearly show that there are people in town still confusing affordable housing with what’s happened at Bedford Plaza hotel. Proving that the concerns of the selectmen and FinCom about the vote are well founded.

rick jolie
rick jolie
8 years ago

In other words: FinCom completely lacks the backbone to support a good program just because it is afraid that some people in town might disagree with it.
Seems like everybody is eager to preemptively cave in to screaming tea-party types.

Stan Gedaminsky
Stan Gedaminsky
8 years ago
Reply to  rick jolie

I think people have realized that the community preservation act is being used to create more affordable and subsidized housing far beyond our fair share. The community preservation act should be voted out until we get a clear picture of the scope of the affordable housing in Bedford and to avoid another Bedford Plaza mess.

Charlie
Charlie
8 years ago

This has nothing to do with the homeless situation at the Bedford Plaza. I don’t believe trying to help just 15 residents is in the spirit of the community preservation act. Residents who want to help these folks could volunteer to provide childcare and transportation to Middlesex CC. There is no need to spend $85K on an outside agency to teach life skills.

Stan Gedaminsky
Stan Gedaminsky
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlie

The Bedford Plaza mess and the affordable/ free housing are linked by the fact that local,state and federal money used for these projects are our tax dollars. Pro affordable or free housing advocates try to separate them to cover the fact that Bedford is far and above supporting it’s fair share of affordable/ free housing. I say vote out the Community Preservation Act/Tax until our elected officials acknowledge our concerns. I myself am becoming concerned that our property taxes will continue to rise as we take more potential taxable real estate off the market with yet another housing project at the Coast Guard homes on Pinehill. Vote yourself a tax cut and vote out (and encourage your neighbors) the Community Preservation Act/Tax. The vote will take place on November 4th at 7pm town meeting. Of course the vote will take place much later in the night as usual . If enough people show up perhaps the vote can be moved up for the benefit of seniors , those with young children and working folks who are up early for their jobs! Our town support for affordable/ free housing was rewarded by the state with the Bedford Plaza mess . NO GOOD DEED……..

Charlie
Charlie
8 years ago

I would be totally on board with the Community Preservation Act if it wasn’t for the affordable housing part of it. Open space preservation, preservation of historic resources, and the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities are worthwhile endeavors that make Bedford a better place to live for all of us. We have enough affordable housing in this town.

As for the “Bedford Plaza mess”, the town had nothing to do with it. All it took was a greedy hotel owner taking advantage of a ridiculously expensive and poorly thought-out state program to house homeless in hotels. Unfortunately, the state apparently did no vetting of the hotel before sending 90 families to a hotel that had no business housing people for more than 30 days. And our code enforcer was perhaps a bit lax in keeping an eye on the situation.

Face it, our taxes will continue to rise if we don’t part from the path we are on. More services, more “affordable” housing always equal more taxes. Giving pensions to our town/state workers rather than 401Ks will eventually bankrupt many towns such as ours. Many folks are complaining about the many tear-downs in town, yet the newer homes are bringing in twice the tax revenues than the smaller homes they replaced. There is no perfect answer, but we can definitely do better.

Forch
Forch
8 years ago

How about just setting a time limit for subsidized housing?

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