By Lizzie Seibert
At its March 9 meeting, the Finance Committee voted to approve a bond authorization of $3 million for preservation of affordable housing units at Bedford Village. Bond authorization is appended to Article 21 of the Warrant for Town Meeting (Community Preservation article). Because a bond authorization requires a 2/3 vote, this will be voted on separately from the line items in the CPC budget, which only require a majority vote.
For background on Bedford Village’s expiring affordable units and past discussions, please reference “Selectmen Affirm Support for Bedford Village Residents” http://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2016/12/selectmen-affirm-support-bedford-village-residents/
Liz Rust, Bedford’s Regional Services Housing Office Consultant, explained to the Finance Committee that about 18.3% of Bedford’s housing is affordable, but 7.5% of housing is comprised of market rate rentals, which are not practically affordable. While Bedford has more affordable housing than many neighboring towns, such as Concord and Weston, Rust commented that “If the town was willing to let [the expiring units] go to market, that’s what would happen, and nothing would be preserved. So this is where the CPC deal comes in… Bedford people don’t want to give this up.”
The CPC deal, while not fully outlined, could cost up to $3 million: roughly $62,500 per affordable housing unit. Rust emphasized that this is ultimately more cost effective than buying new affordable housing units at $75,000 per unit. Town Manager Rick Reed commented that CPC is willing to appropriate $3 million to the deal, but Massachusetts State Funding would also be contributed to the affordable housing project. “We are giving [the owners] money and in exchange, we get affordable housing units. And we get assurance that these units will continue to be there.”
The Finance Committee raised concerns over CPC’s lack of a fully-detailed plan. “I just want to be excruciatingly clear about what it will cost us,” said Ben Thomas. The committee also wondered what the deal would do for the town tax base. Reed explained that Bedford would end up putting less money into the deal than Massachusetts funding would, and Rust explained that the deal would not raise Bedford’s tax base. FinCom Chair Steve Steele noted that, “we’re spending money to keep [the tax base] low.”
Representatives from CPC commented that the importance of preserving Bedford Village, in the end, comes from the fact that Bedford residents already live in these apartments. These residents could be homeless if the units are not preserved.
The Finance Committee also discussed whether or not there were specific rules for the affordable housing units, such as whether or not they must be designated for families, the homeless, or the elderly. Rust replied that if there was a demand for a specific type of housing, the housing would have to address the demand.
The Finance Committee ultimately voted to recommend approval of this project. Bedford residents will vote final approval at the upcoming annual town meeting on March 27
Note: Article 21 (Community Preservation) of the Warrant for Town Meeting proposes a bond authorization of $3.0 Million to be used to preserve the affordable apartment units at Bedford Village. In 2018, the current affordability restrictions will expire. It is anticipated that a combination of local CPA funds and state affordable housing preservation funds will be used to ensure that the rents for these units continue to be based on income limitations. There are ninety-six (96) apartments at Bedford Village, all of which are rented to persons who qualify for some amount of reduced rent based on their income levels. Projects utilizing the available Community Preservation Funds require only a simple majority vote. A bond authorization requires a two-thirds vote.