Help fulfill town's pledge with housing trust

Thursday May 10, 2012

Williamstown's annual Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at the Elementary School. Sev eral articles to be voted on relate to affordable community housing and the allocation of funds raised under the Community Preservation Act. War rant Article 22 proposes that the town establish a housing trust.

The purpose of the trust would be to provide for the creation and preservation of af fordable housing in Wil liams town for the benefit of low and moderate income households. Should the trust be established, Article 23 allocates $200,000 in CPA funds to the trust to be used for community housing purposes. Article 27 allocates $107,500 to the Affordable Housing Committee for the purpose of creating community housing. Article 28 allocates $80,000 toward the creation of additional housing for the elderly at Proprietors Fields. The town warrant and documents ex plaining these articles are available online at williams

Williamstown's Affordable Housing Committee has been working since 2003 toward the realization of the recommendations of the town's Master Plan, which cited a clear need for additional affordable housing. Last December, the committee began to explore the value of the housing trust, which 88 other Massachusetts towns have adopted, as a means to facilitate this work.

After careful study, and consultation with other towns and with advisors at Mass Housing Partnership, the committee recommended to the Board of Selectmen that the town adopt Massachusetts General Law Chapter 44, Section 55C to establish a housing trust. This process took place at many public meetings over the course of many months and received extensive media coverage. The Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee also endorse the creation of a housing trust.

The trust would implement the recommendations of the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee. These recommendations would be formulated by the Affordable Housing Committee following a thorough process that would include consultation with Selectmen and other town boards and committees and input gathered at a public hearing. With affordable housing as its only responsibility and focus, the trust board would aid the town in the orderly acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation, construction, financing or refinancing of property within the town for that purpose. While the funds overseen by the trust, as well as any debt it incurs, would be independent of the town, its trustees would not act independently, but would be overseen by and interact with the Board of Selectmen and other town boards and committees.

Through its Master Plan, Williamstown has recognized the value of -- and pledged to improve -- its economic diversity. The adoption of the four warrant articles described here will enhance the town's ability to fulfill that pledge.




Catherine Yamamoto chairs the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee. The letter was also signed by committee members Bilal Ansari, Charles Bonenti, Kim Burnham, Van Ellet and Cheryl Shanks.


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