Thursday, December 31, 2015

Status Quo Housing Allocation

Amherst Housing Authority Board of Commissioners

The Amherst Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday to set the HUD voucher payment standards for 2016 at 113% of Fair Market Rent for Amherst and 97% for Extended area which covers 388 total vouchers and gives all of them a few dollars more in monthly subsidies.

Commission member TracyLee Boutilier voted against the motion saying the Board should show "more compassion," pointing out a $10 month increase in payments for a family living in a  three bedroom apartment is too little.

The problem is Housing and Urban Development is only giving the Amherst Housing Authority an extra $38,443 in 2016 going from the current $3,077,917 up to $3,116,360.

And with the approved payment standards for 2016 the 238 Amherst vouchers will cost an additional $25,812 and the balance of them another $10,260. To suddenly increase the subsidy any higher would mean defunding some vouchers to make up the difference.

If the AHA went to 120% of the Fair Market Rate for Amherst, Executive Director Denise LeDuc estimates 35-40 vouchers would need to be terminated to fund the increase in monthly payments to the other 200 or so Amherst recipients.

Last year the average cost paid out for all 388 vouchers came to $649/month or $7,788 annually.

The problem in Amherst is too little housing supply combined with too great a demand.  Students who wish to live off campus pack themselves into sometimes sub-standard units and drive up the prices, forcing out families and blue collar workers who cannot compete.

 Click to enlarge/read

Although the recent passage of the town's Rental Registration Permit Bylaw and the successful completion of Kendrick Place, with more large mixed-use buildings on the immediate horizon, the future for affordable housing is starting to look a little brighter.

Five story mixed use Kendrick Place (mostly residential) opened September 1st


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, where's the apocalypse that was supposed to happen with the Kendrick Place apartments? The world was ending, remember?

Larry Kelley said...

And the building was supposed to be an ugly pox on the north end of downtown, yet it recently was honored with a "Silver Award For Buildings" for its excellence in design by the Design-Build Institute, New England Region.

Anonymous said...

But we ought to live with it for 20 years or so before we start giving it any local awards.

Anonymous said...

Now if we can only build some other good looking buildings to replace all the junky ones around it.

Anonymous said...

Larry, I'd love to see you do a piece on local tax rates. Seems they always go up, despite new tax growth. It is this, as much as anything, that makes Amherst unaffordable. As someone who has been a supporter of new development in town, as an antidote to our high tax rate, would love to get an explanation for why this is. If we take in hundreds of thousands in new revenue, due to new development, shouldn't that be subtracted from the 2.5% allowable increase as opposed to added to it? Also, when properties get re-assessed, we almost always pay a higher amount in dollars. How does that increased amount of incoming revenue get figured into the 2.5%?

Larry Kelley said...

One big problem is commercial property in Amherst only makes up 8% of the tax base and over 90% is residential.

Anonymous said...

With the residents of Kendrick using the Pray St parking lot 24/7- Is the town benefiting?

Anonymous said...

I get that. But my question has more to do with how the total tax revenue gets applied towards the 2.5%, or not. Is it 2.5% plus new growth, or 2.5% period? Is there ever consideration given to trying to lighten the load, when revenue or assessments increase, or just maximizing allowable increases?

I think town leaders are in for a rude awakening when override time comes around. And I'm speaking as someone who has always supported them in the past.

Kevin said...

Northampton doesn't have this problem. Why? Because they tax rental properties as a business, at the 18% business rate. In Amherst, they are taxed at the same rate as residents'. As long as landlords are given preferential treatment, everyone pays. Michael Greenbaum, isn't he on Town Meeting? I wonder why?

Happy New Year, everyone!