For the first time since 2012, the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) is actively looking to build or acquire existing properties in town to add more units to its housing portfolio. The AHA is the city’s largest public housing provider.
Executive Director Jack Nagle told council at the May 19 monthly meeting that state funding for a development of accessible housing, called Chapter 689 – first discussed nearly 17 years ago – may still be available.
“I’m reaching out to the state and trying to get information on how to get things moving,” Nagle said. “There is bond financing attached to this project – just over $2 million.”
Current housing portfolio
The AHA is a state agency that was founded in 1948 and provides rental housing to low-income residents, seniors, and people with disabilities.
He owns and manages five high-rise buildings for elderly/disabled residents (all built between 40 and 65 years ago), a sprawling resort for families in East Arlington built in 1949, a 122-year-old freestanding home, several condos in the 1980s (two of which are affordable housing outside of its state-subsidized public housing portfolio) and a 110-year-old house for residents with developmental disabilities.
The authority also manages social housing developments with federal assistance and/or federal housing allowance vouchers serving 422 households. Overall, the agency serves the housing needs of nearly 1,200 residents.
Over the past decade, aging infrastructure has necessitated significant state and city financial support for the renovation and preservation of these properties, effectively draining resources from low-income housing development.
The AHA gets its budget from resident rents as well as an annual state program called the funding formula. This rediscovered Section 689 state funding provides the authority with an opportunity to increase its housing footprint.
“What it is is an opportunity,” Nagle said. “I’m initiating discussions with the City of Arlington to see what options are potentially available to build this [689 housing].”
Decades-old plan for Chestnut Manor lawn
In 2005, under the leadership of then-director Franklin Hurd, the board explored a collaborative development agreement with the Arlington Housing Corporation to construct Chapter 689 on the lawn of Chestnut Manor, the 100-unit AHA-owned building that houses elderly and disabled residents.
the proposed joint plan included “the possible inclusion of the Atwood House in the process” by moving the historic building to the mansion’s Medford Street location. The long vacant and neglected property at 833 Mass. Ave. has been the subject of much redevelopment, zoning and historic advice discussions. It sits sandwiched between the CVS Pharmacy and the First Baptist Church of Arlington, but recent improvements to the facade include new siding and windows.
The Atwood house move was deemed too much prohibitive cost. After Hurd’s retirement, the housing authority, under new director John Griffin, independently continued the $4 million project to build the three-story, 10-unit building for residents with special needs. . The AHA received support from a select committee, which provided funds of up to $50,000 for a feasibility study; the authority hired an architect, obtained zoning approvals, and was ready to start in the spring of 2010, when the project was suddenly put on hold due to funding issues.
Atwood House back on the table?
Treasurer Nick Mitropoulos, who was elected to the AHA Board of Directors in 2001 and chaired the Board of Directors during Chapter 689 discussions in 2005, wondered at the time, “Can we have home next to CVS?
Without going down this previously taken path, Nagle said: “In 2006 they were considering Chestnut Manor, but we hope – and this will be part of the communication with the state – that we might consider other locations. And that’s where I want to talk with the city and see if there are any potential options that we could work out with them.
YourArlington contacted Robert Anneseattorney for Noyes Realty LLCP, listed as the owner in the City Archives, and our reports will be updated with his comments on any discussion regarding the development of the Atwood House.
Underserved Special Needs Housing
Currently, AHA owns and operates Donnelly House, a 13-unit apartment building that opened in 1978, and was the state’s first combined self-contained housing program for people with developmental disabilities. The house is managed in partnership with the Department of Developmental Serviceswhich offers 24-hour guidance and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In the past, the AHA also considered acquiring the Mount Gilboa property for Chapter 689 housing, but the board rejected the plan due to safety concerns (the steep cliff) and inaccessibility to businesses. and public transport.
President Brian Connor, who also served several terms as president during the initial development plans, said the population with special needs is an underserved community. “Once students with special needs reach the age of 22, throughout the state system, there is nowhere to go. There is a huge need for that. »
The board voted to approve the extension of the $2,129,6215 financial assistance contract for Chapter 689. Nagle said this “will give us the opportunity to eventually build this development. I will have more news in the months to come, [but] definitely a very exciting opportunity.
Recordings, meeting minutes
Connor opened the meeting by introducing another procedural change to the business of monthly board meetings, saying Sandy Melanson, assistant to the executive director, would begin taking summary notes for meeting minutes. This tightening of the flow of information follows the “Public Participation Guidelines” that Connor introduced last July.
In April, he presented a update on these requirementsincluding limiting public comment to email submissions received one week before scheduled board meetings, which would be handled at the discretion of the president.
The AHA maintains a online database of every public board meeting held since 2004. By state law, meeting minutes do not require a verbatim transcript of the proceedings.
Connor said that “we are only obligated to have a summary of the discussions, and we are obligated to register the votes”. He indicated that since “these meetings are now being recorded by cable television and so on, I’ve had Jack fix our website so we can link the meeting to the recording.”
A check from Arlington Community Media inc. YouTube channel (ACMi) showed that the AHA board meeting was last recorded in December 2021. There are no publicly available recordings for any of the six meetings in 2022.
During a January 2021 discussion of ACMi’s request to tape board meetings, attorney John Greco said. “It’s like any other meeting; they cannot intervene, whether it is an in-person meeting or a virtual meeting. They cannot interfere with the operation of the meeting. As long as it is. They have the right to do so.
YourArlington has contacted the ACMi for comment on its recording schedule, which includes recordings of selected council, school committee, redevelopment and zoning boards and town meetings, but generally does not cover Community Preservation Law Committee or Community Development Block Grant meetings.
The AHA also records its meetings online, and it was unclear at press time if those are the recordings Connor was referring to that would be posted on the website.
The agenda item for acceptance of the Department of Housing and Community Development Sustainability Award for the Menotomy Manor Flood Investigation was removed from the agenda posted prior to the meeting, but d Other items received board action, including the city’s acceptance of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. totaling $2,654,000 for the mansion window replacement project and ARPA formula funding from the state Department of Housing and Community Development totaling nearly $1 million.
These funding injections, in addition to an emergency CDBG funding request of $350,000 and CPA-approved funding of over $800,000 for fiscal year 2023 (which begins July 1) , should help the authority cope with long-standing and emergency repairs to some of its properties.
All funds, whether awarded to the city or the state, must be used by Dec. 31, 2024. “The pressure is on us to get these projects done,” Connor said.
Tenant chairpersons praised the improved communication between the authority and its residents to address maintenance and construction issues.
“One-on-one [meetings are] definitely more efficient and more productive because we can focus on our property,” said Jenn Hernandez, Tenant President of Menotomy Manor. “We appreciate it very much.”
The next regular meeting of the AHA Board of Directors is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, followed by the annual budget meeting on Wednesday, June 22 at 7 p.m. and the Housing Choice Vouchers meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30.
April 26, 2022: Housing authority leadership hosts first Latina
This news digest by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was posted on Monday, May 23, 2022.
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