Putney talks affordable housing


PUTNEY >> Locals met at the Putney Fire Department for a presentation about two affordable housing projects proposed by the Windham & Winsdor Housing Trust.

Even through the "Q&A" locals could not seem to find a reason to seriously question the proposed project. Locals reiterated that it seemed like a "win-win" situation for the affordable housing need in Putney.

There are two sites proposed, as it is a bundled project. One site would be at the 5.6-acre Newman Hall lot, which is located between Depot Street and Putney Landing Road, south of Curtis' All American Barbecue. The project would include a mix of family and smaller apartments for a total of 18 apartments with a combination of townhouses and accessible flats. The site plan presented by Stevens & Associates, the project architect, showed three structures in a U-shaped arrangement around a south-facing courtyard. Newman Hall would be removed, town water and sewer are available, and the site is within walking distance of the village.

It has been proposed that access would come from Putney Landing Road, not Depot Street, and that Newman Hall would be removed. Depot Street would be used for emergency vehicles and pedestrians. Thirty-five parking spaces would be available at this site, including handicap spaces. There will be a courtyard area in the center of the three structures that house 18 apartments and each have a front and back door. There will also be a community building that holds a central heating plant with wood pellet boiler that heats the entire complex that has high thermal envelopes and air ceiling and moisture control.

The historic Noyes House on 52 Kimball Hill would be configured with four one-bedroom units in the main house, and three single-room-occupancy units in an existing wing. According to WWHT Executive Director Connie Snow, WWHT has owned the Noyes House land for about 20 years and the building is owned by Putney Cares. No drawings of the Noyes House were presented at the meeting.

The Housing Trust has been working with the Putney Affordable Housing Committee since December 2015 to develop the proposed plans for the Newman Hall project. The Committee was formed in 2008 by the Select Board and have since worked closely together, as the Select Board may be asked to support a funding application by the housing non-profit to the Vermont Community Development Program. The Committee supports the town plan goals of creating and promoting more affordable housing in town.

"The needs assessment that Windham & Windsor Housing Trust has undertaken for both of their projects, confirm that the need is still very much here, even with the new 11 units (Laura Plantz House), the need is still very much here" said Lyssa Papazian, Chairwoman of the Putney Affordable Housing Committee.

The activities barn will continue located near the Noyes House, and there will not be an increase of density, therefore Snow inferred that parking availability would unlikely change.

If funding is viable, the final design will be available next month. According to Bob Stevens of Stevens & Associates, by this summer, before the DRB there will be a warning and a notice in the paper and a warning period and potential hearing for the ACT 250 process. According to Executive Director of WWHT, Connie Snow, most of the funding applications will be submitted this spring and then they will hear back on those by September or October. Construction could possibly begin as early as winter of 2017, starting with the Noyes House.

Based on a Market Analysis by Doug Kennedy Advisors in 2016, in Putney a one bedroom cost $940, a two bedroom $1,020 and a three bedroom is $1,579 all including utilities. The proposed rent for the Putney Landing and Noyes Housing project by WWHT with heat and hot water would be $525 to $600 for a one bedroom, $650 to $710 for a two bedroom and $900 for a three bedroom.

One Putney local, Brian Morgan, voiced his opinion concerning the demographic in this area that he feels is most in need of affordable housing.

"I really hope we can find more affordable housing for young families," said Morgan. "The school population is shrinking rapidly, ACT 246 is on the horizon, which I don't think is a very good idea, but the point is we need affordable housing for young families."

The median income this type of housing is around $34,726 and Snow noted that at least half of the residents would make less than that. In studies presented by WWHT on Thursday night, they mentioned that in order to rent a "modest" bedroom apartment in Putney, one needs an earnings of $18.69 per hour. Snow further mentioned that the average rental vacancy rate is 3.2 to 3.4 percent and that 5 percent is a "healthy" percentage. The market study also showed that there is a strong need in Putney for small one bedrooms. These figures were examples for WWHT to provide to show residents the further need for affordable housing.

Select Board Chairman and Putney Affordable Housing Committee member Josh Laughlin asked what happens if people who move in to these complexes, earn a raise above the low income rate. Snow responded that their projects are based on tax credits, and that in that case an individual would not need to leave. Laughlin also asked how this would impact taxes.

"At the end of the day once our Putney Landing site is built, it will be about $16,500, so it will be a net gain in the taxable value of property," said Peter Paggi of WWHT.

Snow added that that is an estimate and they ran that with the statewide formula that they know currently.

"Isn't it so that the community actually gains in aid to the school with an increase of population, that the state makes contribution per child?" asked Maggie Cassidy of Putney.

The question was bounced to Ann Fines of Putney who has served on the Putney Central School Board. Fines said that the student population would need to increase in order for funding to go up. Cassidy noted that she felt it is viable based on the infrastructure and staffing that is there and that more children means more efficiency.

"I guess it sounds like a win, win, win to me. Are there any drawbacks that anybody is aware of that we should put out on the table?" asked Fines.

Snow responded, "Well I can't think of any," and the audience let out a burst of laughter.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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