putney co-op

A new affordable housing project is planned for a vacant piece of land next to the Putney Food Co-op, on Route 5 in Putney. 

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PUTNEY — The Windham and Windsor Housing Trust’s plans for a new affordable housing project drew a large virtual crowd Monday night.

More than 90 people attended the meeting about the yet-unnamed project, which would be built on a vacant piece of land on the edge of the village, next to the Putney Food Co-op and across Route 5 from the Putney Fire Station.

A total of 17 apartments and eight town houses would be built, with 13 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units, with rent based on income.

The need is great, according to housing trust officials. Statistics from the state show that 17 percent of Putney residents are “severely rent burdened,” paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

The buildings would be all electric heating and cooling — no fossil fuels would be used, and the buildings would have their roofs covered with solar panels.

Officials from the housing trust fielded more than a dozen questions about the project, which would be built next to the Putney Community Gardens and Putney Farmers Market.

Peter Paggi, of the housing trust, said the lot would be purchased by the housing trust from Putney Gateway Associates, and then subdivided, with the garden and market space sold to Green Commons, a local nonprofit group.

Elizabeth Bridgewater, executive director of the Brattleboro-based housing trust, Paggi and Marion Major, trust outreach and marketing coordinator, all fielded questions during the 90-minute plus meeting, which ran long.

The housing trust officials said the need for affordable housing is great in Putney, with a large percent of residents paying a high percentage of their income on housing, which in turn cripples residents’ ability to spend money on other important needs, like food, medicine and clothing.

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Paying taxes was a recurring question, with Paggi saying that all housing trust properties pay taxes. He said the new project would pay an estimated $22,000 a year in local property and school taxes.

When someone pointed out that was only about $800 per unit, Paggi said the tax assessment was based on the income levels of the residents, which he said is a well-established way of setting property assessments for this kind of housing.

Paggi said that, based on a standard of 1.5 people per bedroom, the development would likely house 50 to 55 people. There will be two buildings built on the land, one housing apartments and the other townhouses.

Currently, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust has 36 housing units in town, most of them at Putney Landing, which opened a few years ago. In total, the housing trust owns 878 units in Windham and Windsor counties, and of that total, manages 389, with Stewart Property Management, of Bedford, N.H., handling most of the northern properties, according to Major.

There have been some resident complaints at Putney Landing, Bridgewater admitted, noting that a recent survey showed most of the problems stemmed from the lack of a washer and dryer, which had been on back order for about a year; and other problems dealing with “conflict with neighbors,” such as loud noise and other issues related to people living close to each other.

To help address the problems, the housing trust recently added three new staffers, a support services team to work with all its tenants, including Putney. Bridgewater said the housing trust has a total of six maintenance technicians, to serve about 65 apartments each. There is always someone on call to address emergencies, she said, but response time to typical problems is more like 10 to 14 days, she said. The housing trust has a “zero tolerance” policy toward drug trafficking on its properties, she noted.

Bridgewater said the Putney project is different from some of its most recent projects in Brattleboro and West Brattleboro, the Great River Terrace and Dalem Chalet, which were designed to address “chronic homelessness” and have an on-staff manager.

The Putney project will be owned jointly by the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust, its traditional housing partner Evernorth, and an “equity investor,” such as a bank. The housing trust would be the managing partner. The investor partner, Paggi said, has no decision-making power regarding the property.

It will remain under local control, he said. Cost of the project has not yet been established, and he noted recent construction costs were “way out of whack.”

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.