Shrewsbury officials discuss draft of affordable housing trust bylaw

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

ShrewsburyShrewsbury – Assistant Town Manager Kristen Las presented a draft of an Affordable Housing Trust Bylaw to the Board of Selectmen at their Feb. 23 meeting. The bylaw was proposed by Las and Town Manager Kevin Mizikar to be included as a Warrant Article on the 2021 Annual Town Meeting scheduled for Saturday, May 22.

There is now over $900,000 in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund but there is no mechanism to expend those funds for affordable housing purposes such as purchasing or rehabbing properties.

Las stated that the planning staff have discussed the need for the bylaw for several years. She referenced a memo to the Board recently sent from Town Manager Bernard Cahill that stated at a Special Town Meeting held Oct. 11, 2005, members of Town Meeting voted to approve an inclusionary housing bylaw as part of the Shrewsbury Zoning Bylaw. Then in May 2006 Town Meeting voted to establish a Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund in which developers who were approved by the Planning Board to pay fees into the trust fund could do so in lieu of providing affordable units.

“In August 2008, the Board of Selectmen appointed themselves the overseer of the Affordable Housing Trust but the Board did not register a “declaration of trust” nor did Town Meeting adopt any bylaws associated with creating an affordable housing trust,” Las said.

Selectman Maurice DePalo questioned whether, because of state law, if a selectman can sit on a municipal board of trustees.

Mizikar said they have reviewed this bylaw with Town Counsel and his understanding was that a member of the Board is able to do so.

Selectmen James Kane and John Samia shared DePalo’s concerns and were concerned with the powers held by the trust, particularly with encumbering 80 percent of the trust’s assets for one loan.

After further discussion it was agreed that DePalo will work with the town manager on this issue.