Barrington Council: No more taxpayer money to affordable housing project

The developer of Walker Farm Lane wanted a $123,000 grant to off-set a drop in house prices, but the council denied that request Tuesday night. The developer of Walker Farm Lane wanted a $123,000 grant to off-set a drop in house prices, but the council denied that request Tuesday night.

The developer of Walker Farm Lane wanted a $123,000 grant to off-set a drop in house prices, but the council denied that request Tuesday night.

The developer of Walker Farm Lane wanted a $123,000 grant to off-set a drop in house prices, but the council denied that request Tuesday night.

Barrington Town Council member Ann Strong and two of her colleagues said enough taxpayer money had been spent on the Walker Farm Lane affordable housing development and would not approve an additional $123,000 in grant money for the project.
The action came Tuesday night at the monthly council meeting.
Ms. Strong, Bill DeWitt and Cynthia Coyne voted to approve grant money for other applicants, but would not agree to send any more taxpayer funding to the project’s developer, West Elmwood Corporation.
West Elmwood officials applied for the community development block grant in order to off-set a move to decrease the costs for homes that have not sold at Walker Farm. The homes at 1, 3 and 5 Walker Farm Lane have been on the market for more than a year and a half at $210,000. Dozens of “interested parties” attended open houses and showings this winter, though all failed to follow through with an offer or could not qualify for the homes based on income requirements.
Only two of five total single family homes priced at $210,000 have sold since construction wrapped up in the fall of 2011.
Mr. Dewitt, Ms. Coyne and Ms. Strong said the taxpayers had already paid enough for the project and should not be on the hook for more money. They said the developer should try other approaches to selling the homes before coming back to the town with its “hand out.”
Councilors June Speakman and Kate Weymouth voted against the denial. Both said the motion would not help sell the homes at Walker Farm Lane, which are town-owned.
“I urge you,” she said to the other council members before the vote. “This does not solve the problem that this grant would solve.”
Ms. Weymouth tried to amend the motion so that West Elmwood would receive half of its request — $61,500. That move did not fly, as Mr. DeWitt, Ms. Strong and Ms. Coyne voted against it.
The three councilors then voted to deny any money to the affordable housing developer. That vote carried, 3-2.
The councilors suggested that West Elmwood explore other approaches to selling the homes — like installing a bigger buffer between the homes and nearby Wampanoag Trail — before asking for more taxpayer money.
Other money approved
While West Elmwood’s request for $123,000 was denied, the council did approve grants to other programs and organizations:
• $50,000 to the home repair program, which is available to lower income residents for projects like roof, window and boiler replacements.
• $14,000 to a planning study, which will analyze existing housing stock and design a program to capture existing affordable housing units in town.
• $5,000 to Cornerstone Adult Services, which provides adult day health services to elders and adults with disabilities and those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
• $3,000 for the Community Housing Land Trust.
• $5,000 for the Women’s Resource Center.

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2 Comments

  1. GaryM said:

    West Elmwood Housing has to be the dumbest developer on the planet, or the smartest.

    When they began the project, they had $815,000 to spread around to all of the 11 homes on the site. They chose to subsidize the easiest to sell leaving the homes right on Rt 114 with no subsidy money at all. Was that dumb, or smart?

    It appears it may have been a calculated move (who could be that dumb) where West Elmwood had friends in the Barrington Housing Board of Trustees who knew ahead of time they would raid the Spencer Trust for the remaining money. The problem for the Trustees was that the raid was discovered before it took place. It was halted.

    The Trustees then turned to the CDBG money with hope that they had friends on the town council. They had only two friends, and needed three.

    Thank goodness for the good judgement of councilors Coyne, Strong, and DeWitt.

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