WILLIAMSTOWN -- Affordable Housing Committee members discussed a housing needs assessment at Wednesday's meeting, as they continue to work toward a "baseline planning document" for finding a solution to the town's affordable housing needs.
The committee spoke in conference call with John Ryan of Development Cycles, of Amherst, the consulting firm whose $8,500 bid the committee accepted at their meeting on Dec. 20, 2012.
"We feel a real sense of urgency, so there's hope we'll have the [housing needs] information by the end of March," committee chairwoman Cathy Yamamoto said during the conference call.
Ryan gave an overview of the process and described what the end result will be.
Ryan said the latest federal census will be an important source, as will the American Community Survey. The latter is an annual survey sampling a small percentage every year, and provides communities with information to plan investments and services.
In addition, he said, he will need to work with the town assessor in order to research current conditions and value of properties that could potentially have affordable housing units.
The final written document will address the levels of need that exist in the town, the different types of housing that are needed, and the different groups of potential residents.
"That info provides a meaningful profile of the kind of need that exists in the community, and a sense of how that need is going to change over time," Ryan said.
Ryan will meet with the committee on Feb. 12 to discuss key findings. The committee will be able to provide input that would direct how the final document would turn out.
Committee member Van Ellet said he expects the assessment to be a "baseline planning document" for a number of years, and encouraged Ryan to be as specific as possible when identifying the long-term levels of need.
"I think it would be helpful in helping us prioritize and make decisions on how we proceed," Ellet said.
The committee issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to perform a marketing analysis and housing needs assessment in October.
"This is something that is required by developers and agencies that provide funding for housing projects," chairwoman Yamamoto told the Transcript in an Oct. 13, 2012 article. "They need to have up-to-date information as to the town's housing needs and demographics."
The town's master plan, while it includes such data, is 10 years old.
The study will be paid for from the $107,500 in Community Preservation Act funds that Town Meeting approved in May 2012. The committee requested the funds to investigate the developing of low-cost housing on local properties. The request came after The Spruces Mobile Home Park was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
In other business, the committee discussed the presentation made by Guntlow Engineering at its Dec. 18 meeting. Two engineers presented a site concept for the Lowry with 40 units of affordable housing. As a result of public forum, it was concluded that the Guntlow concept, along with other old site concepts, be made available to the public. Yamamoto stressed that while the plans were purely conceptual, many people felt the designs were set in stone and were upset such sketches weren't posted.
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