Affordable housing company responds to town's concerns
October 27, 2010
TILTON — While town officials are concerned that the newest affordable housing development in Lochmere isn't providing enough housing for Tilton residents, Hodges Property Management says there are still units available for anyone who qualifies, regardless of where they live.
At the Oct. 14 selectmen's meeting, welfare director Heather Thibodeau voiced concerns that local residents in need of low-income housing were not getting priority status for the new Lochmere Meadows housing development off Route 3.
Thibodeau told selectmen she had concerns about out-of-area residents moving in and overburdening the town welfare budget, people she had not counted on when drawing up her budget for 2010.
Selectman Katherine Dawson said she had also heard some residents were told the new complex, which will see the first occupants move in at the end of the month, was already full, and she was concerned about occupancy.
Rick Bourgeois of Hodges Property Management is handling applications for the 28-unit subsidized housing complex and said last week that neither scenario was the case.
"We've completed seven applications right now and two others will be finalized soon. I only sent one application out of state and that was to a former Tilton resident who is looking to return to the area," he said.
So far three families moving in to Lochmere Meadows are from Laconia, one each from Meredith and Boscawen, and two from Tilton, including one who is moving back to the area after a stay in Las Vegas.
Advertisement for the units has all taken place locally in central New Hampshire newspapers, Bourgeois said. Hodges has received approximately 100 application requests, but not all of those applicants have returned the necessary paperwork to be considered for one of the available units.
"It's an extensive application process, so typically they come back slow to our office," he said.
Anyone who requests an application for Lochmere Meadows is referred to Bourgeois, who then mails out paperwork that has to be completed. Once that application is returned it goes through a pre-approval process and then, if qualified, is sent to Bourgeois to assess for final approval.
Of those applicants still being considered at this time, Bourgeois said one is from Manchester and another from Pittsfield. Others have called from Ashland, Franklin, Hill, Belmont and other neighboring towns in hopes of being approved for one of the 21 units still available.
Laconia Area Community Land Trust said at the ribbon cutting ceremony that flyers for Lochmere Meadows had been distributed throughout the Exit 20 area for employers to pass on to the workforce, the intended target population for the development. Applicants Bourgeois has heard from could possibly live in the surrounding towns and travel to Tilton for work. No one of any distance from the Lakes Regions has sought an apartment to his knowledge, he said.
Thibodeau said people employed in the area are not causing her a concern.
"They have a job and a support network here, so that's not an issue," she said.
What concerns her are those who could be deceptive about their location and are now moving to the area and seeking assistance from the town. Applications can also be filled out on the Hodges Property Management web site and would not necessarily have to be mailed to out of state locations.
Thibodeau said her office received calls from people who said they were approved for the housing development and in need of assistance for security deposits and moving costs. Tilton's welfare department does not provide funds for such requests, only emergency living expenses such as food, heat, electricity and clothing.
"If they're that needy before they even move here, they're going to have other needs down the road, too, and we just can't afford that," Thibodeau said.
So far she said she has received requests for assistance from Manchester, Penacook, New Boston, Salem and even Chelsea, Mass. Most claim to be approved for a move to Lochmere Meadows. Her biggest concern is that there are many families in town already needing assistance and she is committed to helping those residents. Last year alone she said an entire apartment building was emptied of its residents due to a lack of heat and she had to help them find alternative housing.
"We just can't afford to pay for more people to move in. I have two families who are homeless now and that's very frustrating that I can't get them in to a new place right here in town," Thibodeau said.
Bourgeois said he could understand the town's concern but his hands are tied.
"They're federally subsidized units, and I can't discriminate as to where the people are coming from if they qualify," he said.
All applications are first come, first served and if someone from another part of the state or even another state applies and meets the qualifications, he is obligated to rent to that person.
Thibodeau said she understands the concept of federal funding but feels the zoning board in Tilton could perhaps do more to prevent future situations like this. She said the board approves such complexes and creates bigger burdens on the town. She acknowledged that low income housing is necessary, and Tilton already has several units already in place. However, building more units to bring in more people with financial difficulties does not solve any of the problems she and others in town government work to solve.
"I just like to see people moving here who have a support system already in place. Family members, jobs and things like that. When the federal government gets involved though, you lose all local control and that's the problem here. It's not necessarily creating housing for Tilton residents who need it," she said.