Rent relief revived in Hadley

Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 01, 2020

HADLEY — Hadley officials are considering dipping into a pot of money set aside to support affordable housing projects as a way to provide rent support to residents struggling economically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the Nov. 14 special Town Meeting ended abruptly, when moderator Randy Izer determined there was no longer the necessary 100-voter quorum present to continue conducting business, residents were unable to vote to apply $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act account to set up the COVID-19 relief fund conceived by the Housing and Economic Development Committee.

But Dylan Manz, a member of the housing committee, told the Select Board last week that an alternative source of funding, which could be accessed before annual Town Meeting next spring, might be the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. His committee and the Finance Committee are both supporting this avenue.

Manz said Community Action Pioneer Valley is prepared to manage a relief fund and help people, should the demand exist. The program would be similar to one that Amherst created to help people with rent payments.

The Select Board unanimously endorsed having the Affordable Housing Trust Committee meet and examine the possibility.

Select Board Chairman David J. Fill II said it was worth checking to see if the COVID-19 relief fund could be created in this manner.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said he will examine whether it is legal to use the trust fund to support rent relief, adding that if it is possible there would be several steps to take before the Select Board ratified the use of the money.

Dwyer estimates that the trust fund holds about $300,000, all of which is related to the construction of the East Street Commons senior housing project off East Street by developer Barry Roberts.

Meanwhile, Select Board member Joyce Chunglo expressed frustration toward fellow member John Waskiewicz for asking Izer if the 100-voter quorum remained present at the special Town Meeting.

“I think it was above and beyond what he should have done,” Chunglo said, adding she was disheartened that people didn’t have the opportunity to consider the COVID relief fund and other articles, like one to move Hadley toward becoming a Green Community.

Waskiewicz, though, said it was sensible for him to make a quorum call because, as voters took up the purchase of a lawnmower for the Department of Public Works, it was obvious not enough voters were still present. He said that votes have happened at past sessions in support for spending that otherwise might fail if enough voters were present.

“Don’t attack me because there wasn’t a quorum at Town Meeting,” Waskiewicz said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.