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‘We’re a town with compassion’: Hadley sets up relief fund for residents harmed by pandemic

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

HADLEY — A rental assistance program to help families and individuals financially impacted by the pandemic will be established using money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The Affordable Housing Trust, at its initial meeting Tuesday, voted 6-1 to approve using $50,000 from the account to establish the COVID relief fund.

“What we’re trying to do is show that we’re a town with compassion,” said Planning Board member Mark Dunn, who is also a member of the trust committee. “We want to try and keep people who wanted to be here but COVID changed their circumstances.”

Only Planning Board member Joseph Zgrodnik voted against using the money, expressing concern that not enough is known about how the relief fund will be implemented, including whether unqualified people, such as college students, might get financial aid, and whether the program was subsidizing landlords.

Under the plan created by the town’s Housing and Economic Development Committee, Community Action Pioneer Valley will be the administrator and review applications. Those applying must already be living in town, been harmed financially by the pandemic and possibly in danger of being evicted if not meeting monthly rent payments.

“The intent of the program is to keep people in their homes,” said Molly Keegan, a member of the Housing and Economic Development Committee.

Town officials had hoped to establish the relief fund with $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act account and approval by voters at Town Meeting last month. But when Town Meeting was adjourned due to a lack of quorum, before that article was taken up, using the Affordable Housing Trust was pursued as an alternative.

If money is drawn from the trust, it could be reimbursed from the Community Preservation Act account at next spring’s annual Town Meeting.

Select Board member David J. Fill II, who is also a member of the trust committee, said the exact demand for the relief fund is unknown.

The money in the trust has come largely through payments made by Amherst developer Barry Roberts related to the East Street Commons senior housing project. A percentage of the sales price for each home is being put in an escrow account under the terms of the zoning variance Roberts received, rather than construction of affordable homes within the subdivision. At least $280,000 is already in the trust.

Town officials will need attorneys from KP Law to verify that the money can be spent, with Select Board approval expected later this month. Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said he will also contact attorney Thomas Reidy at Bacon Wilson, PC in Amherst to determine how to access the money.

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