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The Arlington Housing Authority plans to return a $35,000 federal grant unless an alternate appropriate use for the money can be found within a week, the board decided at its June meeting.

The grant from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, was originally supposed to be used to buy a van for AHA residents; these are senior, disabled and/or low-income people living in public housing. However, because of an existing van service provided by the town’s Council on Aging, the board unanimously voted to return the funds to the Town of Arlington if no alternative ideas are submitted by July 15.

One commissioner, Jo Anne Preston, volunteered to draft a proposal focusing on other forms of transportation use; YourArlington has asked her for comment on this. In any case, any such proposal will require approval by Town Manager Jim Feeney to ensure that the funds are used effectively without redundant services that try to accomplish the same goal.

Contacted earlier today, AHA Executive Director Jack Nagle explained further. "At our last meeting, the board agreed to move the next regular board meeting to July 15 to ensure [that] a meeting is scheduled for that date. If a proposal is ready in time for July 15, it will be considered by the board at this meeting. Due to these being ARPA funds, the final authority for the proposal will be Town Manager Jim Feeney. The July regular board meeting agenda will be posted at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting on the town calendar and AHA website, in accordance with Opening Meeting Law."

Altogether, on June 26, AHA's board met via Zoom for two and a half hours – three times as long as the typical meeting length – to discuss various issues. All commissioners attended, along with attorney John Greco, Director of Maintenance and Modernization Chris Partridge, Director of Operations Scott Shepherd, Director of Leased Housing Annette Thomas and Director of Finance Sandy Melanson.

Members of the public, including Winslow Towers Tenants Association President Doreen Curley, were also on the call.

The meeting was divided into three different parts: the Housing Choice Voucher Public Hearing, the State Annual Plan Public Hearing and the regular board meeting.

Environmental issues discussed

The board continued discussing ongoing plans to convert systems from gas to electric, including the necessary steps to do so. Although initially costly, this supports sustainability goals and reduces operational costs in the long run.

Additionally, Nagle outlined Phase One of a window replacement project at Menotomy Manor, the sole AHA property designated for families with children. According to Nagle, this was an “update related to future phases of work that could be included in the Deep Energy Retrofit Project at Menotomy Manor.”

Nagle stated that the window replacement project is a component of the larger Deep Energy Retrofit Project. While there is no specific timeline for the full conversion from gas to electric, the window replacement project is moving forward, with bids going out in the coming weeks and a contract expected by late summer or early fall.

During the meeting, housing vacancy rates across AHA properties were brought up. Currently, there are 13 vacancies, with nine offers already extended. This low vacancy rate mirrors the demand for affordable housing. The board discussed strategies to maintain similar rates in the future; these strategies range from proactive tenant support to rental recovery programs. AHA aims to keep tenants in their homes and maintain stability within the community.

Annual plan, improvements, CPA grant, contract

The board unanimously approved the 2025 Annual Plan. In this plan, the outlines discuss AHA’s goals for the upcoming year including updates to the Housing Choice Voucher Program's administrative guidelines, and it incorporates new regulations under the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA) and the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE). In 2025, these updates are expected to take place, intended to ensure compliance with federal guidelines and better housing quality.

Improvement projects were also on the agenda.

The board accepted a $200,000 grant from the Community Preservation Act for the development of a special-needs housing unit. This project, EOHLC Project 010127, will cater to residents requiring additional support.

The board awarded a $139,000 contract to Kneeland Construction Corp., of Medford, for renovations at the Donnelly House. The vote on this matter was unanimous; the contract was approved. The contract focuses on accessible bathroom facilities and metal stair guards. These improvements aim to enhance safety and accessibility for all residents.

Another project is a roof replacement for the Hauser Building, an apartment building at 37 Drake Road. The vote on this project was also unanimous. The project is estimated to cost $59,553. These modifications address issues and ensure that the project meets safety standards

March 25, 2024: Housing authority OKs heat pumps, learns of wage rates, state help

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Yujia Wang was published Monday, July 8, 2024.

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