Observer Corps Report June 2020
The Falmouth Affordable Housing Committee (AHC) assists the Board of Selectmen in its efforts to provide a full range of housing choices for households of all incomes, ages and abilities. The committee works to identity workforce housing needs, to reduce the out-migration of younger residents, and to minimize displacement of elderly residents on fixed incomes.
This report covers meetings of the committee from June 2019 through January 2020. It is based on attendance at the committee meetings as a League observer and draft or approved minutes. The members of the committee changed during this period. Karen Bissonnette (Falmouth Housing Trust Director) and Onjalé Scott Price joined the committee while Holly Wilson resigned from the committee. The other members are Edward Curley (Chair), Jessica O’Brien, Pamela Harting-Barrat, PhD, Renie Brunn and Karen Bissonnette. Carla Feroni, Falmouth Housing Coordinator, updates the committee at most meetings. The AHC meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 3:00 to 5:00 at the Town Hall, Old Water Department Room.
The committee works within town government to further affordable housing (AH). It followed the progress of over 12 properties from planning through construction and occupation; too often with stops at litigation. This allows the committee to identify cases where it may provide assistance to the Select Board in achieving its AH goals. The committee maintains a good working relationship with the Housing Coordinator, the Town Manager’s office, the Planning Office and the Planning Board. A member of the AHC serves on the Falmouth Affordable Housing Fund Working Group. The committee formally recommended to the Select Board that a portion of monies from the new Occupancy (AirBnB) and increased Hotel taxes be used to support future affordable housing in town. However, these funds were not identified and could not be distributed separately from other funds.
In addition to its work with town government, the committee carries out outreach and education about AH as called for in the town’s Housing Production Plan. With the Planning Board, the AHC organized and presented a Housing Summit, “The Face of Affordable Housing in Falmouth: Myth verses Reality”. The summit took place on October 2, 2019 and over 100 people attended (it is available on FCTV). The Housing Coordinator, Carla Feroni made opening and closing remarks and eight people, including residents of Falmouth AH, spoke about several aspects of AH in Falmouth. The AHC has formed a working group to plan the 2020 Housing Summit.
Members of FHC appear highly knowledgeable and extremely dedicated to the community. The monthly meetings are held in an open manner with members of other town committees, including the Select Board, and members of the public in attendance. Meetings are conducted respectfully and amicably. Questions from the public are addressed in a respectful and thorough manner. Agendas are posted online with appropriate timeliness.
Kerry Walton, LWVF Observer Submitted February 2020