MINUTES ADOPTED AS PRESENTED 03/05/2012
ENFIELD TOWN COUNCIL
MINUTES OF A SPECIAL MEETING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2012
A Special Meeting of the Enfield Town Council was called to order by Chairman Kaupin in the Enfield Room of the Enfield Town Hall, 820 Enfield Street, Enfield, Connecticut on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. The meeting was called to order at 5:31 p.m.
ROLL-CALL – Present were Councilmen Arnone, Bosco, Edgar, Hall, Kaupin, Kienzler, Lee, Mangini and Nelson. Councilman Crowley entered at 5:44 p.m. Councilman Stokes was absent. Also present were Town Manager, Matthew Coppler; Assistant Town Manager, Daniel Vindigni, Town Clerk, Suzanne Olechnicki, and Senior Assistant Town Attorney, Maria Elsden
ENFIELD HOUSING AUTHORITY
Present from the Enfield Housing Authority were Executive Director for the Enfield Housing Authority, Scott Bertrand. Also present were Housing Authority Board of Director members William Ballard, Tadeus Buczkowski, Mary Ellen Kuraska and Paul Nabors
Mr. Bertrand stated the Enfield Housing Authority owns and manages 456 apartments within seven developments. He noted they also manage the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is a separate federal program. He stated of the units they own and manage, they were financed by grants or low-interest loans from the State of Connecticut, therefore, there are no federal dollars tied to those apartments.
He explained Connecticut is one of only four states that actually develop their own housing. He noted the Enfield Housing Authority receives no on-going operating, subsidy or capital improvement funding for the seven developments. He stated the only exception being some tenant-based assistance that goes toward Mark Twain Congregate for some of the services and rent subsidy for tenants.
Mr. Bertrand stated he and the Board had a physical needs assessment done for all their properties. He noted the consultant tied some financial dollars to the physical needs, and they’ve been looking at each portion of this portfolio as a foundation for a long-term strategic plan.
He stated recently the State of Connecticut, through DECD, put $10 million dollars on the table from last year’s legislative session for moderate renovation work. He noted the Enfield Housing Authority is planning to submit an application for $1.6 million dollars. He stated their focus will be for Mark Twain Congregate.
Mr. Bertrand stated they’re looking at the preservation of their existing portfolio and rehabilitation of the existing units. He noted a big priority is their oldest development, which is the Enfield Manor development across from Enfield High School. He noted this development consists of 80 units, and they were built in the early 1960’s.
As concerns future demands for senior housing, Mr. Bertrand stated a lot has changed regarding demographics and income levels. He noted he sees a need for more congregate housing such as the Mark Twain facility.
He stated another hole they sometimes see in the affordable housing area has to do with single individuals who have not yet reached the age of 62 and who cannot afford a market rent.
Mr. Bertrand stated there has been a lot of talk about what Somers did. He noted Somers redeveloped their portfolio and pursued a tax credit program. He stated one concern is that the tax credit program is for 20 years, and at the end of 20 years, a decision has to be made.
As concerns mixed populations within senior housing, State Statute Section 8-113 considers individuals with disabilities as elderly. He noted the State guidelines are stricter than federal guidelines. He noted Massachusetts was successful with their housing a number of years ago by putting through a bill to set a cap, whereby 15% of senior housing would be for individuals with disabilities and the other 85% would be for seniors.
Mr. Bertrand stated they do resident screening on all their residents. He noted they can screen for criminal history, credit and prior landlord history. He stated most disturbances arise, not from the residents themselves, but from visitors or adult children taking up residence with their senior family member. He noted they do address these issues.
He stated of their 200 senior units, 57% of the residents are 62 and older. He noted the number has increased to 43% of the residents being under 62. He pointed out that number went from 30% to 43% in just three years. He stated they currently have 55 names on the waiting list of which 31 are under 62 and only 24 are over 62.
Mr. Bertrand stated Council members are welcome to meet with him if they wish further information.
Councilman Nelson voiced his concern that Enfield is losing more and more senior housing to people who are not seniors. He noted he’s aware of certain people living in these units who have alcohol or drug issues that are not corrected. He stated his belief this is not right and unfair. He pointed out for every apartment that is taken with these problems, they’re losing one senior apartment. He stated this has to stop because seniors should not have to put up with this. He offered his help to join this fight. He stated his belief that senior housing should be for seniors. He pointed out Green Valley is housing and is not senior housing. He suggested possibly these people should be shifted to Green Valley. He noted he has been hearing complaints from Woodside Park concerning this issue.
Councilman Nelson stated people should be made aware that the Enfield Housing Authority is responsible for this type of housing and not the Town of Enfield.
Mr. Buczkowski stated the Housing Authority has been working with legislative representatives for years in an attempt to come up with a percentage of housing designated for certain residents.
Ms. Kuraska stated several years ago when legislators were thinking about closing all Connecticut mental institutions, they didn’t talk to anyone in housing, and they then passed legislation which resulted in some of those institutionalized people being out on the streets. She noted she knew this would result in what’s happening today.
Councilman Nelson agreed people with disabilities should have housing, however, he feels they should be in regular housing and not senior housing.
Mr. Ballard stated the Director has done a great job. He noted tenants have to follow their lease, which is strictly enforced.
Councilman Nelson questioned whether people with disabilities are placed in regular housing too, and Mr. Bertrand stated in senior housing, we would only know that a person is disabled. He noted they cannot ask and do not ask what the disability is. He stated the only thing they’re allowed to know for the purpose of going to senior housing is that they’re disabled. He pointed out this is a state-wide problem.
Councilman Kienzler questioned the typical wait time for an apartment, and Mr. Bertrand responded about nine months.
Councilman Kienzler questioned if people on SSI can be put into one facility only, and Mr. Bertrand noted the State Statute does not allow towns to do designated housing. He added the only other thing that could be done is to advocate to change the statute.
Councilman Kienzler questioned whether some people on SSI might qualify for Section 8 housing. Mr. Bertrand stated anyone can apply for Section 8. He noted Section 8 is a federal program, and the overall demand for those vouchers is extremely high. He stated their wait list has been closed two years. He stated his belief that because of the economy, people aren’t turning in their vouchers.
Councilman Hall stated her understanding that in order to give seniors priority on the wait list for senior housing, the statute would have to be changed. Mr. Bertrand noted the way the statute is written considers a fully disabled person elderly, regardless of age. He stated if they were to give a preference to seniors, they could run afoul of fair housing laws. He pointed out Massachusetts was able to set a cap, whereby 15% of senior housing would be for individuals with disabilities and the other 85% would be for seniors.
Councilman Hall questioned whether any research has been done about pursuing a cap such as was done in Massachusetts. Mr. Bertrand stated this was looked at and it was felt it could be done, however, another faction believes this would be unconstitutional to the state constitution. He noted there was talk about getting something introduced this year, but they couldn’t get the momentum. He stated CCM carries a lot more weight.
Councilman Lee stated his understanding that financial aid or tax credits that would be originating with the municipality would not come with the strings of that statute which is rather limiting. Mr. Bertrand stated he believes it would, but he can’t give a firm answer. He suggested contacting Somers about their tenant selection plan.
Councilman Lee questioned whether the Enfield Housing Authority manages or maintains the list of homes in Enfield that are currently receiving Section 8 voucher payments. Mr. Bertrand responded yes, for those vouchers that are administered by the Enfield Housing Authority. He noted they’ve used this in working in partnership with the Town for code enforcement when issues have come up.
Councilman Lee questioned whether the Section 8 list is checked in cases of blight to see if a Section 8 home is involved. Mr. Bertrand stated when a complaint comes out, he checks the list.
Councilman Crowley stated his understanding that even if Enfield creates more senior housing, it doesn’t necessarily mean Enfield residents will occupy that housing. Mr. Bertrand stated local requirements are illegal. He added they can do a local preference, but they have to be sure they’re not adversely impacting a protected class.
Mr. Bertrand stated the majority of applicants have ties to this community. He noted the congregate housing model has been successful, and that program is restricted to the frail elderly.
Councilman Crowley suggested perhaps the Council can form a committee to talk to their leaders and go to CCM to push this law to go through next year.
Mr. Bertrand stated his belief a multi-prong approach would be a great idea.
Councilman Crowley suggested Mr. Bertrand discuss this issue on E-TV so that people can also send letters of support to their legislators.
Councilman Mangini cautioned the Council carefully articulate its concerns so as not to step on the lines of the law.
Councilman Arnone questioned if a market study is planned in the future. Mr. Bertrand stated at this point they haven’t formally looked to put out an RFP or RFQ.
Councilman Arnone questioned how they can launch that market study. Mr. Bertrand stated either the Town or Housing Authority or both can put out an RFP.
Councilman Nelson stated according to the statistics, it’s inevitable that within 20 years there will be no more seniors in the senior housing. He noted this will happen unless something is done now. He stated his belief they should set up a meeting with Enfield’s representatives and senator as soon as possible.
Councilman Crowley questioned if they could create a new law that establishes just senior housing. Mr. Bertrand noted he would check into this.
Chairman Kaupin questioned what defines congregate housing versus Woodside Park. Mr. Bertrand stated congregate housing is for frail elderly individuals who have difficulty with one or more daily life functions. He noted the Mark Twain facility has a service component, i.e., 24X7 coverage, one meal per day and available light housekeeping services.
Chairman Kaupin agreed with previous comments about the need to get seniors into senior housing. He stated his impression closed school buildings would be most practically used for congregate housing. He noted he would like the Council to partner with the Housing Authority on some type of study to determine needs, use and cost.
Chairman Kaupin stated there will be a meeting with the Town’s legislative delegation the first week in March, and the Council will be sure to raise this topic.
There was no Executive Session this evening.
MOTION #1685 by Councilman Nelson, seconded by Councilman Mangini to adjourn.
Upon a SHOW-OF-HANDS vote being taken, the Chair declared MOTION #1685 adopted 10-0-0, and the meeting stood adjourned at 6:45 p.m.