Building Commissioner Robert Morra issued a Notice of Violation on September 18th to Amherst-Presidential Village, LLC informing the owner that Presidential Apartments was in violation of the Special Permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2013 which required that six units in Presidential Apartments be reserved for rental to low- or moderate-income tenants.
In addition, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development issued a Notice of Default to the owner on September 15th for “failure to rent the requisite number of rental units in the Project to eligible tenants…”
“The owner of Presidential Apartments received permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals to construct 54 additional dwelling units and, as a condition of that approval, the owner agreed to dedicate six units for rental to low- or moderate-income households,” said Town Manager Paul Bockelman, “This did not happen. But the Town will take the steps necessary to ensure it does.”
In 2013, Presidential Apartments was granted a Special Permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals to construct 54 new dwelling units. The size and scope of the project triggered the Town’s Inclusionary Zoning Bylaw (Article 15 of the Zoning Bylaw), which required the designation of six affordable units. The owner of Presidential Apartments agreed that all six units would be rented to households earning a maximum of 80 percent of the Area Median Income so that they all could be included on the Town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI). The units would be added to the Town’s SHI through the Local Initiative Program (LIP), which is a state housing initiative administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that encourages communities to develop Local Action Units (LAUs). The LAU program requires the submittal and approval by DHCD of an application form, local action (i.e. zoning permit), regulatory agreement (affordable restriction), and an affirmative fair marketing and lottery plan.
Presidential Apartments chose to work with the Amherst Housing Authority (AHA) to develop the marketing plan and to serve as the monitoring agent so that the units would be included on the SHI. A contract between Presidential Apartments and the AHA was executed in July 2015, but changes in leadership at the AHA delayed the lease up of the affordable units. Presidential Apartments, working with Kamins Real Estate as property managers, informed the Town and AHA in May 2016 that they would wait until the AHA had a new executive director and would continue with the marketing of the units.
In December 2016 the AHA, with new staff, developed the affirmative marketing plan and necessary information to market the units. Around this same time, the Town and Presidential finalized the legal Regulatory Agreement and other documents needed to submit the LAU application.
In April 2017 all parties confirmed that a September 1st lease up was targeted. The Select Board approved the acceptance of a permanent affordable housing restriction on the six units and agreed to enter into a regulatory agreement. Subsequently, the LAU application with required documents was submitted to DHCD in May 2017. DHCD approved the marketing plan in June 2017 and signed the Regulatory Agreement on July 13, 2017.
AHA began marketing the units in June with flyers, mailings, and a media blast, advertising a lottery on August 11th and lease up for September 1, 2017. The lottery was held on August 11 and shortly thereafter the AHA transmitted the lottery winners to Kamins Real Estate for further screening and review. In late August the Town became aware that there were issues with the availability of the affordable units, and Town staff met with Presidential and Kamins to discuss the lease up of the units.
In the following two weeks it became apparent that the six units reserved for affordable tenants were rented at market rate and not immediately available. The lack of affordable units violates both the zoning permit and the regulatory agreement. In response to this violation, the Building Commissioner wrote a Notice of Violation dated September 18, 2017 and DHCD issued a Notice of Default on September 15, 2017. Presidential Apartments is now organizing a meeting with the AHA and Town to present strategies to remedy the violations.