The Select Board this week renewed Bedford’s annual agreement with one of the state’s most successful grass-roots inter-municipal collaboratives.
The 12-year-old Regional Housing Services Office (RHSO) now serves 10 towns, as Natick recently joined Acton, Bedford, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Maynard, Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston.
Its mission is assistance with administration and management of the towns’ affordable housing inventory.
Elizabeth Rust, RHSO director, was present for the vote. She provided the board with a recap of the past year and the goals for the next one.
Bedford’s share of the coming year’s budget is $38,000, based on calculation of staff hours. The money comes from community preservation funds.
Rust outlined the agency’s roles, as executed over the past year:
- Monitoring affordable houses that are owned, including capital improvements and refinancing. Bedford has 53 such units.
- Monitoring rental properties. There are 215 units across eight properties in Bedford, Rust said. All are requesting rent increases, and “we help the town with that.”
- Supporting housing programs, such as rental assistance or small-grant awards from the Bedford Municipal Affordable Housing Trust.
- Managing inventory, “one of our cornerstone pieces, with all affordable housing restrictions gathered in one place,” Rust said.
- Administering specific programs to benefit residents of affordable housing in all RHSO communities, such as training for homeowners and legal assistance.
Rust told the board that the staff of five part-time employees includes a specialist in long-term rentals who manages leasing agreements, as well as a former town planner. “You tap into all these technical resources, which is very hard to do if you have a small amount of money,” Rust said. The office is in Concord.
Goals for the coming year don’t differ from those of every year, Rust said. She listed supporting the towns’ housing goals, staffing board and committee meetings as requested, handling resale of local properties on the affordable inventory, and providing support to town staff and property managers.
“I think this is one of the best values that we use our community preservation dollars for,” said Select Board member Margot Fleischman, who was on the board when the town made the transition to the new intertown model. When those tasks were handled locally, “
it was another responsibility for someone who had a full-time job.”
She said it became apparent “how impossible it would be for us to have this expertise in-house,” such as compliance requirements “that we never would have caught.”