Chilmark selectmen approve rent management agreement


Chilmark selectmen have approved a rental management agreement for the six soon-to-be-completed Middle Line Road affordable housing units, on 21-acres of heavily wooded town-owned land off Tabor House Road.

Selectmen met with David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA), to review the organization’s proposed management plan for Chilmark’s first ever town-sponsored affordable housing project.

The Middle Line Road project, in the works since 2003, includes six rental units in three duplexes, and six single-family, owner-built houses on one-acre lots, awarded by lottery in January 2010, subject to 99-year leases on the land.

Taxpayers have spent approximately $1.5 million for land acquisition and infrastructure costs.

In April, selectman reviewed a draft management plan from the DCRHA, which proposed that an average of 10-percent of the annual rental income from the project, or $6,467, would go toward the DCRHA management fee; and seven-percent, or $4,527, would go toward DCRHA administrative fees.

This did not cover all maintenance fees for Middle Line; the management plan also set aside $6,000 for landscape maintenance and snow removal, $1,000 for septic service, and $2,000 for community housing and road association dues.

At the time selectman Frank Fenner, who has since become chairman, suggested that these costs were too high, considering town taxpayers helped subsidize the project.

This week, Mr. Vigneault gave selectmen a revised plan for the rent schedule and property management plan. The plan called for a single one-bedroom and a single two-bedroom apartment to be available to a tenant making at least 65-percent of area median income (AMI).

Meanwhile a single one-bedroom, one two-bedroom and a pair of three-bedrooms would be available at 70 AMI. Under the plan a tenant at the 65-percent AMI would pay $726 a month for a one-bedroom, and $890 for a two-bedroom.

A tenant at the 70-percent AMI would pay $869 a month for one-bedroom, $1,033 for a two-bedroom and $1,170 for a three bedroom.

Mr. Vigneault said the DCRHA changed the property management plan, reducing the management fee from 10 percent to eight percent of the annual rent income, plus a $38 an hour fee for additional services performed by O’Brien Property Management Inc. of Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Vigneault said O’Brien Management will handle the day-to-day maintenance responsibilities, covered within the eight percent. He said the firm will only be paid the hourly fee for “extraordinary services,” such as painting a unit after a tenant moves out or performing emergency repairs.

“[O’Brien] will handle all the physical upkeep … this is a firm with five full-time employees, fully insured, health insurance through the company, all residents of the Vineyard, working under [owner] James O’Brien, with whom we have a 16-year relationship,” Mr. Vigneault said.

Mr. Vigneault said DCRHA will put the property management contract out to bid later this year. “It’s been a while, and we need to check it against the market, we are pretty happy with what we have, and we don’t see anyone else. But we need to check it, it’s only fair,” he said.

Mr. Fenner said he was still unclear why the town was paying an administrative fee for the DCRHA and a separate management fee for O’Brien Property Management.

“I understand when we pay the seven percent to the housing authority what they are doing for us. I don’t understand what I am paying O’Brien eight percent for. Is somebody answering the phone? What is happening? That’s what I would like to see listed,” Mr. Fenner said.

“It’s very simple,” responded Mr. Vigneault. “You’ve got O’Brien property management on retainer. If an alarm goes off, he goes up. A water main breaks, he goes up. A tenant dispute, he goes up … for the eight percent he becomes our guy on the ground for everything that occurs,” he said.

Selectmen seemed satisfied with the explanation and agreed to the management plan.

“I think the housing authority and David [Vigneault] have experience doing this,” selectman Warren Doty said. “I think when starting off our tenancy this fall it would be best to just follow their scheme and use their people. And if in a year from now, or two years from now, we want to make an amendment, we can try.”