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Housing advisors back in business
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 12:30

With a 4-1 vote, the Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to reinstate the town’s Housing Commission.

The commission was set to be abolished after the town decided last year to eliminate the entire Housing Department as a measure to help plug a $500,000 budget hole.

Town Manager Mike Scannell said at the time that while the decision was regrettable, it’s rare to find a Housing Commission in a town the size of Camp Verde. The commission protested the decision; every commissioner except Greg Blue voted to recommend against their dissolution. Blue said that as a developer, he may be able to work on housing issues with more freedom than he could as a public official.

The members of the Housing Commission made impassioned pleas to the council last week; they argued that even without a Housing Department, it was still important that local government keep a mechanism in place to deal with housing issues.

There was some discussion about forming a nongovernmental citizens committee, but in the end, the council voted to keep the commission, reducing the frequency of its meetings to four times a year.

Housing Commissioner Linda Buchanan expressed her displeasure at the way the town had handled dismantling the department and commission.
“There was no letter of appreciation,” Buchanan said. “ … [The council] really left us hanging.”

Buchanan questioned how the town could afford not to pay a relatively small sum to keep a Housing Commission, if not a department, to address very real concerns when it comes to a basic human right like having a place to live.

Housing Commission Chairman Jeremy Bach reiterated the importance of housing in his argument before the council and questioned why the council would eliminate his commission before some of the others, like the Trails and Pathways Commission.

Bach said he meant no disrespect to other commissions but felt housing was more important than trails.

Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser, who has never supported getting rid of the Housing Commission, said the decision was made because of the town’s financial situation; she believes that the current slump will eventually end, and the town will once again be able to put more money into housing.

Even with the elimination of the Housing Department, former Housing Director Matt Morris was assigned to spend 10 percent of his time on housing issues; the rest of his time will be spent devoted to rewriting portions of the town’s antiquated building and zoning codes.

Councilwoman Norma Garrison cast the lone no vote against reinstating the Housing Commission. She argued that while the decision to get rid of the commission was regrettable, it had already been made. Garrison said keeping the commission would cost more money when the town was already in dire financial straits, and this would mean the town would have to make cuts elsewhere.

In the meantime, Morris said he felt there was value in looking into forming a regional housing authority to work with issues in the Verde Valley.

The housing commissioners were upset, but they seemed pleased by the compromise to keep the commission intact after the motion made by Councilman Ron Smith was approved.

“You all have done a great thing here tonight,” Bach told the council.

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