MASSENA — The Massena Town Council has approved three policies that are required to receive grant funding such as a micro-enterprise grant received by the town — a Fair Housing Policy, Notice Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and Grievance Procedures Under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“One of the things I don’t think we realized is the requirement to make sure that policies are in place at the town level that further the priorities of the source funder, which in this case is HUD (Housing and Urban Development),” James Murphy, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, told board members Wednesday.
He said that among HUD’s priorities was “to promote practices of fair housing and anti-discrimination and access to things like that.”
He said the policies approved by the board were “all required policies that have to be in place before we can draw down any of the funds for the micro-enterprise grant program. This is also true for the grant-loan combination that the town is getting from USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Rural Development.”
Mr. Murphy said another requirement to receive USDA Rural Development funding was to develop a policy that addressed dealing with individuals with limited English proficiency.
“Another part of this requirement would be to make sure we have a method in our procurement policy with some provisions to promote MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) bidding and hiring whenever we can. These are all part of national objectives that we need to initiate and have at the local level on hand and in place,” he said.
Mr. Murphy said the town was required to designate a fair housing officer, which will be Brenda Mossow, the town’s bookkeeper and secretary to the supervisor.
“She’s been designated for the next two also,” he said of the Americans with Disabilities policies. “I think part of the logic there between Steve (O’Shaughnessy, town supervisor) and I is that she is always there and always dependable and probably is our town’s first source of contact, which is what you want.”
Part of the Fair Housing Policy is to ensure there was a procedure in place for grievances regarding housing.
“The big thing to realize there is that the town of Massena is not required nor will it be to adjudicate or levy fines or have anything to do with that as part of this Fair Housing Policy. Those decisions get moved up to the federal level either through the St. Lawrence County Fair Housing Task Force or through HUD itself. Our requirement is simply to record the complaint and provide forms and assistance to people making the complaint,” Mr. Murphy said.
A final requirement of the Fair Housing Policy was to put up posters promoting fair housing and perform other outreach efforts or ways to promote it.
“It could be an annual meeting with local realtors to explain fair housing practices, that type of thing. The idea is to develop some sort of outreach and to work with other entities that are doing reports on obstacles to fair housing and such,” he said.
Mr. Murphy said, in drawing up the policies, he used templates that were provided by the federal and state governments.
“I also pulled the best parts of two or three Fair Housing Laws that I found online from towns of similar size. I also sent it to the state to make sure it had their approval for the program and also for this grant program. Basically, I think it meets all the requirements in the form it’s presented,” he said.