PLAISTOW — Selectmen are discussing a change to the town’s welfare guidelines, which could make it easier for people to receive housing.
The town has scrapped a requirement for a new tenant on welfare to have a new certificate of occupancy in order to qualify for a disbursement.
“The tenant’s payments were being withheld until the certificate is in place,” Selectman Daniel Poliquin said. “If their landlord chooses not to go forward with that, then that would affect the tenant and also the town. The town then becomes liable because it’s our responsibility to make sure everyone is housed.”
The certificate cost $50 and had to be paid when a new tenant moved into a rental unit. Homeowners on welfare did not need a new certificate.
“It was really redundant actually,” Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Gray said. “A certificate of occupancy is required whenever any new units are built, so no one could be living in a building without one. It didn’t really have anything to do with the welfare guidelines and it ended up just being a hindrance to people who might be on welfare.”
Selectmen got rid of that requirement last week, and are now discussing conducting an inspection when a new welfare recipient moves into town.
“We want to make sure that folks who need assistance are afforded safe, decent and accessible rental units,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “We are working on a recommendation for some sort of inspection to ensure that.”
But the details of what the inspection would consist of still need to be ironed out.
“I think when we put those guidelines in place, we just wanted a general inspection to be done,” Gray said. “The cost of inspection will have to be borne by someone. We aren’t sure who just yet or how often it has to be, but some sort of inspection has to be done.”
Gray said it likely would not be a detailed inspection.
“We just to make sure there is egress, the windows open, there is a fire protection system,” he said. “It would be very basic stuff.”
Poliquin, however, is against any type of inspection.
“I don’t see that it’s the town’s business,” he said. “It’s not like Plaistow is the land of dilapidated housing.”
Poliquin said he wasn’t sure how many people had their payments delayed because of the certificate requirement.
“I own property here and at least one of my tenants was denied their payments,” he said. “There could have been hundreds of instances of this over the years.”
Plaistow may have been the only municipality in the state to require a new certificate of occupancy.
“There aren’t any that I’m aware of,” said Dean Christon, executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Authority. “For federal rental assistance that require they inspect the dwelling before someone moves in, but I’m not aware of anything within towns.”
Gray said a final policy will likely be put in place later this month.