PLAISTOW — Selectmen will hold a public hearing tonight regarding changing the requirements for tenants who receive public housing assistance from the town.
Specifically, the board is looking to strike language from town welfare regulations requiring tenants to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the town’s building department to qualify for the town housing funds. Currently, the property owner is responsible for paying for that certificate of occupancy for the tenants in their buildings.
Under wording in the town welfare guidelines, those certificates of occupancy are needed whether a tenant needs assistance and is moving into a new apartment or if they need assistance where they already live.
Last week, Selectman Dan Poliquin recused himself from his role as selectmen to address the board on the issue during the public comments section of the meeting.
“It was brought to my attention as a landlord in this town that we still have to issue occupancy permits for tenants,” said Poliquin. “I didn’t think that this was done any more and thought the issue had been put to rest.”
Under the welfare requirements issued by the town’s human services department, Poliquin said there is a paragraph stating that all rental units must have a certificate of occupancy for the current tenant issued by the chief building inspector.
Poliquin stated that Plaistow was the only town he knows of that requires a certificate of occupancy, especially for tenants who have already been living in a unit and may not need public assistance until they have been there for some period of time.
Selectman Robert Gray said he understood Poliquin’s concerns, especially for requiring the occupancy certificates for a unit a tenant has already lived in.
“People who are currently in housing trying to get assistance shouldn’t be burdened trying to get a certificate of occupancy,” said Gray.
Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the language was in the guidelines to ensure that tenants who need public assistance are living somewhere that is safe and sanitary. He suggested selectmen consider looking at a change to the regulations to ease the burden on landlords, but still protect tenants.
However, Selectman John Sherman said he was in favor of striking the paragraph requiring the occupancy certificate altogether.
“I would vote to do it tonight, but something tells me we should have a public hearing,” he said.
The board unanimously voted to hold the public hearing tonight.