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Town sells home for less than appraised value

Town of Winchester-20 Glenwood Ave. Property RFP-3

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A foreclosed uninhabitable single-family house will be sold by the town for $40,000, approximately 90% less than the assessed value.  At their September 11 Select Board meeting the sale was approved by a 3-1 vote, with only Mike Bettencourt voting in the negative. (John Fallon was not at the meeting). 

The property at 20 Glenwood Ave is on a 2,800 square foot lot was subject to a tax foreclosure (in or around 2015/2016) which took about a decade to accomplish. The building is in disrepair and will need to be demolished.

In 2018 Town Meeting voted that the town should use the property for affordable housing purposes. In 2021, the town asked Town Meeting for the authority to lease, sell, convey, release or otherwise dispose of the property which was granted. In addition, during the 2021 town meeting discussion, Town Meeting Member Roger Wilson proposed an amendment to the article so the town could recoup at least $350,000, the assessed value at the time, but arguments ensued about the assessed or appraised value (which was unknown). And members raised concerns about placing a required minimum value return since that could hinder affordable housing redevelopment on the lot. After debate, the amendment was voted down.

In 2021/2022, the town had an appraisal done on the property, which came in at $461,000, and the town issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for either the acquisition of the property or redevelopment of the property for affordable housing. If the town sold the property, the proceeds would be deposited in Winchester’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The RFP was advertised in the Central Register on July 27, 2023, with the RFP being available on August 2. Only one response was received from the abutters at 18 Glenwood Ave. Their response contained two offers; purchase of the property for $70,000 if the town demolished the 476 square foot house, or $40,000 if the buyers knocked it down.  But the RFP terms included the condition that the buyer must do the demolition, so the $70,000 offer could not be accepted.

At the Board meeting, Bettencourt raised concerns about only receiving one offer, which he said could be due to the fact the RFP was put out over the summer. He was also concerned about the low value of the offer, which would do little to move the needle for the affordable housing fund. Finally, he was interested in hearing stakeholders’ input before voting. Nevertheless, the motion passed. 

Both the Affordable Housing Trust Committee (AHTC) and the Housing Partnership Board (HPB) had 20 Glenwood on their agendas for the week of September 18. At both meetings, Bettencourt reiterated his concerns with the process and result. Members of both groups generally agreed with Bettencourt that the result was not what most had wanted for this property.

Bettencourt acknowledged at the HPB meeting that the Select Board did not expect to receive the appraised value, but that the $40,000 offer was “not helpful for us to move the needle at all” on providing funding for affordable housing.  He said it was a “missed opportunity,” especially given that the property was never listed on the open market.

At the HPB meeting, John Suhrbier pointed out that the offer is “well below the assessed value of $461,000.” However, he also pointed out that “this land has many challenges” because it is a very small lot and does not currently have parking. Suhrbier also indicated that a Medford community housing group had shown interest in the property but declined to move forward due to the number of challenges involved with the lot.

However, Precinct 5 Town Meeting Member Pamela Cort spoke at the HPB meeting saying this was “not the intention of Town Meeting when we decided to give the authority.” HPB member Michelle Bergstrom said this was “not our (HPB) intended use” and that there were “lessons to be learned.” She suggested that the HPB send a letter to the Select Board. Finally, HPB member Felicity Tuttle agreed there were lessons to be learned here but said the Select Board “could have not accepted and put out another RFP, but didn’t.”

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