Aldermen give final approval to new Housing Stability Department

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Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – In a 9-5 vote, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) gave final approval for a Department of Housing Stability to become an official part of the city’s government earlier this week.

After an initial approval needed as part of the ordinance making process and months of talk over the need for the department, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig put the item on full board’s agenda per her authority under Rule 16 of the BMA’s rules. Alderman At-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur stated his opposition to placing the item on the agenda, which normally would have been reviewed an additional time through the committee process, but his concerns eventually made way to other concerns regarding the topic.

Some Aldermen opposed to the concept wondered if it was inappropriate not to open the process of hiring a director of the new department, allowing outside candidates to apply for the role. Craig and others indicated that the position in the wording of its responsibilities would be comparable to the current role played by Manchester Director of Homeless Initiatives Adrienne Beloin.

Although Beloin’s role would be comparable, if not expanded, Craig noted that the intertwined issues of homelessness and housing affordability are too large to fit within the purview of any current city department, and that even if they were, city department heads are currently stretched to their limit with their existing responsibilities. Craig also indicated that allowing Beloin to serve as a department head would make her a peer with other department heads, making it easier for her to use experience she accumulated in Boston addressing the topic of homelessness than in her current position within the city’s Fire Department.

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Adrienne Beloin is the new head of the city’s Housing Stability Department. Andrew Sylvia

Levasseur disagreed with this assessment, believing that the role may be better suited for the city’s Planning and Community Development Department, with Ward 6 Alderman Crissy Kantor and Ward 8 Alderman Ed Sapienza feeling that the department’s creation would not solve homelessness but only create more bureaucracy.

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long and Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry felt that they may be able to support the proposal once more data was obtained, but comments from Ward 7 Alderman Mary Sullivan-Heath, Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh and Ward 12 Alderman Erin George-Kelly made the case that the laser focus that would be provided by the department did not need any more deliberation.

“We need to stop going in circles and approve this today,” said George-Kelly.

Levasseur, Long, Barry, Kantor and Sapienza provided the opposition votes to the measure. Among those voting in favor were Aldermen June Trisciani, Will Stewart and Kevin Cavanaugh, three of four candidates running for mayor in the upcoming Sept. 19 primary election.

Fourth mayoral candidate Jay Ruais released the following statement on the vote:

“While I am disappointed in the votes taken by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, I am not surprised. For too long, our City’s leadership in Manchester has failed to properly address and fix the homelessness issues in our city. Homelessness in Manchester has surpassed crisis levels and it will not be fixed until we focus on providing solutions, and action, and not more bureaucracy, more words, more studies and more commissions. We also cannot allow our streets to be overrun by encampments. This starts with giving our police the tools they need to make our city safe, clean and inviting. 

Two weeks ago, I held a press conference during which I laid out a comprehensive plan to fix this crisis and get our city on the right track. I am still the only candidate in this race who has done so. At nearly every one of the 13,000 doors we’ve knocked, we hear about the homeless crisis and public safety. It is the job of our elected leaders to offer solutions and fix these issues, not pay lip service to it, while kicking the can down the road. We have a city filled with so much promise, but unless and until we fix these problems, we will fail to reach our full potential.”


 

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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.