Saturday, March 12, 2011

LOCAL HOUSING NEWS: Housing project funds awarded

Five communities north of Boston were recently awarded $7.2 million in federal and state low-income housing tax credits and subsidies that will help fund the construction of various affordable housing projects, and create about 400 construction jobs.

Chelsea, Lawrence, Revere, Salem, and Tyngsborough were among 21 communities statewide to be on the receiving end of a $71.37 million pledge from Governor Deval Patrick to use a combination of federal and state tax credits and other sources to fund the construction of 31 rental developments.

These competitive tax credits are vital for the creation of affordable housing units, particularly in low-income areas where the need is greater, said Ann Houston, executive director at Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, an affordable housing development nonprofit organization.

“We cannot develop the housing without the state’s support,’’ she said. “It was absolutely critical that we have the state’s investment. It wouldn’t have hap pened without the funds.’’

The Chelsea-based organization was awarded funding for two affordable housing developments they are planning in Chelsea and Revere. For the 32-unit Highland Terrace project in Chelsea, the organization got $720,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits, and $2,015,164 in state Department of Housing and Community Development program subsidies.

Tax credits are sold to investors, enabling the developers to use that income for affordable housing projects. The subsidies are loans that don’t have to be repaid immediately.

Highland Terrace will be part of the Box District area, where a former brass-manufacturing building will be torn down to make room for the 32 new units, which will be complemented by a park the city is planning to build adjacent to it, Houston said. The project could break ground by June and has an estimated total cost of $10 million, she said.

“It’s truly the heart of this new neighborhood,’’ Houston said. “In Chelsea, on average, people spend 59 percent of their income on housing. That’s pretty tough. This will allow us to ensure that we have a little more housing that’s affordable.’’

Chelsea Neighborhood Developers also received $350,000 in Department of Housing and Community Development subsidies to complete the historic preservation of the former Walden Street fire station, which will be converted into seven units of affordable senior housing. The 104-year-old building will be renovated to a certain historical standard and redeveloped into five one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units for seniors 62 and over at a total cost of about $2.2 million, Houston said. Construction on this project could get started in the spring.

The second phase of a 40B affordable housing project in Tyngsborough was also among those selected for funding. Maple Ridge, a 96-unit development in four buildings, will receive $627,000 in federal low-income tax credits and $171,150 in state-issued low-income housing tax credits to fund the construction of the final 24 two-bedroom units. The entire development, at a total cost of about $24 million, is affordable, said Stephen Kominski, vice president of acquisition for developers Dakota Partners Inc. of Waltham. The total cost of the second phase is about $6 million, he said.

Three of the 24 units in the second phase will be reserved for people with extremely low incomes. With rents for a two-bedroom unit at $500 for those with the lowest of incomes, Kominski said, there is “an enormous waiting list.’’ For the rest of the affordable units, rents average about $1,100 for a two-bedroom.

“The demand is there,’’ Kominski said.

Winn Development and College Street Management, developers of portions of the Malden Mills complex in Lawrence, will also get $96,000 in federal tax credits to convert two historic mill buildings into 75 units of mainly affordable housing. Of those, 72 will be affordable, including eight reserved for households with very low incomes. Construction could start this summer and take about 14 months, said Gilbert J. Winn, managing principal at Winn Development. The total building cost is about $20 million, he said.

Meanwhile, the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, in affiliation with the Archdiocese of Boston, received $1,237,500 in federal tax credits; $242,385 in state tax credits; and $4.5 million in state Department of Housing and Community Development program subsidies for the construction of 51 units of affordable housing at the former St. Joseph Church site in Salem. That church was closed seven years ago by the archdiocese.

Houston, of Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, said too many people are paying far more rent than is reasonable, and said she is grateful for the tax credits program, which is the main funding source of affordable housing developments.

“If people are paying too much rent, they don’t have enough money for clothes or food or transportation.’’

Katheleen Conti Boston Globe March 6, 2011

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