State funding boosts 6 affordable housing projects

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / November 10, 2011

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Six housing proposals projects in area communities have been selected to share in state funding aimed at helping build and preserve low-cost rental units in Massachusetts.

The projects, two each in Beverly and Somerville, and one each in Danvers and Gloucester, will together add 124 affordable housing units in the region while rehabilitating one existing unit.

They are among 24 rental developments in 15 communities that were awarded a total of $64.5 million in housing resources and tax credits. Overall, the projects will create or preserve 1,071 rental units, 977 of which will be affordable to low- or moderate-income working families and individuals, including 190 households transitioning from homelessness. The work is expected to create 1,500 construction jobs, including 210 from the projects in this region.

Two of the awards went to projects that are being undertaken by the nonprofit Somerville Community Corporation. “We’re thrilled,’’ said Danny LeBlanc, the agency’s executive director.

The corporation received $619,550 in federal low-income tax credits and $2.6 million in housing subsidies for the third phase of Saint Polycarp Village, a project to develop affordable rental housing on the site of the former St. Polycarp parish, at Mystic Avenue and Temple Street, which it acquired in 2006.

State subsidies are typically no-interest deferred loans that are due at the end of a required period - usually 30 years. In order to maintain long-term affordability of units, the state commonly extends the deferral period, said Mary-Leah Assad, spokeswoman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

In the Saint Polycarp Village project’s first phase, the corporation built 24 affordable units on three commercial spaces. In the second phase, set for completion next month, the agency is building 29 affordable units and a community space on the site of the parish’s former convent and library. Phase III calls for 31 affordable units on the site of the former parish school.

The corporation also was awarded $1 million in subsidies for a $3 million project to construct a building at 75 Cross St. with eight units for currently homeless households.

LeBlanc said the funding awards provide the critical remaining financing needed for the two projects to move forward. The Cross Street project is expected to begin in January, and the Saint Polycarp Village construction in April.

“It’s gratifying,’’ he said of the agency receiving grants for two projects, noting that “there are a lot of worthy projects out there.’’

The YMCA of the North Shore and the North Shore Community Development Corporation were awarded $826,240 in state and federal low-income housing tax credits for the second phase of Holcroft Park Homes, in Beverly’s Gloucester Crossing section. The project, on Grant and Mill streets, involves creating 58 units of rental housing in seven new buildings. The complex is replacing 11 aging buildings.

The intent is to “transform what was a very challenging neighborhood in Beverly . . . into a place where most people would like to live,’’ said Jack Meany, the regional YMCA’s chief executive.

The first phase is nearing completion, with its 29 apartments in line to be rented next month. Work on the next phase is expected to begin in April.

“We are more than pleased,’’ Meany said of the state funding, which he called essential for the second phase. “We have a soft spot for this project in our hearts, and the fact that it is going to get done now, how we envisioned it, is just terrific.’’

Action Inc. will receive $575,145 in subsidies for a $1.3 million project to create four affordable units in two duplexes it is building on a vacant lot at 26-28 Marsh St. in Gloucester.

Peggy Hegarty-Steck, Action Inc.’s director of administration and program operations, said the funding provided the last key financing needed for the project, which earlier received $400,000 in federal funds from the North Shore HOME Consortium and $40,000 from Gloucester’s Affordable Housing Trust.

“We had put together a schedule we wanted to be able to adhere to, to get the units up and running as soon as possible, because there is such a strong need for housing, particularly for homeless families,’’ she said.

With the state award, the nonprofit agency is aiming to have construction begin next spring; it acquired the Marsh Street property last year.

The Beverly Housing Authority will get $500,000 in state housing subsidies for a $1.6 million project to rehabilitate a rental home on Spring Street, behind the MBTA commuter rail’s Montserrat Station, and create four affordable units in two duplexes it will build on the same property.

The state award completes a financing package for the project, which the town’s Housing Authority hopes to begin building next spring, according to Alice Krapf, a development consultant who is assisting the agency.

“I can’t tell you how pleased we are,’’ she said. “This is just the sweetest little project, and it fits in so nicely with the neighborhood.’’

In Danvers, the state awarded $813,176 in federal low-income housing tax credits and $1.55 million in housing subsidies to the Kavanagh Advisory Group for the first phase of Conifer Hill Commons, a project calling for 90 affordable units at 121 Conifer Hill Drive. The undeveloped site is near the intersections of routes 1 and 62, behind the Super Stop & Shop plaza.

The first phase of the project calls for 48 units, five of which will be reserved for families with extremely low incomes.

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