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Funding firms up for affordable-housing site via new state program

Agency chief praises size of Arlington's 'heart' for 9-unit project

Celebrants outside 20 Westminster Ave. on Aug. 24, 2017. / Thomas Farmer photoCelebrants outside 20 Westminster Ave. on Aug. 24. / Thomas Farmer photo

With $330,000 from the state, and possibly more coming, a nearly $4 million project for nine affordable rental units near Downing Square has received the final piece of its funding package. The plan sponsored by the Housing Corporation of Arlington (HCA) could begin construction this fall, its executive director, Pam Hallett, told YourArlington.

Robert "Jay" Ash Jr., the state secretary of Housing and Economic Development, announced the state award for 20 Westminster Ave. at a public gathering at the former church attended by about 30 state and local officials Thursday, Aug. 24.

Saying the state-funding share was relatively small, Ash declared "the size of the heart" of Arlington is what matters in this case, emphasizing the need for affordable housing statewide and in Arlington.

The town is among first three communities, including Norwell and West Tisbury, to share in $2.2 million from the just-established Community Scale Housing Initiative, supporting 36 new affordable rental housing units. In fiscal 2017, which ended June 30, MassHousing provided about $729 million in financing for the preservation or construction of rental housing.

Friedman, Garballey comment

"I am thrilled that our community has been awarded this grant to help increase the availability of affordable housing in Arlington," state Senator Cindy F. Friedman said in a statement Aug. 25. "As we know, there is a real need right now in our state for greater housing options for middle- and low-income families. This grant, combined with federal funding and generous local support through Community Preservation Act funds, will help us to do that in Arlington and will greatly benefit families in our community."

State Ren. Sean Garballey, who was present Thursday, said in a MassHousing release: "This funding will expand affordable-housing options for low-income families and individuals facing homelessness through the creation of nine new rental units. This funding will also enable the restoration of a historic treasure in our community, further enriching the Mount Gilboa-Crescent Hill Historic District. I look forward to the completion of this groundbreaking project."

Hallett provided a sheet of numbers including the state amount at $330,000 and indicated more might come before general contractors Ron and Tom Caccavaro of Arlington begin construction. She said she had learned about the funding just two days before.

Ash credited Crystal Kornegay, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD), with proposing and pushing the new effort, which helps smaller-scale projects. It is a joint pilot of DHCD and MassHousing, providing funding for affordable-housing projects in municipalities with a population of no more than 200,000.

Jay Ash takes a selfie including those on a stairway inside 20 Westminster. / Thomas Farmer photoJay Ash takes a selfie including those on a stairway inside 20 Westminster. / Thomas Farmer photo

How site will be used; who will use it

The site of the former United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights, which has had other uses before and after the housing corporation bought it in 2014, expects to become one studio, five one-bedrooms, two two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom -- all for those who meet income guidelines under affordable housing.

Four of the units at the project will be affordable to households earning less than 30 percent of area median income.

20 Westminster is a nine-unit project, sponsored by the Housing Corporation of Arlington, that will provide affordable rental housing to low-income and extremely low-income households.

So what kind of break will renters get?

All units will be rented at 60 percent or less of the area median income. "This qualifies as low to moderate income," Hallett wrote Aug. 26.

A one-person household must have income at $43,400 or less this year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issues new guidelines each year, so that may change slightly by the time renting occurs.

3 units set aside for homeless

Three of the one-bedroom units are set aside for homeless from Somerville Homeless Coalition, which will provide social services. One additional unit will be for a veterans preference.

Two handicapped-accessible units will be on the first floor. One on the top floor is for those are sight- or hearing-impaired.

Outside, the triangle-shaped space at Lowell and Westminster will be retained as green space.

Inside, those present Aug. 24 toured the largely gutted building, which in the past month has had asbestos, oil, oil tank and boiler removed.

Among the visitors was Andrew Cannata, who with Gerald Sullivan of Sullivan Buckingham Architects, have designed the space, which will have no additions. The top floor has 15-foot ceilings, making it airy but insufficient space for another floor.

Karen E. Kelleher of Arlington, MassHousing deputy director, praised two generous sums that Arlington has set aside for the project -- $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds and $500,000 from the Community Preservation Act.

Funding sources, spending plan

Money other than the $330,000 from the new state program came from:

-- The North Suburban Consortium, $1.35 million;

-- Brookline Bank, $625,000;

-- Massachusetts State Historical Credits, $272,893 and;

-- Housing and Urban Development McKinney funds, $147,869.

Here's is the spending plan totaling $3,975,762:

-- Acquisition, $1.1 million;

-- Hard costs, construction, $1.8 million;

-- Contingency, $180,000;

-- Soft costs, $515,762;

-- Capitalized reserves, $60,000 and;

-- Developer fee, $320,000.

In addition to a church, the property at 20 Westminster has also been a preschool, a place for adult day care and a place for the Arlington/Belmont Crew Team.

2nd Downing Square project

Last December, the site served as the location of a hearing for another Housing Corporation project, 34 units of affordable housing, between Downing Square and the Minuteman Bikeway. An estimated 40 people, expressing a variety of views, crowded into a downstairs room before the Redevelopment Board approved the plan

Hallett said the HCA is seeking funding and aiming to complete the architectural plans.

Among others present Aug. 24 were Lynn Shields, manager, Affordable Housing Trust Fund at MassHousing, Town Planning Director Jenny Raitt, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and former Selectman Clarissa Rowe, as well as various HCA board members.

Top state officials comment

Thomas J. Farmer of MassHousing provided the following news release, which says in part:

"Our administration has substantially advanced the Commonwealth's investment in the construction and preservation of thousands of units of affordable housing, unleashing the creativity of our local partners across Massachusetts," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Reinvesting in public housing, rehousing formerly homeless families, and delivering infrastructure improvements that unlock private investment in production are helping to meet the state’s housing needs, and we look forward to the tools this initiative provides smaller communities to continue our progress."

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito added: "The Community Scale Housing Initiative will help create a more prosperous and welcoming Massachusetts and empower smaller municipalities to increase the availability of affordable housing. This initiative leverages significant local contributions, including Community Preservation Act funds, with new state funding to help suburban and rural communities accelerate production opportunities."

The pilot program advances the Baker-Polito administration’s commitment to increasing the production of affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth, by funding affordable housing projects at a scale that will be appropriate in a variety of community settings, including in smaller towns and rural communities.

DHCD and MassHousing have made at least $10 million available for the Community Scale Housing Initiative pilot. The agencies plan to open a new award round by next spring.

Not all was serious: While waiting for all to arrive, a chocolate frappe from Scoot 'n Scootery in East Arlington.

This news summary was published Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017.

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