Local Government and Politics, News

Gov. Baker announces $80 million in funding for affordable housing projects

Gov. Charlie Baker gestures toward the former Machon School in Swampscott, the future site of the Senior Residences at Machon, one of the 28 projects that will receive funding through the 2019 Affordable Rental Housing Awards which Baker announced on Thursday. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — A $15 million housing development at the former Machon School will break ground next year thanks to funding from the state.

B’nai B’rith Housing, developers for the long-awaited Senior Residences in the 100-year-old Swampscott building, were awarded $2 million on Thursday from Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Nearly $80 million was awarded for 28 projects across the state through the 2019 Affordable Rental Housing Award program during an event at Jackson Park in Swampscott, just steps away from Machon. 

“I remember when my kids played soccer on this field and little league where the high school now stands,” said Baker. “This project in particular is a terrific example of creativity, imagination and diligence … We have an aging population here that would like to stay in the town where they raised their kids.”

Together the 28 projects include 1,581 rental units; more than 1,300 units will be affordable and 273 will be reserved for extremely low-income households.

“The housing crisis in Massachusetts has far reaching effects on our commonwealth and is a major obstacle to long-term growth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “Our workforce and low-income households need more housing options that connect them to employment opportunities, transportation and amenities. Our administration is proud to support today’s projects, which will further diversify our housing portfolio and help more families access stable housing.”

The money is coming from direct subsidies from seven state bond accounts and federal funds. The department also allocated $38 million in state and federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to the various projects, including $1 million to the Swampscott project, which will help them generate about $10 million in equity, said Max Glikman, B’nai B’rith’s Senior Project Manager.

The Swampscott developers received zoning approvals from the town in the fall of 2017. They had to apply for project extensions two years in a row, 2018 and 2019, after struggling to lock down full funding for the project, which will have 38 one-bedroom affordable rental units for seniors. 

Further funding for the project will come from North Shore HOME Consortium ($342,000) and a private philanthropy ($250,000). The rest of the estimated $15 million will be covered by a private mortgage, said Glikman. 

Susan Gittelman, executive director for B’nai B’rith Housing, said she and her team can’t wait to get started on the development. They expect to break ground early 2020.

“The number of seniors in this town greatly outraces other communities,” said Swampscott Select Board Chair Peter Spellios. “While most of those seniors continue to thrive here, many others are struggling and need our help.”

Housing and Economic Development Undersecretary Janelle Chan, state representatives Brendan Crighton (Chairman of the Joint Committee on Housing) and Lori Erhlich, and a number of representatives from communities benefiting from the housing awards also attended the event. Crighton, Chan and Baker all addressed the state’s “housing crisis,” and agreed the demand for housing continues to soar while the supply continues to be cut in half.

“Our administration has already invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing (since 2015) and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass our Housing Choice bill to facilitate the production of more new housing units in communities across Massachusetts,” said Baker.

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