SALEM — Seven housing initiatives in the city will split nearly $9.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help address housing affordability and availability in the community, Mayor Kimberly Driscoll’s office announced.
Affordable housing construction grants will receive more than half of the funding — $5 million — with the new program providing awards of up to $2 million per project for the physical construction of affordable rental housing units.
“This new construction grant program is a significant investment of local resources that will protect the availability of affordable, secure, and stable homes,” said Amanda Chiancola, deputy director of the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development. “Through the housing roadmap process, community members in Salem affirmed that they see housing as a human right and the construction grant program is one more step towards our community meeting that vision.”
The city also directed $1 million to accessory dwelling unit grants, which are aimed at aiding homeowners to create “deeply affordable” ADUs at their property by having the grants fund some of the costs associated with creating the units.
Another $1 million will go to affordable housing energy efficiency enhancement grants, which will provide capital funding for energy efficiency projects at eligible affordable housing properties in the city.
“The climate crisis requires us to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings and to require it for new buildings, as well as to transition away from fossil fuels in the building sector. As the City strives to accomplish these transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and to increase energy efficiency in the building sector the Sustainability, Energy, and Resiliency Committee is proud that the City wants this energy transition to be fair, just, and equitable,” said SERC Chair John Hayes.
The city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund will also receive $1 million, and the grant is expected to help the trust engage more directly in acquiring, preserving, and transferring affordable units to community partners, and maintaining deed-restricted permanently affordable housing.
“This investment of federal dollars into the AHTFB will strengthen our ability to learn from our past, engage with our present, and look to our future as we continue to think of creative, mindful, and forward-thinking tools to meet Salem housing needs, today and tomorrow,” said Filipe Zamborlini, vice chair of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board.
An additional $500,000 will go to digital access & equity grants, which will fund digital access and equity projects in low-income and affordable housing properties in the city.
The city directed $100,000 to a first refusal pilot program, which would allow the Affordable Housing Trust to purchase a right of first refusal on properties with existing affordable units or the potential for affordable units.
The remaining funds, totaling $475,000 will go toward strengthening existing housing programs.
“For many Salem residents, the last few years of this pandemic have resulted in greater levels of housing insecurity,” said Driscoll in the statement. “This, combined with the rapid increase in home values and rents, has only exacerbated the need for real action on housing and affordability. I am proud of the work that we have undertaken over the past years to address these issues here in Salem, and the availability of these federal resources now enables us to go even further to invest in solutions to our housing challenges.”