Officials celebrate Brandy Hill Apartments' affordable housing preservation
After being at risk for losing its affordable housing status, Brandy Hill Apartments hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday to celebrate the preservation of 132 units and a massive renovation of the complex.
“It’s beautiful now,” said Donna Hodson, a resident for 28 years. “We are so blessed and thrilled beyond measures with all the changes.”
Hodson, along with state housing officials, Congressman Bill Keating (D-Massachusetts), State Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham), State Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Aaron Gornstein, president and CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing, spoke at the event.
“All across the country people have lost their affordable housing designation, but that hasn’t happened here because of Preservation of Affordable Housing,” said Keating. “ Safe, stable housing provides the foundation for so many other things in our lives, including health, education and job security.”
The Boston-based Preservation of Affordable Housing bought Brandy Hill in 2010 to assure it would remain affordable housing for the next 20 years. It's status was set to expire in 2016. Last October, the nonprofit secured the necessary financing from several partners, including Stratford Capital, to complete an $8.6 million rehabilitation. The apartment complex was built in 1972.
The renovations included major upgrades to the complex’s 11 residential buildings and one community building. In addition to upgrades to bathrooms, fire safety systems, floors and kitchens, the renovations included the installation of five new roofs and HardiePlank siding, a durable alternative to vinyl siding. Also, seven apartments and one playground are now fully handicap accessible.
The renovations were disruptive, said Hodson, noting she had to be out of her apartment for five days; however, the community banded together. Free meals were offered in the community center and construction crews even made sure residents had boxes and tape to move personal items in and out of the apartments when work had to be done.
“I think about all that and realize this is what the community is all about,” said Hodson. “This was such a transition for us.”
In addition to the renovations, officials celebrated the preservation of Section 8 housing status for 97 apartments for the next 20 years. Section 8 is a federal program that allows the payment of rental assistance to private landlords.
Maintaining Brandy Hill’s affordable housing status is good news for the town. If the number of affordable homes in a town is below the state’s threshold, which is 10 percent of total housing units, then developers may bypass some local zoning laws and build projects more densely than zoning bylaws allow.
Since 40B – a state housing law – was enacted in 1969, Wareham has never met that quota. The result has been the construction of 19 developments in town built under 40B that offer affordable housing options.
Keeping Brandy Hill as affordable means meeting that 10 percent benchmark in the future will be easier, said officials.
Gifford said that more importantly, the affordable housing preservation benefits working families.
“We need to be sure that people at all economic levels have access to a safe, affordable, clean, nice place to live,” she said. “This is a place residents can be proud to call home.”