AHTF Approves Contribution to Project at 133 Salem St. To Increase Affordable Units

The board of the Revere Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) held its regular meeting last Wednesday, October 11, in Revere City Hall. On hand for the session were chair Joe Gravellese and fellow members Jan Dumas, Laila Pietri, Anayo Osueke, Claire Inzerillo, Deb Frank, and Dean Harris.

The meeting began with Osueke, the board’s treasurer, presenting his monthly update. He said the board has a balance in its account of $860,125.

The members heard of an opportunity to support additional affordable housing stock in North Revere from Mikael Vienneau of Broadway Capital Inc., which is developing the former, 140-bed Revere Nursing Home at 133 Salem St. into a condominium project consisting of 71 one- and two-bedroom units with a commercial space in the basement.

Vienneau told the board members that Broadway Capital, which has done three development projects in Chelsea and presently is doing one in Swampscott, originally had planned to designate seven of the units as affordable, with two earmarked for military service members and two for seniors. However, Vienneau said that there now is an opportunity to increase the number of affordable units from seven to 18 pursuant to MassHousing’s Commonwealth Builder Grant program, the purpose of which is to spur the construction of single-family homes and condominiums that are affordable to households with moderate incomes, particularly in communities of color.

However, in order for a development to qualify for the grant, the local municipality must make a contribution to the project. Vienneau further said that there is an urgency to taking action because the project is nearing completion and the application for a grant from the state is time-sensitive. Vienneau asked that the city’s contribution to the project come in the form of a 50% waiver of the Community Improvement Trust Fund Fee.

In response to questions from the AHTF members, Vienneau said that six of the 18 units will be sold to buyers with incomes of 70% of the area’s average median income (AMI) and 12 will be sold to buyers at 80% of AMI. He further stated that there will be deed restrictions for the first 15 years of ownership. The units cannot be rented and AMI buyers today will have to sell to AMI buyers unless they own the condo for more than 15 years, after which time they can sell at market rates. Prices for the units are expected to range from $219,000 for one-bedroom units for 80% AMI buyers and $190,000 for one-bedroom units for 70% buyers, to $265,000 for two-bedroom units for 80% AMI buyers. He said the market rate units are expected to range in price from $320,000 to $500,000 for two-bedroom units of 1000 sq. ft.

He said that the income level for a single person at 80 percent of AMI is in the range of $60-$70,000. In addition, those buyers must have good credit scores in order to qualify for a mortgage.

However, AHTF member Deb Frank pointed out that because of the recent increase in mortgage interest rates, the necessary income level to qualify for “affordable housing” would be in the range of at least $80,000 in order to purchase one of the “affordable” condo units.

Although all of the members agreed that the term “affordable housing” may be an oxymoron in the context of this project, Inzerillo, noting that Revere has not constructed any form of affordable housing, suggested that, “We should take what we can get.”

Gravallese made a motion for $100,000 of support from the AHTF on the condition that the City Council approve the necessary zoning changes for the special permit that encompasses the stated income levels and the number of affordable units. “We don’t want to put in funds for a project that might not occur,” he noted.

The members unanimously approved the motion.

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