By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) will move forward with plans renovate and convert homes off Main Street to affordable units in partnership with Habitat for Humanity after receiving the green light from selectmen Sept. 14.
The project would tap into Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds that voters set aside in the spring. Because no project had been identified at that time, the money can only be released with the approval of the Community Preservation Committee and Board of Selectmen.
AHC Chair Rick Leif said for now, only a property survey and appraisal will be completed and the group was not seeking any of the reserved CPA funds. The AHC will fund that work, though it may recoup the funds later.
The project would renovate two buildings now containing six apartments into four affordable ownership units and would use the Local Initiative Project, or friendly 40B process, with Habitat for Humanity acting as developer.
Leif said the AHC was approached by the current owner of the buildings on Main Street, an arm of the Trinity Church, about possibly buying the properties and ensuring they remain affordable units in perpetuity.
Selectmen had a number of questions about the project, including how the town would ensure the units remain affordable. Tim Firment, executive director of Habitat for Humanity-MetroWest/Greater Worcester, said his organization has experience with similar projects.
“We’re accustomed to this process,” he said, seeking to reassure board members who seemed uneasy about the use of Chapter 40B. Habitat for Humanity would hold the mortgage on the properties and buyers must help build affordable housing. “Our owners put in 400 to 500 hours of sweat equity, so they are heavily invested in their homes.”
The town is currently comfortably above the state-mandated 10-percent threshold for affordable units, but must keep producing a steady supply of new qualified housing to avoid losing that protection, Leif said.
Leif emphasized that the project is still in the feasibility stage, with parking and driveway access among the issues still to be worked out.
Firment said it would likely take at least 90 days before the project team returns to selectmen to request the release of some of the $500,000 in CPA funds set aside by voters.