MANCHESTER — In an effort to delay the proposed 40B affordable housing development project helmed by Strategic Land Ventures, residents of Manchester have raised $1.5 million to fast track North Shore Community Development Coalition's purchase of three apartment complexes on Powder House Lane.

The project at 1-3 Powder House Lane, with a total of 29 units, are reportedly being sold to NSCDC for $3.9 million. The deal is expected to be finalized sometime between April 9 and May 14.

The group Citizens Initiative for Manchester Affordable Housing has been raising money for NSCDC's purchase since February. The group opened up donations to the public on March 22, which led its initial $1.25 million goal to be topped by around $250,000. The additional money will be used to further NSCDC's mission of bringing affordable housing options to the North Shore. 

The owner, Powder House Lane Realty LLC, according to property records, currently offers rents at a level affordable to residents earning about 50% of Area Median Income. However, these low rents aren't deed-restricted. In order to avoid state intervention for new affordable housing developments under Chapter 40B, Manchester must have 10% of a municipality's housing stock deemed "affordable" through deed restrictions, among other requirements set by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. 

Under NSCDC's plan, rent for all 29 Powder House Lane units would be affordable.

"It's up to the DHCD on whether to include it in the town's affordable housing index," said Bill Cross, president of the Citizens Initiative for Manchester Affordable Housing. "In the event it does, that would give the town a two-year safe harbor under 40B."

Chapter 40B allows temporary relief from state intervention if municipalities have an approved housing production plan to expand affordable housing stock by 0.5% each year. At 29 units, 1-3 Powder House Lane would bump its current percentage by 1.3. Manchester only has 115 affordable housing units of 2,280 total units, or around 5%t of the total housing stock, at the time of publication. The town needs 130 more affordable housing units to reach the 10% watermark. 

Strategic Land Ventures's 40B project would bring 157 units, 75% market-rent apartments and 25% apartments priced at 80% of Area Median Income, which Commonwealth regulations deem affordable.

However, detractors of the project claim it is a danger to the Cathedral Pines conservation area and Sawmill Brook, which neighbor the proposed site. Manchester sources around 40% of its drinking water from Sawmill Brook.

Representatives with NSCDC could not be reach in time for comment on this story.  

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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