North Shore CDC buys Manchester apartments 

Ashley Ganem/North Shore CDC/Citizens’ Initiative for Manchester Affordable Housing raised $1.5 million to allowNorth Shore Community Development Coalition (North Shore CDC) to purchase 1-3 Powder House Lane, a complex of five buildings containing 29 apartments. North Shore CDC will preserve this property as affordable housing.

MANCHESTER — North Shore Community Development Coalition has finalized its purchase of 1-3 Powder House Lane. 

The purchase, worth $3.9 million, was made possible by a grassroot effort by the Manchester community to secure more affordable housing in town. Under the banner of the Citizens’ Initiative for Manchester Affordable Housing (CIMAH), more than 250 individuals donated approximately $1.5 million for the purchase.  

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity to create meaningful affordable housing in Manchester,” said Mickey Northcutt, CEO of the coalition, in a prepared statement. “This opportunity would not have been possible without the support of (CIMAH) and the residents of Manchester. We cannot overstate how appreciative we are for the chance to help strengthen this community.”

The Powder House Lane buildings are an informal affordable housing complex. The former owner, Powder House Lane Realty LLC, according to property records, offered rents at a level affordable to residents earning about 50% of Area Median Income. As rent for the 29 units is not deed-restricted, the state does not include it in its index of affordable housing; only 5% of homes in Manchester meet the state's criteria.

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

“Manchester has found the ideal partner in North Shore CDC. With a 40-year track record underscoring a deep commitment to creating affordable housing on the North Shore, NorthShore CDC shares our goal of developing housing that strengthens residents and helps communities thrive,” said Bill Cross, president of CIMAH, in a prepared statement.  “This purchase is a critical step for Manchester as it seeks to preserve affordable housing and remain a community accessible to citizens of varying incomes.”

Citizens’ Initiative for Manchester Affordable Housing was formed after Strategic Land Ventures announced it will build a 157-unit apartment complex, offering 39 rent-controlled homes. Under the state's Chapter 40B, developers may sidestep local authorities and appeal all permitting to the state if the municipality they're building in has under 10% affordable housing stock and they're creating such housing. 

Cross previously told the Times he and his group have no qualms with more affordable housing in Manchester. The problem lies with where SLV plans on building its complex, he and his group say. CIMAH argues the proposed site, located between Cedar Swamp and Cathedral Pines off Route 128's Exit 50 (formerly Exit 15), could spell disaster for the the town's natural clean water reserves in the area. 

Initially, Strategic Land Ventures sought input from Manchester's town departments but neither side was willing to budge on key issues regarding zoning and environmental permitting. Strategic Land Ventures then sought to have the Board of Selectmen advocate on its behalf during the permit process; selectmen believed in doing so, they would be overstepping the authority of the town's departments. 

Strategic Land Ventures is now preparing to apply for its permits from state agencies, rather than those in Manchester.

Under Chapter 40B, municipalities are granted safe harbor if they establish a plan to increase their affordable housing stock at a rate of 0.5% per year. With 1-3 Powder House Lane, that number could be rise by 1.3%, potentially delaying Strategic Land Ventures's project by at least two years. North Shore Community Development Coalition will need to receive approval from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development in order for the Powder House Lane homes to be indexed as affordable. 

Representatives of the coalition could not be reached in time for additional comment on this story.   

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

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