Panel backs $250K for affordable housing complex in Beverly

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By The Salem News

BEVERLY — A committee has recommended spending $250,000 in community preservation money to help pay for the first phase of an affordable housing development on Sohier Road.

The complex, to be called Anchor Point, calls for the initial construction of 38 two- and three-bedroom family apartments in a building at the corner of Sohier and Tozer roads.

The spending must be approved by the City Council, which has set a public hearing on the matter for Feb. 19.

Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director Andrew DeFranza said Anchor Point would provide much-needed housing for working families and formerly homeless families. A second phase would build 37 apartments, for a total of 75.

“It creates economically accessible housing for families in Beverly into the future,” DeFranza said. “It’s 75 units, which is really very exciting in my mind.”

Harborlight Community Partners, an affordable housing agency based in Beverly, bought the 5 acres of vacant land on Sohier Road, up the hill from Beverly High School, for $3 million in January 2018.

The City Council voted to create a special zoning district for the area, which makes the city eligible for state payments based on the number of units and new students that would move into the district.

The housing would be for families earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income, which in 2018 was $64,680 for a family of four. Twenty percent of the units would be set aside for families coming out of homelessness.

The full project would feature two buildings for the 75 apartments, and a third building to serve as a community space, management offices, and a new corporate office for Harborlight.

The complex would include fenced-in playgrounds for smaller children, a half-court basketball area, an open playing field, and raised bed community gardens, according to Harborlight’s funding application. The first phase would have about 80 parking spaces.

Ward 3 City Councilor Jim Latter, who represents the area, said he supports the project and has heard no objections from residents. No one spoke against it at a public hearing in 2017 when the zoning change was enacted.

“I’ve gotten no negative feedback at all,” Latter said. “The mayors of Beverly, Salem and Peabody have gotten together to make affordable housing a regional priority. This is us doing our part.”

Phase one would cost $18.7 million, while the entire project would cost $37.4 million, according to DeFranza. Harborlight is seeking funding from several local, state and federal sources.

The $250,000 to be voted on by the City Council would come from community preservation money, which is raised through a 1 percent surcharge on local real estate taxes.

DeFranza said the local funding would improve Harborlight’s chances of securing state funding. The state application is due by Feb. 21.

“It would show a high level of local commitment and a high readiness to proceed,” he said. “Hopefully the City Council will also be supportive and the state will notice what a leader Beverly is in the region and the state in trying to make sure that a variety of people can live here.”

If the state does approve the money, construction would likely begin in the summer of 2020, DeFranza said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.