Veteran Safe Haven, array of Lawrence housing projects approved by House (2024)

LAWRENCE — Funding and incentives for veterans’ housing, housing authority repairs and conversion of commercial buildings into living spaces were approved by the state’s House of Representatives this week as finding and affording housing in the city remain dominating issues.

Included in House Bill 4707 is $1 million for the Veterans Safe Haven apartment project, $10 million for the Lawrence Housing Authority to make critical infrastructure and maintenance repairs and a new $150 million program to help municipalities convert commercial properties into multi-unit residential or mixed-use properties, said state Reps Francisco Paulino, D-Methuen, and Frank Moran, D-Lawrence.

News of the funding for the Veterans Safe Haven Project came Friday, a day after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when Americans and Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France to defeat the Nazis in World War II.

The funding is earmarked to start construction of an apartment building in Lawrence for 22 veterans. The project will be led by the Greater Lawrence non-profit International Veterans Care Services.

“This is not a shelter but an apartment building ... so the veterans can live with dignity in a beautiful new place,” Paulino said.

Total project cost will be $4.5 to S6 million, with tax credits and financing used for the project balance. Also, Paulino said students at technical high schools will be tapped for electrical, HVAC and other work.

Paulino thanked Kelly Birchall Frazier, founder of IVCS, for her work with veterans and advocating for the Veterans Safe Haven Project.

Also he said he wanted to extend gratitude to Moran, Rep. Estela Reyes, D-Lawrence, Rep. Ryan Hamilton, D-Methuen, and Senator Pavel Payano, D-Lawrence, “for their support, co-sponsorship, and partnership in making this vital project a reality. Your collective efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of our veterans.”

Frazier said IVCS is “very grateful” for the resources.

“This will help our veteran community in the Merrimack Valley. A huge thank you goes out to our state delegates for securing funds ... Our team is very appreciative,” she said.

Moran described the bill, which calls for $6.5 billion in bond authorizations, tax credits and 20 policy initiatives to promote and stimulate housing as imperative and “needed now more than ever.”

“This bill is a thoughtful and necessary response to the housing crisis facing Massachusetts. Importantly, these investments, tax credits, and policy changes are crafted with low-income families, seniors, veterans, and other vulnerable populations in mind ... I have witnessed first-hand how housing development and rehabilitation can transform communities,” Moran said.

Moran said $200 million for the Middle-Income Housing Fund, a program that assists individuals and families who earn too much for federal low-income housing assistance, but still cannot afford market rent, is also included in the bill.

Also, the legislation includes a new $150 million program to help municipalities convert commercial properties into multi-unit residential or mixed-use properties. After project completion, project sponsors would be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the development costs, he said.

The bill also permits one accessory dwelling unit equal to or less than 900 square feet to be built by-right on a property in single-family zoning districts in all communities in the state, Moran said.

Housing Committee Co-chair Rep. James Arciero, D-Westford, described the bill as “the largest housing investment in the history of the Commonwealth.”

Its bottom line is more than three and a half times larger than the last housing bond bill, a $1.8 billion plan former Gov. Charlie Baker signed in 2018.

“The residents and citizens of Massachusetts face an unprecedented housing crisis,” Arciero said. “Young families struggle to purchase a home and plant roots in the towns that they love and grew up in. Our vulnerable loved ones look to age in place and live healthy, safe lives with dignity. Workers are struggling with rent, and communities from Boston to Hyannis, Lawrence, Worcester and Pittsfield are in need of major revitalization for our aging housing stock.”

Having passed the House of Representatives 145-13 on Wednesday, the bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Also included in the bill are:

$2 billion to support the repair, rehabilitation, and modernization of over 43,000 public housing units across Massachusetts, with 25 percent of the funds dedicated to preserve housing for those with incomes below 30 percent Area Median Income;

$150 million to decarbonize the public housing stock and $15 million for accessibility upgrades;

$200 million to support Local Housing Authorities who partner with developers to add mixed-income developments on LHA land, leveraging funds to maintain and preserve public housing while increasing the overall housing supply;

$200 million to support Local Housing Authorities who partner with developers to add mixed- income developments on LHA land, leveraging funds to maintain and preserve public housing while increasing the overall housing supply;

$200 million to support alternative forms of rental housing including single person occupancy units, transitional and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, housing for seniors and veterans, and transitional units for persons recovering from substance use disorder;

- $70 million to support the development of appropriate community-based housing for Department of Mental Health and Department of Developmental Services clients;

$60 million to modify homes of individuals or families with disabilities or seniors so they may maintain residency or return home from institutional settings;

$20 million to establish a veterans supportive housing program to develop and preserve housing for veterans and their families experiencing homelessness;

$800 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund which provides resources to create or preserve affordable housing for households earning less than 100% of AMI;

$250 million to accelerate the development of mixed-income multifamily housing;

$200 million for the Workforce Housing Fund which funds housing development for households earning less than 120 percent of AMI;

$100 million for the Commonwealth Builder program for the construction of affordable single-family homes for households earning between 70 and 120 percent of AMI, primarily in Gateway Cities such as Lawrence;

$50 million for the acquisition, rehabilitation, and sale of distressed properties;

$50 million to launch a Healthy Home program to provide grants and loans to make homes habitable. Half of funds to be administered to buildings in Gateway cities;

$10 million to facilitate affordable housing production in Gateway municipalities;

$275 million to consolidate the existing Transit Oriented Housing Program and the Climate Resilient Housing Program and create a new, innovative program to accelerate and unlock new housing. 25% of the funds must be used to fund projects which preserve housing for those with incomes below 60 percent of AMI;

$175 million to encourage denser housing development;

$50 million to provide payments to municipalities that receive a Housing Choice designation through high housing production and/or demonstration of best practices, including a grant program to assist MBTA Communities in complying with the multi-family zoning requirement in the MBTA Communities Law;

$25 million for grants to municipalities for planning and zoning initiatives that support housing production, workforce training and economic opportunities, child care and early education initiatives and climate resiliency initiatives.

The State House News Service contributed to this story.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter/X @EagleTribJill.

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Veteran Safe Haven, array of Lawrence housing projects approved by House (2024)
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