French Club Project Gets State Funding, Looks Toward Summer Groundbreaking

By Seth Daniel

The Neighborhood Developers (TND) hosted state and City leaders on Tuesday morning, March 28, to announce that they had received critical funding to allow the French Club affordable housing project to proceed to a groundbreaking.

“It’s an honor for TND to host an event like this,” said Aaron Wasserman of TND, stepping in for Director Ann Houston who is out of the country. “We were looking at that site for a long time because it’s close to Chelsea’s schools and parks and public transportation. We’re really just happy the state has chosen this project. We’ve been working on it two years. We want to thank the City Manager and the City Council for helping us work on this.”

TND will revitalize the vacant French Club building at 242 Spencer St. and create 34 new units of affordable rental housing for families. The project will include three units targeted to low income persons with disabilities and eight units for formerly homeless families who will receive supportive services from Housing Families, Inc. The state awarded $500,000 in Housing Trust Fund funding, $1.1 million in state and federal low-income housing tax credits, and $3.125 million in a state subsidy.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said building affordable units like the French Club will help ease the squeeze on working people and people of modest means as rents continue to rise in Greater Boston.

“The City Council has just passed and inclusionary zoning ordinance and that policy is useful, but there’s nothing like building full affordable housing,” he said. “That’s why I’m so grateful. This funding is going to advance this project and we’re going to see a groundbreaking this summer probably.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was on hand with Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay to announce the award, along with a handful of other awards to project in other parts of the state.

“These seven projects will create housing that specifically targets our state’s at-risk populations, including veterans, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and formerly homeless women and families,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “I’m incredibly proud of our commitment to ensuring all of our residents are not only able to access housing, but also the supportive services they need to succeed.”

Funding for these projects includes $3.1 million from the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF), a newly-authorized federal program that supports the development of affordable housing for low-income individuals and families that include supportive services. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is supporting the awarded projects through $14.9 million in state affordable housing subsidies, and 100 project-based Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers. DHCD also allocated approximately $2 million in state and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to the awarded projects.

“Housing with wraparound supportive services gives residents the tools necessary to break the cycle of homelessness,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, the former Chelsea City Manager. “Putting our residents on the path towards stability by connecting them to education, job training, transportation assistance, childcare and more services, strengthens communities across Massachusetts.”

The French Club project went through a long and contentious planning process, where neighbors and some councillors opposed the original plan – which had more units, a bigger building and closed down the Spencer Avenue extension. Numerous Mill Hill neighbors spoke out against the project, which they felt was too big and wasn’t communicated well to those living nearby.

In the end, a compromise proposal with plenty of input was approved.

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