State Housing Agency Approves CHA Development to Move Forward

By Seth Daniel

The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced late last week that they have approved the Chelsea Housing Authority’s (CHA) planned redevelopment of the Innes Street Apartment (Central Avenue), and are awarding it $9.6 million in state funding.

The CHA was awarded a planning grant of $300,000 by DHCD in November, 2016, and put out a public bid for a designated developer to complete the public/private partnership. That planning process and bidding process resulted in Corcoran Jennison being chosen and an initial plan being formed with tenants of the development.

The $300 million redevelopment of the project would be a ground-up rebuild, with the existing 96 units of public housing being retained and restored alongside 224 new market-rate units.

“While there is still much work to be done, you have identified a clear path to success for this project that we have deemed feasible at this time based on reasonable assumptions,” read the letter from DHCD.

“It is a significant step in the process,” said Al Ewing, director of the CHA. “We’ve done a lot of work trying to make this possible and see if we can actually do it.”

The state funding grant ensures the first commitment in funding on the project.

Another $2.7 million from DHCD is in the works for tenant relocation costs, but there is no guarantee on that right now.

There are 14 conditions attached to the award, issued by Chrystal Kornegay, undersecretary for Housing.

One of the main conditions is to keep the per-unit development costs to a limit determined reasonable by DHCD. That is a limiting factor, Ewing said, as it means that labor costs have to be closely watched.

That is the focus of an entirely different aspect of the redevelopment, that dealing with a waiver for union labor only on the project.

Additionally, the share of the gross square footage of the public housing units must be equal or exceed the existing units of public housing – meaning that they cannot be made smaller to cut costs.

The remainder of the funding for the project would be obtained by Corcoran through its private funding sources. Identifying all of those sources is also another condition for the award.

The award and the overall process is part of the Partnership to Expand Housing Opportunities (PEHO) program.

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