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Fund to boost affordable housing near transit lines

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Fund to boost affordable housing near transit lines
Officials, foundation representatives and community residents gathered at the new Talbot Avenue station on the Fairmount Line to announce the Accelerator Fund for affordable and mixed-income developments near new transit lines.

A coalition of nonprofits and foundations has teamed up with state officials to launch a $5 million fund aimed keeping housing affordable in public transit-accessible neighborhoods.

Officials gathered at the new Talbot Avenue station on the Fairmount Line to announce the Accelerator Fund, which they estimate will help attract $30 million in early-stage funding for affordable and mixed-income developments.

While real estate values have long been depressed in the Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park neighborhoods through which the Fairmount Commuter Rail line travels, real estate speculators have shown interest in the neighborhoods with the completion of new stations in those neighborhoods and the announcement that the MBTA will make the line a rapid transit line with weekend service.

“We want our community to be able to stay once this transit development is complete,” said state Rep. Russell Holmes.

The Local Initiative Support Corporation teamed up with the Boston Foundation, the Hyams Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and MassDevelopment to provide the seed money for the Accelerator Fund, which they expect will help to create 950 units of housing along the Fairmount other rapid transit and commuter rail lines across the state.

“LISC is delighted to be working with our partners to insure that low and moderate income residents benefit fully from both new and existing transit,” said Bob Van Meter, executive director of Boston LISC, which will be managing the fund. “Access to transit is increasingly seen as vital to economic opportunity and this fund will insure that low and moderate residents have equitable access to opportunity.”

Affordable housing developers typically tap government and private foundation funds to acquire land and build new homes. It’s not uncommon for developers to tap as many as five different funding sources. The loans provided by the new fund will help finance the acquisition and pre-development costs involved in rehabilitating or building new housing, which can include the purchase of land, architectural planning and engineering and environmental impact studies.

“Investing in this new fund with the Boston Foundation, LISC and the Commonwealth is an example of how foundations can partner with the private and public sectors and use their endowments to address critical affordable housing issues,” said Beth Smith, Executive Director of The Hyams Foundation. “We see the Accelerator Fund as a means of spurring the creation of affordable housing that can take advantage of benefits of being close to public transportation while also reducing the pressures of gentrification that proximity to transit can create.”

The Codman Square CDC hopes to tap the fund for 19 affordable units it is seeking to build a stone’s throw from the Talbot Avenue station on New England Avenue.

“The fund will be a major resource for us,” said Codman Square Executive Director Gail Lattimore.

In Salem, officials plan to use the fund to help purchase and renovate 66 apartments located in seven 19th-century brick buildings in the historic Point neighborhood, within blocks of two MBTA bus stations. Easy access to bus and train systems links residents to wider employment opportunities, education and a range of services. Affordable rents in the buildings will be maintained for a minimum of thirty years.

“The Patrick Administration has shown unwavering support in the preservation and expansion of our affordable housing stock for families across Massachusetts,” said Secretary Greg Bialecki of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, who has spearheaded the state’s involvement with the fund. “Through key collaborative initiatives such as the Accelerator Fund we are making our communities great places to live, work and play.”

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