Rockport CPA Cash Sought for Housing, Gloucester Times, August 23, 2012

By Marjorie Nesin, Staff Writer

Rockport voters at Fall Town Meeting next month could help fund nearly a quarter of the affordable housing in the town by approving a chunk of Community Preservation Fund money to a nonprofit developer that’s seeking to secure the Broadway High School
Apartments affordable elderly housing units.

The town’s $250,000 contribution from the Community Preservation Fund would be granted to Harborlight Community Partners for the Beverly-based nonprofit’s attempt at taking the reins of the affordable housing complex.

What we’re trying to do is acquire the project and preserve it as affordable elder housing for the long term,  said Harborlight Executive Director Andrew DeFranza.

Harborlight would use the money to demonstrate the town’s expressed interest in the affordable housing unit and put the money in an account for current projects and operating reserves, DeFranza said. The town would be the project’s first backer as Harborlight seeks grants and funds from other contributors toward the $2.1 million

The town’s Community Preservation Act fund is fueled by the voter-approved 3 percent surcharge on property taxes and the partially matching state CPA money drawn from property deeds fees. Rockport pulled in about $156,398 from the state in addition to the town’s own surcharge pool of $419,645 from fiscal 2012, according to Community Preservation Committee chair Mary B. Francis.

Francis said the $250,000 contribution from the town’s community preservation pot, signed forward Tuesday night for the warrant for the Fall Town Meeting, will demonstrate the town’s support of the project to Harborlight’s other potential backers.

They have to show that Rockport cares enough to want to help them,  Francis said. So this will be one of the first grant monies that they can show to the other folks that they’ll also be approaching for financial support. 

Community Preservation Act money can be applied to three types of projects: historic preservation, open space and recreation, and affordable housing endeavors.

The 31 units at the Broadway complex, which Harborlight would purchase with the town’s contribution, make up 23 percent of the town’s affordable housing stock, statistics show. Harborlight used town funds similarly to purchase the Pigeon Cove Ledges affordable housing facility in 2011, securing 22 percent of the town’s affordable housing with
that buy.

Harborlight has a history of good management, sound financial practices, and improving the purchases they buy,  Francis said. We were delighted that Harborlight was interested in this property to own and manage because they’ve done such a good job with Pigeon
Cove. 

DeFranza said that now is the time for the purchase. The current owners’ lease hit its 15-year half point in 2011, allowing the owners to place the complex on the market ” first for sale to a non-profit, then on the open market. By purchasing the affordable housing
while it sits in the non-profit market, Harborlight prevents the apartment
complex from moving to the open market and losing its affordable rental status.

DeFranza called the potential transition organic,  and said that, if Harborlight is able to take over the apartments, the complex will continue to run in the same fashion.

It just means the ownership structure would change,  DeFranza said.

If residents at Fall Town Meeting approve appropriating the funds, Harborlight will reach out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval in transferring the existing lease and loans from the Broadway High School Apartments’ current owner to Harborlight,
and would likely finish the process by the first quarter of 2013.

We really celebrate what Rockport did at Pigeon Cove, and we want to do it again,  DeFranza said. We will have protected half the affordable housing stock in Rockport in those two transactions. 

Grouped in with the vote to release funds to Harborlight, are four other dollar appropriations included in Article I for Town Meeeting.

The Community Preservation Committee is also requesting the town’s approval to apply $42,000 in funds to the historic restoration and preservation of the Rockport American Legion Building, $60,000 to the Conservation Trust Fund for future projects, $75,000
to a nonprofit mortgage and rent assistance program, and $11,000 for paying the
committee’s administrative expenses.

The Community Preservation Committee has appropriated $5 million in community funding since its inception in 2001. Each year, Francis said, the panel receive a number of proposals the committee would like to fund and must choose a handful of projects. Francis
said she hopes residents will see the importance of affordable housing in Rockport when they vote on Sept. 10.

This way, we will be preserving the affordable housing stock for Rockport,  Francis said. That’s very important to us, because we don’t have a lot of affordable housing in this
community. 

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at