By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Veterans Northeast Outreach is looking to create more affordable housing for military veterans and their families in the Merrimack Valley.
The organization has become a good neighbor in several areas of the city where it operates housing for veterans. Most recently, in 2012, it turned an abandoned and run-down home at 134 Cedar St. into an energy-efficient building with two apartments.
Now the organization that provides a range of services to veterans and their families is looking to develop 27 additional units of affordable rental housing in the Mount Washington neighborhood, where it is based. Construction is expected to begin as early as this fall with an opening in the fall of 2015.
“Nationally, there is no larger single demographic that has a greater need for affordable housing than veterans and their families,” said John Ratka, executive director of Veterans Northeast Outreach.
He said his organization works with veterans in their early 20s to those in their 80s who have a need for affordable housing as some are low-income and some are living on disability compensation.
On Jan. 15, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved the application for a Comprehensive Permit submitted by the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center to create more housing for veterans.
Ratka said the $5.7 million project involves creating 27 affordable rental units on three sites in the Mount Washington neighborhood: vacant lots on Temple Street and Tremont Street and an underutilized parking lot on Reed Street adjacent to the VNOC Outreach Center, located in the former St. Rita’s Church at 10 Reed St.
Seven units will be fully handicap accessible, Ratka said.
Ratka said the project involves construction of three residential buildings: A two-story building with 18 studio apartments at 2 Reed St., where each apartment will have its own kitchen and bath, and is intended for single person households. The site will offer 26 parking spaces.
A three-story building is planned for 74 Temple St. and will provide six, one-bedroom units with six off-street parking spaces.
A three-unit building is planned for 17 to 19 Tremont St. and will provide one two-bedroom apartment and two three-bedroom apartments with five off-street parking spaces.
“We wanted housing that fits each neighborhood,” Ratka said. “A lot of careful planning went into the size of the project and how it would affect the neighborhood while maintaining the history of the St. Rita’s property for those who have lived in the community for a long time.”
The project is a collaboration between Veterans Northeast and the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA), based in Lowell, Ratka said.
The non-profit community development corporation has developed 425 affordable rental units, 33 commercial units, and more than 50 units for first-time home-buyers in Lowell, Ratka said. The Haverhill initiative is CBA’s first residential development project outside of Lowell.
Madeline Nash, CBA’s director of real estate, said the CBA will be seeking funding through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program and other state affordable housing development sources. Pre-development financing has been provided by the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). The North Shore HOME Consortium committed $250,000 in federal HOME program funds in September 2013.
CEDAC is a private-public, community development finance institution that is also active in national housing preservation policy research and development and is widely recognized as a leader in the non-profit community development industry.