By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Almost a year to the day the first shovel of dirt was turned at the new Clough Farm apartment complex, state and local officials today will celebrate the project’s completion.
An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony are scheduled for 2 p.m. at the $6 million, 32-unit complex on Braemoor Woods Road. It’s the first project of its kind to be built under Salem’s new workforce housing ordinance.
The goal was to provide more affordable housing in a community where residents often complain about rising property taxes and housing costs.
“I think the community is fortunate to be able to have this type of affordable housing,” town Planning Director Ross Moldoff said. “It’s a very high quality project.”
Clough Farm is the first and only project to be built in conjunction with the town’s 3-year-old workforce housing ordinance, Moldoff said. The ordinance allows for the construction of housing to serve low- and moderate-income residents who meet federal income guidelines.
Nineteen of the one- and two-bedroom government-subsidized apartments have been occupied since work was completed three weeks ago, according to builder Steven Lewis.
The rest will be occupied soon as tenants complete the application process, said Lewis, owner of Steven Lewis Inc. of Atkinson.
“There is such a need for this type of housing,” Lewis said. “We have more applications than we have space.”
Lewis, his partner Gino Baroni and Trident Building Group of Salem broke ground in June 2012.
The complex was built with the help of tax credits and financing through the New Hampshire Financing Authority. Rents are capped at below-market levels, which is beneficial to local residents struggling to make ends meet, Moldoff said.
“The economics are very difficult to bring prices down below market levels, especially in Salem where the land prices are very high,” he said.
The complex was built at the 140-acre Braemoor Woods site off Veterans Memorial Parkway. It’s next to Glenridge Apartments, an affordable housing complex for senior citizens also constructed by Lewis and Baroni.
Lewis, a builder for 44 years, said his family didn’t have a lot of money when he was a child growing up in Atkinson so he wanted to give back to the community by providing more affordable housing.
The project also allowed him to use innovative construction techniques, including “green technology” and low-impact development methods, to minimize its effect on the environment, he said.
“Things I’ve always wanted to do, I was able to do here,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of it.”
The complex features rain gardens and bio-retention basins to save and replenish groundwater. There are also walking trails and a community garden, he said.
The town worked with Lewis over the last few years to ensure it would be the type of project that best served the community’s needs, Moldoff said. It was approved by the Planning Board in fall 2011.
“The developer did a lot of things with the project that went above and beyond what is absolutely necessary,” Moldoff said.
He said some residents were concerned about allowing an affordable housing project in town.
“I think the impression in the community was that it was going to be a low-quality project,” Moldoff said. “I think the exact opposite is true — this is something the community can be proud of.”
Moldoff will speak at today’s ceremony along with state Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, resident Jane Lang, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Dean Christon and Home Builders and Remodelers Association of New Hampshire head Kendall Buck.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has been invited to attend as well.