Cambridge seeks to preserve hundreds of affordable housing units

The City of Cambridge is preserving 504 units of affordable housing at Alewife Brook Towers. Cambridge has started to meet with Schochent Companies, the realtor-manager- owner of the property, to renew the HUD contract for subsidized housing.

Alewife Brook Towers are two 22-story buildings, a 48-year old housing complex that rises at the end of Rindge Avenue and bordering Alewife Brook Parkway. This complex was built in “La Corbusier” architectural design that focuses on tall high-rises buildings to house large numbers of people. Nearby 402 Rindge Avenue is another 22-story tower which is managed independently by the nonprofit Just-A-Start. The city did not play a role in the refinancing to maintain affordability or renovation of this building completed, fall of 2017.

Cambridge Housing Director Christopher Cotter stated that this complex is all affordable. He referred to affordability as either inclusionary zoning, increasing  the proportion of affordable units in new buildings to 20% or rent restrictive. He went on to say that both Schochent towers are rent restrictive. Rent Restrictive refers to  Section 8 with people paying 30% of their monthly income for housing.

“Two thirds of the units in the Schochent buildings are federal section-8 apartments,” Cotter said. “The majority of the apartments are 1 to 2 bedroom with some 3 bedroom apartments.”

Cotter pointed out that the city has been meeting with the developer over the past two years.

“Schochent is very committed,” Cotter said. “We want to work with them in extending the rent restrictive HUD agreement.”

Cotter stated that Schochent has been doing a fair amount of investments over the years. They have been willing to make repairs and provide adequate maintenance.

Cotter highlighted that the city is looking to find a credit subsidy for the section 8 units to make it financially work for the developer. Pricing for the non-section 8 apartments will be based on the average median income or AMI and will also require a funding component.

“We have started talking to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust [CAHT],” Cotter said. “ They have helped to preserve affordable housing projects in Cambridge.”

Cotter said that the CAHT has made it known that they are committed to the Alewife Towers. They have made this the 10th affordable housing project in the city to fund. Funding will come from the city’s Community Preservation Act.

“We want to preserve the affordable housing units,” Cotter said. “We want to be successful and maintain Alewife Towers.”

According to Cotter, he estimated that the Cambridge CPA will provide $10 million dollars of funds from which the CAHT can draw on. Numbers on the funding from the Massachusetts CPA Trust fund won’t be determined until early fall, Cotter said.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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