Wareham, Massachusetts – The Depot Crossing, a low-income apartment complex, which two years ago had several units condemned for mold infestation, has received a $750,000 state grant for renovations. Town officials applauded the grant, noting that the complex, on Minot Avenue in East Wareham, helps fill a void in affordable rental units.
The complex is owned and managed by South Shore Housing, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing to low- and moderate-income families. “That’s an important project for us. We have a real need for affordable rental housing,” said Marilyn Whalley, Wareham’s director of Community and Economic Development. Ms. Whalley noted that the grant will not bring Wareham any closer to fulfilling its state mandated requirement of having at least 10 percent of its housing stock designated as affordable. Nevertheless, the money will help ensure that the rental units that do cater to Wareham’s low-income community remain in good condition.
Most of the housing currently under construction in Wareham — as in most other SouthCoast communities — is being targeted toward high-end consumers. And while many of these projects include a handful of low-income units, virtually all are either single-family or condominium complexes, a point that has only exacerbating the need for affordable rental units, Ms. Whalley explained. Many developers, she said, apparently prefer to build and sell units rather than build and manage properties. “What we really need are rental units, and they’re not being built by developers. I congratulate South Shore Housing for being aggressive. They’ve got a long-standing reputation for doing good work,” Ms. Whalley said.
South Shore Housing Executive Director Stephen Dubuque said the money will be used to continue renovations that were already under way as well as to pay down debt on the work that has been completed. In early 2003, one of the buildings within the Depot Crossing complex was condemned by town health and building inspectors after a toxic form of mold was discovered in several apartments. Residents were forced to evacuate their units for four months while the mold was removed. “We had a very serious problem with mold and structural damage due to dampness,” said Mr. Dubuque. The first priority was to remove the mold, he said. Next, the structural damage was addressed. The renovations, he said, were very expensive, so much so that South Shore Housing feared for its future financial viability, he said.
“We were thrilled by the news of the grant. This has been an awful experience for us as the managers. But it’s also been an awful experience for the tenants. At the end of the day, not only do we want the complex to be sound, we also want the tenants who live there to be proud of the place in which they live,” he said. The $750,000 was part of $45.3 million in state funds distributed to 13 communities across Massachusetts and intended to help create and maintain affordable rental housing, according to Beth Bresnahan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
Mr. Dubuque said the entire two-year ordeal — the condemnation, the renovations and the competitive grant process — has been draining. “But we’re known for our persistence, and we hope we’ve shown it in this effort,” he said.