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Wicked Local covered the announcement of an award to B’nai B’rith Housing that will be used to redevelop a former Massachusetts school into senior residences. 

​On Jackson Park under a large, white tent, Gov. Charlie Baker and Janelle Chan, of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, recently announced $120 million in governmental funding and tax credits to support affordable-housing projects across the commonwealth.

Why Jackson Park? The public green space rests at the bottom of a hill on top of which sits the former, vacant Machon School.

And the nonprofit B’nai B’rith Housing’s yet-to-break-ground redevelopment of the old elementary school into 38 affordable rental units for seniors was among the 28 housing projects that will benefit from the funding awards.

“This project is a perfect example of the creativity and the imagination and the diligence of the town of Swampscott and one of our nonprofits to make affordable housing happen for our seniors,” said Baker standing behind a podium before a capacity-tent crowd. “The big issue we have is not that we don’t do this, but that we don’t do it enough.”

The funding puts B’nai B’rith Housing closer to breaking ground on what will be called the Senior Residences at the Machon.

“The building will feature common spaces such as a library and fitness center,” wrote B’nai B’rith in a statement to the Swampscott Reporter. “In keeping with BBH’s high quality, service-enriched housing model, residents will have access to an on-site resident service coordinator who will partner closely with Swampscott area senior-service agencies to promote wellness, health, and educational programs for all the residents of the building.”

The collective awards announced — $80 million in direct governmental subsidies and $40 million in federal and state tax credits — will help preserve and produce 1,581 rental units, including 1,349 affordable units and 273 units for extremely low income households.

“We truly appreciate the state’s support and are excited to continue working with the town of Swampscott and area service providers to bring much-needed affordable housing to seniors and older adults in Swampscott,” said Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Housing Susan Gittelman.

A Swampscott Housing Production Plan published in 2016 indicates the town’s residents are growing older and will continue to do so over the next decade. That changing demographic demands more affordable housing.

“The over-65 population will nearly double by 2030, while the school-age population will increase modestly,” reads the production plan. “Almost half of senior households have an annual gross income of less than $40,000.”

The Senior Residences at the Machon will reserve eight of the 38 affordable units for “extremely low-income seniors,” according to the state.

“This project is an excellent use of the old Machon School building, supporting seniors who increasingly cannot afford Massachusetts’ skyrocketing housing costs,” said state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead. “I am grateful to the administration for including this project in its award round, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the administration to reduce housing costs on the North Shore and increase the supply of housing options.”

The funding announcement comes as movement around affordable housing and seniors has taken place in Swampscott. In his remarks, Selectman Peter Spellios mentioned the creation of the Swampscott Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Town Meeting’s adoption of inclusionary zoning.

Meanwhile, a selectmen-appointed Swampscott for All Ages Committee is busy at work. Members have been charged with spearheading the town’s endeavor of making sure Swampscott’s ready to serve residents who are part of an impending silver tsunami.

Last week’s announcement also comes as producing a diversity of housing stock across the commonwealth remains a top priority of the Baker’s administration.

“Our administration has already invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass our Housing Choice bill to facilitate the production of more new housing units in communities across Massachusetts,” said Baker.

The byproduct of those investments included the production and preservation of more than 17,000 housing units, including 15,000 affordable units, since 2015. Last year, Baker signed a $1.8 billion housing bond bill, the largest in the state’s history.
In February, Baker refiled the Housing Choice bill to reform state mandates around zoning to help communities pursuing new housing production. His administration has also set a goal of 135,000 new housing units by 2025.