Needed Housing Open in Lebanon: Affordable Development Provides 21 Units Off Mechanic Street

Friday, June 28, 2013
Lebanon — At Rivermere, the city’s newly-unveiled affordable housing complex off Route 4, Lisa Macedo finally found the peace and quiet she was looking for.

Nearly a decade ago, in 2004, a car wreck in front of her former home at Romano Circle in West Lebanon up-ended her life, Macedo said. She described the injuries she deals with today, two back surgeries later, and said that she has to live off disability payments as a result.

“She still doesn’t like going down in that area,” said Mika Guthrie, Macedo’s 14 year-old daughter. “Even if we’re on Advance Transit and we hit that area and we’re talking, she just goes dead quiet on me.”

Fortunately for Macedo, the 21 affordable rental units that just opened up at Rivermere on the other side of town have provided what she described as one of the nicest places she’s ever lived.

Dozens of players in the Upper Valley’s private and nonprofit sectors, as well as public officials, gathered at the complex four years in the making yesterday for a ribbon-cutting and some back-slapping.

Rivermere was developed by the Twin Pines Housing Trust, an Upper Valley nonprofit community housing organization, for eligible households earning no more than 50 percent of the median income for the area. For instance, the threshold for a family of three would amount to $31,250. It was also funded by a community development block grant from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which was administered by the city.

Rivermere’s occupants are also eligible for rental assistance, which means they only pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The rest of the tab is picked up by funding supplied by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The homes sit on 24 acres on Tannery Lane off Slayton Hill Road, with 21 acres of that preserved as open space, offering a quiet neighborhood despite the complex’s placement near heavily traveled Mechanic Street.

And, for Guthrie, there’s “plenty of space for me to run and roam and ride my bike.”

There were signs of a community starting to form yesterday as residents congregated along with those there for the ceremonies, often watching from outside the shaded tent where the speeches took place.

Before many showed up, Guthrie pointed out the arrival of one of her new neighbors, who she called by her apartment identifier,“number six,” at least for now.

Number six turned out to be Tina Giguere, a single mom from Canaan who works at the Genesis HealthCare nursing home in Lebanon.

Giguere, who is divorced with a teenage son and daughter, said that finding affordable housing in the Upper Valley is “extremely difficult.” But she was delighted at the new home she had landed at Rivermere, describing it as “safe, clean, and very quiet,” not to mention only a five-minute drive from where she works.

“It’s definitely a relief,” Giguere said. “Not so many worries.”

Andrew Winter, executive director of the Twin Pines Housing Trust, said in a speech that nearly 25 percent of all working households in the country, and more than 80 percent of the nation’s lowest-income renters, spend more than half of their income on rent.

Since 2007, Winter said, “the number of those rental households experiencing severe housing-cost burdens have surged by ... 2.5 million households.”

“There is a dramatic shift where people are having to spend more of their income to afford the housing that they need,” he said.

Rob Schultz, executive director of COVER Home Repair, works primarily on training volunteers to do home repairs for low-income home owners in the Upper Valley. He said that mostly involves roof repair, weatherization, structural repair and installing accessibility ramps.

Schultz, who was there yesterday only to show support for the project, said that affordable housing is a “gigantic issue, and it’s only going to get more intense.” He said that the low-income housing options available, such as dated apartments in towns or trailers, are aging quickly.

“We’ve run into a lot of floors that are starting to fail,” he said. “It’s dangerous for elderly people ... and costly, because the housing is not easy to insulate and not easy to heat.”

Schultz celebrated Rivermere as a “great step in the right direction,” but cited the figures Winter mentioned in his speech.

“We’re headed for really trying times, between the aging housing stock and the increase of population that is getting older, and therefore working on fixed incomes,” Schultz said. “Those points are narrowing very quickly.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.


This article has been amended to correct earlier errors. The following corrections appeared in the Saturday, June 29 edition of the Valley News:

The Rivermere affordable housing complex in Lebanon is geared toward eligible households earning no more than 50 percent of the median income for the area. For instance, the threshold for a family of three would amount to $31,250. A story about the 21-unit complex in yesterday's Valley News gave an incorrect income number.

In the same story, Rivermere resident Lisa Macedo's name was misspelled.