Affordable Housing Upgrade: Twin Pines Proposes $6.5 Million Renovation to Hartford Buildings
Twin Pines Housing Trust leaders, state officials and project partners involved in renovating 34 exisiting apartments in White River Junction and Quechee tour a garage that will be part of the rehabilitation project. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Douglas Sonsalla, left, of the architectural firm Studio Nexus in White River Junction, Vt., and Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, examine the inside of a garage in White River Junction. Twin Pines is seeking grant funding to renovate 34 apartments in eight buildings in Hartford. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford — A local nonprofit that works to provide affordable housing to Vermont and New Hampshire residents is proposing a multi-property renovation project that would improve the quality of life for 67 tenants and add 20 more years of useful life to the existing apartment buildings.
Twin Pines Housing Trust officials last month presented plans to rehabilitate 34 of the organization’s existing apartments in White River Junction and Quechee, a project estimated to cost $6.5 million.
“There is significant work that needs to be done to make these buildings habitable on the long term,” said Andrew Winter, Twin Pines’ executive director. “It’s what we are doing to be a good homeowner, landowner and landlord.”
Eight buildings on five properties would undergo extensive renovation work, including weatherization, new roofs and windows, smoke detection systems, updated wiring, and new interior and exterior doors. The eight buildings, each in various stages of need, are located along Christian Street, South Main Street and VA Cutoff Road in White River Junction, and at Quechee Pines on Hathaway Road.
The apartments within the buildings range from studios to three-bedroom units, with 60 percent of them targeting households that make less than 50 percent of the area’s median income. Eight of the 34 units are market rate apartments that would be converted to affordable housing through the project, Winter said.
There is still one major hurdle: the Selectboard must sign off on the organization’s application for a $400,000 grant through the Vermont Community Development Program. Twin Pines has already secured $725,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board f or the project.
Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster said it’s likely the Twin Pines project will be on the agenda for the Dec. 10 meeting.
Selectman Alex DeFelice said he would vote in favor of seeking grant funding for the project, but said he believes the money could be better spent.
“It seems like an awful lot of money to be spending on rehabbing the properties,” DeFelice said, echoing Selectman Ken Parker’s statement at the Nov. 12 Selectboard meeting. “When you actually take the cost per unit, it seems like it would be more beneficial to spend that money on brand-new housing.”
Winter said the project’s estimated $6.5 million cost is “soup to nuts,” and doesn’t represent the amount of money Twin Pines would put into the actual renovations.
He said nearly $2 million of the $6.5 million is related to an internal transaction that helps generate the tax credit equity that will be used to develop the project, and $1.6 million more goes toward architectural and engineering fees and the temporary relocation of tenants during the renovations.
In addition, Winter said, it is vital to maintain the properties that Twin Pines already owns. He said the Christian Street and VA Cutoff Road properties, also known as Hillcrest Manor, haven’t had maintenance work done to them for 17 years. Since purchasing the Quechee Pines and South Main Street properties, no major renovations have been done. By refurbishing the buildings, at least 20 years will be added onto the life of the structures.
“We are trying to be a good landlord and take care of properties so that it’s a place that people want to and can live for the long term,” he said. New housing projects are just as important and are in the works in the Upper Valley, he said.
Twin Pines and other local agencies recently won a long-running legal challenge to the proposed Grange Hill project, a 36-unit housing complex near Woodstock Union High School in West Woodstock, and will move ahead with construction. And he said 15 more units are to be constructed at Gile Hill in Hanover.
Twin Pines also developed the Rivermere complex in Lebanon that was badly damaged by flooding last July, just weeks after it opened.
Although the Hartford project won’t add any housing units, tearing down and replacing a garage and barn that act as apartments at two of the properties will allow for new, up-to-date units to be built.
Nathan Cleveland, a community development specialist with the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, was one of several individuals who toured the Hartford sites and examined each building’s condition last Monday.
Cleveland helps Twin Pines through the funding application process, which he said is competitive.
“A lot of the applications we receive are for existing affordable housing,” Cleveland said. By looking at the properties, project partners can figure out ways to refine the application and make it as compelling as possible.
Wooster said he trusts Twin Pines to use the funds in the best way possible.
“I have great confidence in Andrew and Twin Pines that they know what they are doing,” he said. “I am in favor of (the renovation project). I think we need as much good, affordable housing as we can get.”
Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said he is pleased to see the nonprofit go after funding to better the town’s housing stock.
“I think anything that enhances and improves the quality of living for people is a great opportunity,” Rieseberg said. “They are going to rehab several housing complexes, and it would significantly improve the quality of living in those units.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.