By Dot Bergin
Residents of Bedford Village filled the Selectmen’s Meeting room on December 19 for a presentation on the “expiring use” status of the 96-unit complex.
Tenants-many of whom have lived for decades in the complex-attended the meeting to express their continuing anxiety about the fate of the 48 affordable rental units. If the property is sold to a new owner or undergoes a change from its present status, rents would increase and some tenants might be forced to move.
To partially allay their fears and to indicate to the town their interest in preserving Bedford Village, the Selectmen voted unanimously to instruct town staff in cooperation with the Regional Services Housing Office (RHSO) to develop a project request form for FY18 for the Community Preservation budget (in connection with expiring use.) Selectman Mike Rosenberg said “We want to send a message to the tenants and to the town that we agree with all the advantages of maintaining the status quo,” of the complex. Rosenberg assured those present that the Selectmen support their interests and would do their best to be responsive.
In brief, here is a summary of the existing situation, as outlined by Liz Rust and Dan Gaulin, RHSO consultants to the town.
- Bedford Village was built in the late 1970s, providing affordable rental units to residents. Fifty percent of the units are at risk.
- In 1977, the property was purchased by SC Management and financed in 1978 through MassHousing 13A subsidy program. State funding for 13A subsidies has expired.
- Bedford Village is one of 21 13A developments in the state that, without preservation, will expire in 2018.
In March 2016 Tenants were given notice that subsidies and affordability restrictions would expire in March 2018. The Massachusetts Legislature enacted so called “40-T” legislation in 2009 that provides some protection to tenants: it requires two years notice of the expiration date, rent protection for three years after the expiration date, and rent increases limited by a formula (4-5% annually.)
Why Preserve Bedford Village?
As Rust pointed out, the town benefits from having a diverse stock of affordable units and nearby businesses appreciate having a local labor force. Bedford Village’s affordable rents are higher than those in the Bedford Housing Authority units, but lower than the affordable units at Avalon or Taylor Pond. If not preserved, roughly half the tenants will likely need to move because they can’t afford market rent.
From the state’s perspective, Bedford Village is attractive to preserve because it is well-located, near good schools and employment centers. Although the property would require some rehab, it does not need a major overhaul. It’s a good-sized project, not too small but not so large it would require too much subsidy funding.
What Happens Now?
As Rust explained, and Town Manager Rick Reed concurred, preservation starts with the owner, who has the option to retain or sell the property or to preserve it. The RHSO team and town administrators are in the process of setting up meetings with the owner, who is said to be in ill health and eager to dispose of properties in her portfolio. (She owns several other similar properties.) With RHSO guidance, the town will continue to reach out to the owner and to agencies, especially the Department of Housing and Community Development. It is possible that Community Preservation Funds can be allocated to this preservation opportunity.
The Citizen plans to follow events closely and will continue to report as this situation unfolds.