Trust to Consider Purchasing, Repairing “Affordable” House

The Select Board thinks it is important for the town to retain a detached single-family house in the affordable housing inventory.

The board hopes the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust agrees.

Wednesday, the trust members will consider a request to purchase a house on Winterberry Way for $217,000. The Select Board voted last Monday to exercise right of first refusal and recommend purchase by the trust, which has assets earmarked for purposes like this.

The owners want to sell the house, which they bought more than 25 years ago when they qualified as purchasers of an affordable home.

Under provisions in the deed, the town has the right of first refusal for purchase, but only for 30 days.

The three-bedroom, single-family house with a two-car garage and an enclosed porch would be unique in the town’s affordable housing inventory, Town Manager Sarah Stanton told the Select Board.

However, the house also is in disrepair, she said. That means in addition to the $217,000 purchase price, the town would have to invest at least $150,000 before resale, perhaps as much as $200,000, depending on supply chain and inflation. Once the house is fixed up and sold, the net cost would be about $100,000, she said. The assessed value is $675,000.

After reviewing the details with the state Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHCD), it was determined that the house cannot be sold through the usual lottery of eligible buyers because of the disrepair, Elizabeth Rust, Director of the Regional Housing Service Office, told the board.

“The deed restriction has a provision that allows it to be released if no eligible purchaser is found, or if the town and DHCD choose not to locate such a buyer.  Which is the case here,” Rust explained in a subsequent email.

The Winterberry Way subdivision was built in 1996 and included 10 affordable houses; this is the first that has come up for resale, Rust told the board.

When repaired, Rust said, the house “would be a tremendous opportunity for a first-time family. Most of Bedford’s affordable units are condominiums and apartments.

If the trust declines and the house is sold in the market, Rust said, Bedford would receive a windfall of about $300,000 for future units.

“It’s a real disappointment for the program for us to have to come in and pay,” Select Board member Ed Pierce observed. His colleague Margot Fleischman pointed out that $100,000 is often the town’s “price point” in creating a new affordable unit. “Even now we are struggling to find ways to spend our affordable housing dollars.”

Fleischman suggested that “it would be nice to partner with an appropriate agency” in repair and resale. Rust suggested Habitat for Humanity as an option.

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