Navy Yard’s Ropewalk Project Changes Up Affordable Housing Mix

In an effort to qualify for a new financing program, the Ropewalk developers in the Navy Yard have gained approval from the Boston Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) to raise the rent levels on their affordable housing component.

The Ropewalk is a residential development that has long been in the works, and includes building 58 (the Ropewalk) and building 60 (tarsheds) near Third Street and Chelsea Street. The designated developer by the BPDA is Frontier Enterprises, which was formerly headed up by the late Joe Timilty, but is now run by his business partners. The plan is to develop them into 97 units of housing in a very complex redevelopment plan, and 20 percent of those units have to be affordable.

Last week, the BPDA heard a request to change the affordable housing component of 20 units from the lower rents of 50 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) to the higher rents of 70 percent and 100 percent.

The BPDA did approve the request.

The new plan will have 13 of the affordable units under 70 percent of the AMI and seven of the units under 100 percent of the AMI – which results in significantly higher rents and income qualifications than before.

“It is important to the BPDA that the Ropewalk project moves forward in order to redevelop this long-neglected area of the Charlestown Navy Yard, while maintaining the historic elements of the building,” said Bonnie McGilpin, a spokesperson for the BPDA. “The affordable housing agreement was updated because the project was unable to secure the necessary financing for the previously proposed affordability levels.”

The new average rents for 70 percent AMI would be around $1,277 a month and for 100 percent would be about $2,100 a month. Previously, the 50 percent AMI units would have been rented at about $1,000 a month or slightly less.

The units will remain at their affordability levels for 50 years.

Frontier told the Board the reason for the change was because their financing program had changed, and to make the project continue as a viable project, they had to adjust for a new financing scheme.

Previously, they had been getting financing with the MassHousing 80/20 Mortgage Loan program – which required all affordable units to be no more than 50 percent AMI. Now, however, MassHousing is no longer financing the project, and so that affordability component is null and void. So, to comply with the City’s more lax affordable housing requirements, as well as a new financing plan, the project needed to change things up.

There was no update on when the Ropewalk project might begin to move forward, and the BPDA has been very flexible with the developer in trying to get the building – which is a very complicated redevelopment – back onto the tax rolls and usable.

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