Guest Op-Ed: Preserving More Deeply Affordable Units Across the Commonwealth

By Joseph J. Corcoran

This past week, the Joseph J Corcoran Company broke ground on a 330 unit mixed income transformation of the Innes Apartments. It will replace a 1950’s built, 96-unit, public housing development owned by the Chelsea Housing Authority. Included in the new development are 96 new public housing units which will be dispersed among the other 40 middle income and 196 new, class A, market rate units: In short, No “rich door/poor door.” Every unit will be the same – meaning all of the design features, fixtures and appliances will be identical and every resident will have full access to all building amenities. Forty percent of the total redevelopment will be affordable.  Along with our partner, John M. Corcoran and Company, which will co-develop with us and provide property management, we’ve formed a public/private partnership with the Chelsea Housing Authority and the Innis Resident Association.

So what’s the big deal? Everything – In an era where virtually all public housing is rebuilt using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC), we are using the private capital markets to generated the funds to replace existing, obsolete public housing and add new housing units to the market. Private capital is funding numerous wood frame, energy efficient, Class A, apartment construction developments throughout the greater Boston area. The innovation of the Chelsea Housing Authority is allowing Innes to be rebuilt with development private capital. LIHTC is not being utilized here. The LIHTC dollars that would have been required to rebuild 96 units are now available to other community development organizations that build affordable housing – preserving more deeply affordable units across the Commonwealth.

It should also be noted that our public private partnership is utilizing a program created by the Baker administration called PEHO (Partnership to Expand Housing Opportunities). With a focus on state public housing, PEHO requires housing authorities to procure a development partner and encourages the team to seek alternative funding sources. My presentation to the Chelsea Housing Authority proposed a market based mixed income model in which the Innes residents will live next door to a market and middle-income residents. My proposal was strengthened with two concrete examples that I grew up with: the transformation of America Park to King’s Lynne in Lynn and the transformation of Columbia Point to Harbor Point in Dorchester. Both, developed by my father, Joseph E Corcoran, rely on market rate units to generate the income that makes the developments operate financially and to provide income for supportive services for residents who need them. That operating model is identical to the operating model that will be utilized at Innes. We’ve merely replaced the sources necessary to provide the capital to rebuild, from the public sector to the private sector.

I hope the next governor continues to fund the PEHO program and more housing authorities discover there is a viable option to rebuild their aging housing portfolios. The Chelsea model proves private capital can be used to provide better living conditions to many more public housing residents.

Joseph J. Corcoran, is President of the Joseph J. Corcoran Company.

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