Introduction: Affordable Housing in an Upper Income Community
Built in a rural, upper-income New Hampshire town not far from the Massachusetts border, the Hidden Pond Apartments provides new affordable housing in a town that had very little of it.
The Hidden Pond initiative includes 28 affordable two-bedroom apartments on a five-building site in the town of Amherst. Built within the town’s expanded historic district, the new development was designed to mimic the large historic homes typically found in the area.
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston's Affordable Housing Program awarded the initiative a $365,000 grant through member Merrimack Savings Bank.
In this AHP multimedia profile, tour the Hidden Pond Apartments and visit the home of a resident.
Jennifer Vadney is neighborhood development manager at NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire.
Amherst is outside of Nashua, not far from the Massachusetts border. It’s an affluent community — an ideal spot for affordable housing. There was very little rental housing — if any — in the town prior to the construction of The Hidden Pond Apartments.
A senior development was built there several years ago — which was well received — but there hadn’t been construction of any new family rental housing. There were maybe a couple of condo projects built in town.
Amherst is a pretty small New England town. It’s very quaint, very historic. It’s a great community for schools and families.
The Hidden Pond includes five buildings and 28 affordable apartments, all of them two bedrooms. The development was built within the town’s expanded historic district. It’s new construction but was designed to mimic the large historic homes typically found in the area.
Developing the Initiative
This housing was very well received by town government. The planning board and the town administrator were very helpful.
We used a Community Development Block Grant through the town to help finance Hidden Pond. Our primary funding was Low Income Housing Tax Credits, but we were also fortunate to receive Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston AHP funding through member Merrimack County Savings Bank. This was our first project with Merrimack County and they were super.
I think our biggest challenge was getting the project approved by the town’s Historic District Commission. Construction had to follow the town’s historic guidelines. This added a layer of complexity to the project, but we got it done.
This project was started by Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Nashua, which was unable to finish it. That organization was winding down its operations and asked if NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire would be willing to complete it. We were certainly happy to do that. Neighborhood Housing Services had a relationship with Merrimack County Savings Bank and we were fortunate to be able to continue that relationship.
If a bank is already involved in a project, we are happy to pick up and move forward with them. Otherwise we’ll do a request for proposals and allow banks to let us know what they can do. It really depends on the project and the scenario.
We started construction in the summer of 2012 and started to lease up about a year later.
As soon as the local paper reported that a new housing project would be built in town, we started getting phone calls. We had a waiting list literally the entire time the building was under construction. We were seeing interest from folks who work in town. I think one of our first calls was from somebody who worked at Town Hall. We were also hearing stories about retirees who wanted to move back to town. Young people who had grown up in town and left for college wanted to be able to afford to come back to town to live. There was certainly a demand in town for this type of housing.
We have a lot of families as well as seniors living at Hidden Pond now. We had a handful of folks move in who didn’t have a home of their own. They weren’t living in a shelter but were living temporarily with family. Some of the residents work in town, others in Nashua and Milford. Some folks travel to Massachusetts for work.
Stewart Property Management manages all of our rental properties. We have worked with them for 20 years now and have a super relationship with them. We also have a full time tenant services coordinator who works with residents in all of our properties on any issues that may arise, including responding to quality of life issues, connecting to services, working with resident councils, and helping out with tenant events and resident newsletters. The idea is to have a person in place whom the tenants can call for anything and hopefully get an answer to a question or a solution to a problem.
NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire develops affordable housing and offers homeownership programs. Our primary funding source for our housing continues to be Low Income Housing Tax Credits, though AHP, HOME, and CDBG funding are also important. Every piece counts for us.
NeighborWorks has been focusing on the housing needs of small towns like Amherst where there isn’t a lot of affordable housing. For many years we worked in Manchester — and continue to work there — but now we’re doing more new construction in area towns that need affordable housing. We really see a need for this housing in communities outside of Manchester.
Many people want to live in towns and rural areas but they often find they can’t afford to live in them. New Hampshire is still a small town place. Many folks want to live in the towns where they grew up. We think people should be able to find affordable housing in those places.
In our new construction projects outside of Manchester we have been focusing on townhouse-style developments. Families really appreciate the opportunity to have a townhouse. They like having their own front doors and apartments on two levels. Townhouses give families room to spread out. People appreciate the privacy that comes with a townhouse. These apartments feel like a home of their own. I think this is what many people look for when they move out of the city.
Hidden Pond has a unique design. It was designed to look historic. All five buildings are different. These are townhouses, but from a distance they look like large historic homes.
We built to Energy Star standards, but without the certifications. All of our appliances and fixtures are Energy Star. The insulation ratings are certainly sufficient.
Lori Piper is senior vice president at member Merrimack County Savings Bank, the sponsor of the Hidden Pond Apartments.
Merrimack County Savings Bank was pleased to have the opportunity to be involved in this workforce housing project in Amherst, New Hampshire. The initiative has created much needed affordable rental housing in an affluent community. This housing gives people who work in Amherst the opportunity to live there.
Partnering with NeighborWorks of Southern New Hampshire was a pleasure. They are a strong nonprofit with outstanding leadership. This project was accomplished with much hard work and due diligence by NeighborWorks' fine development team.
The team took great care in building a project that fit right in with the character of this small quintessential New England town.