SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 27, 2013

Habitat home slated for Coolidge Road in Danvers

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — An abandoned house on Coolidge Road that has been boarded up for years was torn down on Monday by Habitat for Humanity North Shore, which plans to replace it with an affordable home later this year.

This is the nonprofit’s second project in town. Earlier this year, the group completed a duplex on Mill Street in the former Danversport School playground, which is now a Danvers Housing Authority property. In Woodvale, the project will be a single-family residence, in keeping with the neighborhood.

Construction will begin in the spring on a new, four-bedroom house with two baths.

The dilapidated ranch house, viewed by neighbors as an eyesore, had sat empty for nearly two decades. It took only a few hours for heavy equipment to reduce it to a pile of rubble, according to Gary Cowles, a Beverly resident who is vice president of the board of Habitat for Humanity North Shore. By the end of this week, all that should be left is a flat piece of land, he said.

“I think the neighborhood is very happy we are going to get it cleaned up,” Cowles said.

The house was “a real mess,” filled with abandoned clothing and furniture, he added. Trees had even started to grow inside it.

The 1960s ranch had stood in stark contrast to a neighborhood of well-kept, single-family homes with wide lawns in a part of town bounded by Route 128 to the south and the Proctor Farm conservation area and Beverly Airport to the east. The home is within walking distance of Danvers High.

“It’s probably the nicest property we’ve ever built on,” Cowles said.

The town took the property for back taxes a few years ago and transferred it this year to the Danvers Affordable Housing Trust. With money set aside from the redevelopment of former Danvers State Hospital, the trust paid the back taxes, approximately $40,000, and legal fees, about $3,500, in exchange for the property, which is assessed in town records at nearly $300,000.

The trust then put out a request for proposals to find a nonprofit developer to tear down the old house and build a new one on the half-acre site, with the intent of selling it for below the market rate, said Selectman Gardner Trask, who is also chairman of the Danvers Affordable Housing Trust. Ownership of the property was transferred to Habitat two weeks ago. The group has met with neighbors to inform them of its plans.

The deal meant Habitat was able to take ownership of the property without having to pay for it, in return for constructing the home and selling it at an affordable rate, Trask said.

This is the first project facilitated by the trust, which was created in 2011. Trask said the trust was formed so it could act on projects without having to wait for Town Meeting approval, as was the case with the Coolidge Road home.

The most important aspect of the project is “a new family will move into a new house next year,” Trask said.

Those seeking to qualify for the house have to demonstrate a need, Cowles said. They may be living in unsafe, unsanitary or overcrowded conditions, or be spending more than half their income on rent. There are also income guidelines. Families making up to 60 percent of the area’s median income, which for a family of four would be around $56,000, would be eligible to apply. Danvers residents will be given preference.

One of the biggest factors for a potential applicant is sweat equity; accepted applicants must invest 400 hours to help build the house.

“You have to be willing to partner with us,” Cowles said.

Habitat is currently building a house in Lynn, which will be finished before construction begins on the Danvers house. In a side note, Cowles said, when crews arrived at the Lynn build the other day, they found someone had stolen all their power tools, including nail guns, reciprocating saws and circular saws. He said the theft will not push back the construction schedule, but the organization will have to replace the tools.

Details on how to apply to partner with Habitat for Humanity North Shore on the Coolidge Road home can be found at http://habitatforhumanity-northshore.com, or by calling 781-598-0310.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.