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September 19, 2013

Abandoned house to become affordable home

DANVERS — The doors and windows are covered in plywood, the cement walkway has crumbled, and overgrown trees loom overhead.

The ranch house at 55 Coolidge Road, built about 1960, stands in stark contrast to the tidy homes that make up this quiet Woodvale neighborhood, just off routes 62 and 128.

A few years ago, the town took the house for back taxes, and the town now mows the lawn. But neighbors say it’s been years, even decades, since anyone has lived in it.

And this week, they told selectmen they have waited a long time for someone to do something about the abandoned property.

Selectmen took a step in that direction Tuesday night — a step that would allow a family of modest means to live in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. They voted unanimously to transfer the property to the Danvers Affordable Housing Trust so it can be redeveloped into an affordable, single-family home.

Selectman Bill Clark said the board had to weigh financial considerations — what the town could fetch by auctioning off the property to a private developer, versus the need for more affordable housing. Clark came down on the side of creating more affordable homes in town.

“How many of your children, if you are as old as I am, can afford to live in town?” Clark asked rhetorically.

Using money the town set aside from the redevelopment of Danvers State Hospital, the trust would pay the back taxes, about $40,000, and legal fees, about $3,500, in exchange for the property.

The trust does not intend to become a landlord or developer of property. The aim is for a nonprofit developer or agency to bid to redevelop the house, which would then be sold for a below-market rate. The goal would be to rebuild a single-family home, not a multifamily, in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.

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