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April 21, 2014

Few affordable units puts squeeze on renters

(Continued)

“We don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us, but we could use 10 times the amount of funding we get,” he said.

Hill and her fiancé, Shawn Sherillo, eventually found a place at Holcroft Park Homes, a $20 million affordable housing development in Beverly’s Gloucester Crossing neighborhood. The couple pays $995 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, with heat and hot water included.

They’re among the lucky ones.

The waiting list at Holcroft Park is currently two years. When the complex opened last April, with rents from $870 for one bedroom to $1,280 for three bedrooms, more than 300 applicants put their names into lotteries for 58 available units.

Andrew DeFranza, executive director of Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners, has worked on numerous affordable housing projects across the North Shore and said there is a looming crisis, particularly for senior citizens on fixed incomes.

Two federal programs that historically provided low-interest loans to build housing for the elderly and disabled — HUD’s Section 202 Housing Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Rental Housing Program — no longer exist, he said.

“We have this massive demographic shift, with all the baby boomers who are aging and living on fixed incomes, and the two major ways that we created affordable housing for those seniors are defunct,” DeFranza said. “That is extremely concerning.”

And the wait to get into a rent-subsidized apartment can take years. DeFranza said a senior housing complex his nonprofit took over in the former Rockport High School has only 31 units — and nearly 130 seniors on a waiting list.

“There are people on that list who will never have a chance to live there,” DeFranza said. “The bottom line is that there just isn’t enough public capital to build enough housing to accommodate the needs of the people.”

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