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West Fenway Apartments renovations bring savings to affordable housing

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  July 19, 2012 03:13 PM

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(Photo by Johanna Kaiser for boston.com)

Fenway Community Development Corporation Executive Director Dharmena Downey speaks at the ribbon cutting of the newly renovated West Fenway Apartments on Peterborough Street. Downey was joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (right), State Rep. Byron Rushing, and City Councillor Mike Ross (not pictured).

Local leaders, city officials, and residents of the Fenway celebrated the newly renovated West Fenway Apartments on Peterborough Street Wednesday and the neighborhood’s commitment to affordable housing.

“It’s housing a population that couldn’t live in the neighborhood otherwise given the pressures from gentrification and institutional encroachment that happen in the Fenway,” Dharmena Downey, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation, said outside the building the organization built in 1990 and started renovating in 2011.

The affordable housing building provides 48-units, eight of which are wheelchair accessible, to seniors and disabled residents, and is the first affordable housing residence in the country to set aside four units for those with HIV/AIDS.

Now, the Fenway CDC’s recently completed renovations--including solar panels on the roof to power its hot water system--designed make the building more energy efficient and cut costs that will help preserve affordable housing funds.

“The pressure on the residential portion of the neighborhood is really great, so our ability --with support of our funders--to provide this kind of housing to keep this a vibrate residential neighborhood is really key to the neighborhood and certainly key to our mission,” said Downey.

The renovations also include sprinkler installations, envelope repairs, a new roof and boilers, elevator modernization, and new windows and toilets to improve energy and water use.

New kitchens and bathrooms were installed in about half the units and the common areas were improved.

The solar panels installed on the roof are expected to produce 50 percent of the hot water for the building and have already cut energy costs by 40 percent.

“Creating affordable housing is important to all of us...as we go forward, one of the best ways to preserve affordable housing is to green it,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, congratulating the neighborhood organization on the $13 million project.

A total of $7 million--$5 million in permanent funding and $2 million in construction funding--was provided through tax-exempt bonds issued by MassDevelopment and purchased by BNY Mellon and serviced by the Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority also provided a $75,264 grant as part of the city’s Green Affordable Housing Program.

“Somebody might say ‘That’s a lot of money, mayor.’ It’s not a lot of money when you’re saving affordable housing in our city because we know how scarce affordable housing is today,” said

While looking to the long term benefit of the renovations for affordable housing, officials also thanked the apartments’ residents who faced months of construction and relocations.

“Relocations are never easy, but the tenants put up with a lot” said Downey, thanking the tenants. “This wasn’t easy and only you know how difficult it really was.”
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Twitter: @YTFenwayKenmore
E-mail: johanna.yourtown@gmail.com

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