CHARLESTOWN — It’s been a long wait but future tenants of Churchwoods will finally be in their new homes this week.
“We vetted everyone by the middle of September and they’ve been waiting,” said Melissa Koseski, regional vice president of the Wingate Companies of Newton, Mass., the management company for the complex, who was at the site Friday.
The $6.3 million low-income rental complex for senior citizens 55 and older had its ribbon-cutting on Nov. 6 and was scheduled to accept tenants on Nov. 15. But unacceptable results from water testing halted the process. After a month of exploration, a leak in a well casing was repaired, water tests came back clean on Tuesday of last week and the certificate of occupancy was granted the next day.
Koseski said she was making appointments with tenants to have them sign their leases, pay the first month’s rent, and sign up with National Grid for electrical service.
The 24 tenants were chosen by lottery, subject to financial qualification. A maximum of two people can live in each of the units, which are all one-bedroom.
“We had 150 people were interested and not all qualified,” said Koseski. “We had 66 applications that qualified for the lottery.”
Rent is based on how much the tenant household earns compared with the area’s median income, which was $55,836 in 2014. Those who earn 50 percent of the median income pay $590 a month, those who earn 60 percent of the median pay $734, and those at 80 percent of the median pay $1,023 per month.
The units are heated by electricity and have their own hot water heaters and washer-dryer hookups.
Tenants pay for their own electricity, estimated at $131 per month, which was taken into account when the rents were determined using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, Koseski said.
Designed by Architect Paul Attemann, a senior associate at Union Studio Architecture and Community Design, of Providence, the complex comprises seven one-story buildings built in a wide half-circle facing a central community building where the tenants’ mailboxes are located.
Each unit has its own entrance, a small front patio space, a back patio, a lockable storage closet, and its own dedicated trash and recycling barrels located in the back. Besides a bedroom, the units have a combined open-concept living and kitchen room with slightly smaller apartment-sized stoves and refrigerators. The bathrooms have tiled showers with floor drains but no bathtubs, which are considered too difficult for the elderly to get in and out of.
While all of the units are one-bedroom, they are designed in slightly different configurations. Five of the units are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, 15 are built as adaptable to the standards, and four are not adaptable
“They’re all very much identical except the design might be flip-flopped and the ones in the middle don’t have windows on the side,” Koseski said.
The units were assigned in order by lottery and not by income, she said. “It was totally random unless someone needed an ADA-accessible unit and then they were given first priority,” she said.
The complex will have a 24-hour on-call service, a maintenance person 20 hours per week and an on-site operations manager 20 hours a week. It has two generators. One will run the septic system during a power outage and the other is connected to the community center.
“In the event that we’re out of power for a little bit of time, at least people can congregate there while waiting,” Koseski said.
Opening the doors to tenants next week will be the result of planning that goes back as far as 2004, when Charlestown passed a $1 million affordable housing bond. The Churchwoods project was conceived in 2011 and money from the bond was used to buy the property. A 2013 Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Relief from Superstorm Sandy provided $4.4 million in funding and the Rhode Island Housing Resource Commission provided a $1.9 million grant.
Opening Churchwoods is a major accomplishment, but the need for affordable housing continues, Koseski said. “If we could have 24 more units, I’d have 24 more people calling.”