Residents excitedly await $19 million Fairfield elderly housing complex
FAIRFIELD — Peggy Ford gets calls everyday from the displaced Pine Tree apartment dwellers.
Is everything going okay? Is the project moving ahead on schedule? They’re excited, said Ford, the resident service coordinator for the Fairfield Housing Authority, about the $19 million redevelopment of the dated, and small, elderly housing complex on Pine Tree Lane.
The project, approved last year by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, calls for the demolition of the existing 11, one-story buildings, in two phases. In their place, eight, two-story buildings with a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, will be built.
Phase 1 got under way at the beginning of May, with eight of the apartment buildings, as well as the community building, demolished and residents relocated.
FHA Director Carol Martin said the authority hired a relocation company to work with residents to find them temporary housing. Most, she said, remained in Fairfield, while a few moved to Bridgeport to be closer to family during construction.
“Their rent stays the same and they pay that rent to the FHA,” Martin said, with the housing authority on the hook for any rent above that amount. In essence, she said, the authority is leasing the various apartments and subletting them to the displaced tenants.
There is about $596,000 budgeted for relocation costs and rent subsidies. As the first phase is completed, the residents living in the three remaining buildings will be moved into the new units first, and then residents who are off-site will be brought back. The remaining buildings will be demolished and the final phase built. The two buildings facing the street will be smaller, with four units each.
When the apartments are completed, they will be handicapped accessible, barrier-free units, each with its own washer and dryer. The one-bedroom apartments will be 770-square-feet, while two-bedrooms will be 1,230-square-feet. First floor apartments will have a small patio in the back.
But they will also have something else — a mix of residents as the complex changes from one restricted to those who are over the age of 62 or disabled, to one available to low-income, and even no income, residents. New residents could include perhaps a single mom, or a new school teacher or police officer just starting their jobs, Martin said.
Rents will be dependent on a tenant’s income, and all of the current Pine Tree residents will be given apartments before the list is opened up to new applicants.
“It’s a more sustainable model,” Martin said, with a mix of tenants, rather than an age-restricted complex. “It will be a much more economically diverse asset when we’re done. This will make it sustainable for another 40 years.”
The construction is being financed through a combination of low- and no-interest loans from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, as well as tax credit equity of $5.8 million. The tax credit equity program is under the aegis of the IRS and gives corporations in certain tax brackets to make investments into the construction, and get a tax write off for 10 years. Alden Financial is the corporation that has invested in the Pine Tree complex, Martin said.
“We will have about $2.9 million in real debt on the property,” she said.
Construction is expected to take about a year to complete, and involves building elements being “panelized” off site in a factory. The panels are then brought to the site and pieced together.