Northampton affordable housing complex cheered

  • Maurice Anderson and his children Maurice Jr., left, 5, Mauriany, 4, and M’Xavier, 4 months, play in the two-bedroom apartment that Anderson’s mother, Iris Rodriguez, began renting just a month ago at The Lumber Yard in Northampton. Anderson and his kids, who live in Holyoke, were visiting during Friday’s open house. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Iris Rodriguez, left, shows with Teresita Castano of Northampton, a visitor to Rodriguez's two-bedroom apartment during an open house at The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments in Northampton, on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Valley Community Development Corporation Executive Director Joanne Campbell speaks to scores of people gathered Friday in the courtyard of The Lumber Yard. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Janelle Chan, Massachusetts Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development, speaks about the importance of affordable housing for families in downtown Northampton during an open house at The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of apartments - most of which feature multiple bedrooms - on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments, is located on the site of the former Northampton Lumber Company on Pleasant Street in Northampton. The building, which also features commercial space, had an open house on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gail LaBarge and her son, Michael White, attend an open house on Friday, June 28, 2019, for The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments built on the site of the former Northampton Lumber Company which they ran for a decade before its closing in 2013. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments, is located on the site of the former Northampton Lumber Company on Pleasant Street in Northampton. The building, which also features commercial space, had an open house on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Patrons of the former Northampton Lumber Company will remember a similar plaque affixed to the front of that Pleasant Street business which marked the level of the 1936 flood. The site is now home to The Lumber Yard, a 55-unit complex of affordable apartments. Photographed during an open house on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments in Northampton, features a small playscape. Photographed on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz speaks at an open house for The Lumber Yard, a new 55-unit complex of affordable apartments on Pleasant Street, on Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2019 12:20:47 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A large crowd gathered for the open house to celebrate The Lumber Yard affordable housing project Friday afternoon.

The project itself, developed by the Valley Community Development Corporation alongside Wayfinders LLC, which is in charge of property management for the site, is already up and running. On the day of the celebration, 40 of its 55 units were already occupied, with people moving into 12 of the other units that same day. The remaining three units will be moved into before June 30, said Valley CDC Executive Director Joanne Campbell.

“This place will be packed,” Campbell said.

The site has 14 one-bedroom apartments, 34 two-bedroom apartments and seven three-bedroom apartments. It also has three commercial spaces, one housing Valley CDC’s offices and another that will house MBL Housing and Development. The third space, which is out front, is still available.

The event, which drew several dozen people, featured a number of speakers, including Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

“This is really a great day for the city,” Narkewicz said.

Narkewicz noted that the city had put money into the project in the form of Community Preservation Act funds and Community Development Block Act funds. It also worked with Valley CDC on the nonprofit’s successful application for a MassWorks grant that allowed a 19th-century storm sewer discovered during construction to be moved. The grant also paid for streetscape improvements on Pleasant Street.

“We put our money where our mouth is,” the mayor said.

Narkewicz also thanked the LaBarge family, which sold the property to Valley CDC and who were the longtime owners of Northampton Lumber Co., which was formerly located on the site.

Gail LaBarge and her son Michael White attended the event and were greeted with applause when acknowledged by Campbell.

On seeing the project completed, LaBarge told The Gazette, “It’s what really needed to happen.”

All the apartments in The Lumber Yard are affordable, with 43 units reserved for households at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income and 12 reserved for households at or below 30 percent of the area’s median income, with project-based rental subsidies. For a household of one that means $16,950 or less for the 30 percent mark and $33,900 or less for the 60 percent mark.

The maximum rents for the 60 percent of area median income apartments are $908 for a one-bedroom, $1,090 for a two-bedroom and $1,259 for a three-bedroom.

Preferences for the homeless and those at risk for homelessness apply to six of the apartments.

Janelle Chan, Massachusetts Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development, attended the event and praised the development for being all affordable housing. She said she wished that were true “for all of our projects.”

Citations from the state Senate were also presented to Valley CDC and Wayfinders by Sam Hopper, a staffer in the office of Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

After the speakers, attendees were able to see some of the units, some of which were inhabited or being moved into.

Vionette Vazquez, 66, began moving into her one-bedroom unit on Friday. A grandmother and a retired state worker, she previously was living in Hatfield.

“This is the perfect place. The perfect size,” Vazquez said.

Germaris Pinero, 30, moved into her three-bedroom unit with her children Alondra, 16, Ethan, 13, and Liam, 2 two weeks ago. Previously, they were staying in her parent’s basement in Springfield.

“I’m really grateful,” she said.

Pinero moved to the Springfield area when she was 16 from Puerto Rico and has been in the area ever since. She works as a support specialist at a shelter.

Ethan and Alondra both said they liked the space.

“Having everything so close me,” said Alondra, when asked about her favorite thing about living in the downtown. “Everyone’s so polite here and so welcoming. I love that.”

Iris Rodriguez moved into her two-bedroom apartment at The Lumber Yard with her sons Angel, 15, and Gabrielle, 10, on June 1 from Holyoke. She said her kids love living in Northampton.

Rodriguez grew up in the Bronx and lived in Holyoke for 14 years before moving to The Lumber Yard. She works in Holyoke as a bus monitor, and she said the parking and commute both work for her.

“I am thrilled to be here,” said Rodriguez, noting that she had often visited Northampton when she lived in Holyoke. “We made it. We’re here now.”

Although the development is officially pet-free, exceptions can be granted.

One such exception was granted to Edna, the emotional support cat for Michael, 54, and Lynne Banks, 49, in the process of moving into their apartment on the fourth floor on Friday.

The couple previously lived in Westfield, and Michael Banks said it was a dream for them to be able to to move to Northampton, which previously had been unaffordable.

“We just feel so lucky,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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