The Lowell Housing Authority has submitted its Disposition Application for eighty-seven (87) scattered site units to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and it is now awaiting review at HUD’s Special Application Center (SAC). These units are situated in Lower Belvidere, the Lower Highlands, Centralville and South Lowell. HUD will review the Authority’s application to ensure it meets the statutory threshold for approval which is scribed in HUD regulations.
There are many reasons the LHA has decided to submit an application to disposition scattered site units and include:
- A Commitment to Expanding Supportive Services within the Community
The proposed disposition of properties is structured to first be offered to residents occupying scattered site units, then to local supportive housing nonprofits, to acquire one or more of the properties for their programs on a below market basis. Property sales will be subject to HUD approval. A priority will be given to purchasers who can retain current residents, whether service eligible or not. This will help expand supportive housing programs in Lowell. Properties not purchased by either residents or supportive housing nonprofits, will be eventually offered to private purchasers at market rates.
- Housing Choice
Current residents will be able to obtain a tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher, which they can use in Lowell or in any community nation-wide for which there is a Housing Choice Voucher Program. This affords residents with complete housing choice within allowable payment standards for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. While a Housing Choice Voucher provides the same affordability as federal public housing, it will mean that the LHA will no longer be their landlord. The LHA wants to minimize relocation except for households that see possession of a Housing Choice Voucher as an opportunity to relocate in ways that are beneficial to the household. This may not be possible in all cases. The LHA will retain a Relocation Coordinator to assist the household in finding new housing suitable to their needs.
- Resources for Other Housing Redevelopment Initiatives
The disposition program will reposition LHA resources for other uses within the remaining housing portfolio and support other housing redevelopment initiatives in Lowell, especially along the Merrimack Street Corridor from Downtown to the main UMASS-Lowell Campus. The Acre, while a racially diverse neighborhood, is subject to a poverty rate over 40%, which is the highest rate in Lowell and one of the highest poverty rates in Massachusetts. The LHA is seeking community-based strategies to “affirmatively further fair housing,” which is a mandate placed on HUD funded programs. There are many options for creating a more economically diverse community in the Acre.
Redevelopment has always been a significant role for public housing authorities. In preparation for the agency’s transition to redevelopment activities, the Lowell Housing Authority established the Revitalization Effort Towards New Urbanism, Inc. (RENU). RENU has been formed to foster collaboration between community stakeholders with an interest and role in promoting economic development in the Acre through increased housing, vitalized street level retail, and the development of spaces for small scale business development. The expansion of housing relying on a mixed-income approach will bring customers requiring services, which will, in turn, support retail. Further new development is expected to increase the number of employment opportunities in the neighborhood and surrounding communities.
Lowell has much to offer as commuter-friendly city with public transportation connections to Boston, and easily accessible to residents of northern New England. The City has a thriving University in Umass Lowell with diverse and unique programs, and a modest cost of living, making Lowell an attractive choice for students pursuing higher education, and individuals seeking business opportunities.
The disposition of the LHA scattered site units is just the beginning. Through community engagement, the LHA hopes to create a more diverse Acre, with expansion along the Merrimack Street Corridor. Repositioning of our portfolio to focus on what the agency does best and being attentive to the needs of the community in which we have our greatest assets is the next step for our agency.