HOLYOKE – US Senator Edward J. Markey called for more federal funding for affordable housing during a tour highlighting renovations to Lyman Terrace apartments on Wednesday afternoon.
The just completed Phase II involved the rehabilitation of 76 units in the city’s oldest housing complex, the construction of a community center, extensive landscaping, road works and sidewalk improvements. Phase I ended at the end of 2018.
Markey, D-Mass., Said residents and advocates have fought to preserve Lyman Terrace, slated for wrecking nearly a decade ago. “The demolition of this home meant the demolition of the American dream for too many residents of Lyman Terrace,” he said.
The senator credited federal low income tax credits for making the project possible, as well as city dollars and private funding secured by The Community Builders, a nonprofit housing organization that acquired Lyman Terrace in May 2019.
The Community Builders have partnered with the Holyoke Housing Authority on the project. The partnership has enabled The Community Builders to pursue housing tax credits and other essential funding.
“Affordable housing is a key rung on the economic opportunity ladder. Every family should have access to a safe, clean and healthy home, ”said Markey. “These renovated units at Lyman Terrace are helping to rekindle the hope of improving our neighborhood and strengthening our community in Holyoke.
Markey added that the fight for affordable housing could not end with Lyman Terrace, and called for a “transformation” of the country’s housing system, including an end to discriminatory practices.
According to Markey, 70% of whites own a home in Massachusetts, while only 36% of blacks and 28% of Latinos own.
“A family has to earn $ 60,000 a year to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair rent in Massachusetts,” said Markey. “It is clear and just plain wrong.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges, it has also created “immense opportunities” for making historic federal investments in affordable housing, Markey said. He backed the Biden administration’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout, which funded the construction of 500,000 affordable homes. About $ 231 billion has been set aside to upgrade and modernize existing affordable units.
Markey said he was pushing President Joe Biden’s US employment plan to tackle housing more. He urged Biden to make significant investments in affordable housing in the latest infrastructure bill, which includes $ 213 billion in proposed spending to modernize more than 2 million homes nationwide.
“These are investments that will provide us with a more just, more equitable and more housed community,” said Markey. “I will continue to fight for families every day in Washington, DC”
The Community Builders have secured $ 41 million in funding for Phase II, a mix of private funds and federal housing tax credits. Eastern Contractors Inc. performed the work on the brick structures.
The Community Builders manages more than 11,000 apartments in the Northeast, Midwest and Central Atlantic states.
Pro-Mayor Terence Murphy said, “We need to provide these young children with the opportunity to live in a healthy environment. I’m happy to see that these renovations and upgrades are helping to lessen the impact of asthma issues and other things across the city.
Murphy wants to improve housing conditions in aging housing linked to the city’s high rate of asthma. “I want to advocate for more opportunities for tenants to become owners,” he said.
The local delegation included City Councilors Juan Anderson-Burgos, Peter Tallman and Rebecca Lisi, and State Senator John Velis, D-Westfield. Anderson-Burgos appeared on behalf of State Representative Patricia Duffy, D-Holyoke.
Velis said Lyman Terrace is an example of local, state and federal entities collaborating on a laudable project. “Housing is the most important and the most important thing because if you don’t have an affordable place to live, a lot of other things just don’t matter,” he said.
Matthew Mainville, Executive Director of the Holyoke Housing Authority, said, “I saw this from start to finish, and I am delighted to be here to celebrate this incredible achievement.
Mainville said Markey recognizes the role affordable housing plays in communities. “We took old buildings that were inefficient and created efficient and pleasant places to live,” he said.
Built in 1939, Lyman Terrace has undergone a major overhaul including new kitchen cabinets and appliances, bathrooms, flooring and mechanics. The complex now includes two age-appropriate play areas.
Resident Stephanie Gomez moved to Lyman Terrace three years ago with her family. “It was a good experience at Lyman Terrace. It’s a great community and a safe environment for the kids to play, ”she said.
During Phase II, Gomez and his family moved into temporary accommodation. At the time, she was expecting her second child. She commended The Community Builders for handling the move and transition. Six months later, Gomez got a call saying his renovated apartment was ready.
“We were super excited to move into our new apartment, which we call our home to this day,” Gomez said. “We now have two parks in our community that were inspired by our children. “
Bart Mitchell, CEO of The Community Builders, said the project represented an “incredible level of partnership” between stakeholders.
“It was driven by the vision of the residents, a vision that we will preserve and improve our homes,” Mitchell said. “We are going to make the most of and be a part of downtown Holyoke.”