The seventy-eight families currently living at Pine Tree Lane and Beechwood Lane Apartments in West Lebanon learned Friday that their affordable rental homes are no longer at risk of turning into market-rate housing. During a celebratory news conference Friday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials, Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, and Andrew Winter of Twin Pines Housing Trust announced that Twin Pines has facilitated the purchase of the two properties and will continue operating the 100 units of affordable rental housing with the help of a USDA loan.
“The vitality of rural communities is contingent upon the availability of safe, decent and affordable housing for working families, our seniors and many others who live on tight budgets,” said David Lipsetz, USDA Rural Housing Service Chief of Staff. “The effort Twin Pines Housing Trust undertook to preserve these 100 units of housing serves as a model I hope the USDA can replicate nationwide. The USDA is working to preserve our portfolio of affordable rental housing, but we couldn’t be successful without the advocacy of our residents, our property owners and affordable housing developers like Twin Pines.”
Earlier this year, the residents of Pine Tree Lane were informed that their rents would increase at the end of the year when the existing owner’s mortgage and rental assistance contract with the USDA were set to expire. The Upper Valley affordable housing community worked closely with the USDA, then-owner the Hodges Companies, and the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation to ensure that the property continued within the USDA program.
Twin Pines Housing Trust used a $6,775,526 USDA loan to purchase the 50-unit Pine Tree Lane and the adjacent 50-unit Beechwood Lane apartment complexes from the Hodges Companies and create the “Village at Crafts Hill.” The new 30 year low interest loan will enable current and future residents of 88 of the 100 units to be eligible for USDA’s rental assistance program. The rental assistance program ensures a family pays no more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Twin Pines Housing Trust closed on its purchase of the property on Thursday, November 19th.
“We at Twin Pines are thrilled that we have been able to acquire these two projects to ensure that this housing, and the 88 subsidized units, continue to serve some of the lowest income residents of the Upper Valley,” said Andrew Winter, Executive Director of Twin Pines Housing Trust. “To have lost the subsidized units and the ability to serve some of the most vulnerable people in our region would have been a tragedy.”
Both Pine Tree Lane and Beechwood Apartments were funded by USDA Rural Development’s 515 Multi-family Housing Program more than three decades ago. USDA operates 167 multi-family rental properties across New Hampshire and Vermont that consist of 4,501 rental apartments, 3,637 of which are eligible for rental assistance.
During Friday’s announcement, Chief of Staff Lipsetz noted that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has made preserving the affordability of maturing 515 properties a priority for the agency. Lipsetz said the USDA has compiled a toolkit of strategies to incentivize current owners with expiring mortgages to re-enlist in the 515 program or transfer ownership to a non-profit organization interested in re-enlisting in the program.
“I am so pleased that we were able to reach a positive outcome for the residents of Pine Tree Lane and maintain the rental assistance program,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I thank everyone for their hard work to get this deal done; in particularly I want to thank Rural Development, the Twin Pines Housing Trust, The Hodges Companies, committed community leaders, and above all the residents of Pine Tree Lane who displayed great patience and fortitude through this arduous process. There is a critical need for low income housing in the Lebanon area and all across New Hampshire, I will continue to work to meet that need. I plan to work with Rural Development and other communities to better address this problem and find more long term solutions that will provide shelter to more Granite Staters.”
"As we celebrate this agreement today, I want to thank the people who worked tirelessly to make it happen,” noted Senator Shaheen. “I commend Rural Development, the Twin Pines Housing Trust, the Hodges Companies and all of the residents who advocated to ensure the Village at Crafts Hill provides quality, affordable housing. I will continue working in Congress to help all Granite Staters enjoy the peace of mind that comes with secure housing."
USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $213 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development websites (www.rd.usda.gov/nh or www.rd.usda.gov/vt ) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.