Cheshire County requested $150,000 on behalf of Monadnock Family Services and Elm City Housing Cooperative, of which $15,000 was retained by the Keene Housing Authority to cover administrative costs. $450,000 was received from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. Total cost of the project was budgeted at $600,000.
The Cottage Street Apartments were constructed to house families who have been affected by mental illness. Currently, seven people live in the Apartments, which are barrier-free and unique in the Keene area. In fact, the Cottage Street Apartments have become a model project for Monadnock Family Services (MFS). MFS is a leader in promoting cooperatives and has previously presented its employment cooperative concept in countries around the world.
While Monadnock Family Services owns the apartments, they are currently managed by the Keene Housing Authority (KHA) in collaboration with the Cooperative and the residents.
Funds from the CDBG Housing Program partially funded the Cottage Street Apartments.
Linda Mangones, CDBG Administrator at the Keene Housing Authority recently talked to CDFA.
What was at this location prior to the Cottage Street Apartments?
Linda - A vacant, wooded lot.
Explain the Cottage Street Apartments and who it serves.
Linda - Housing is hard to find for victims of mental illness. Housing in this area is expensive and the shelters are often full. Many can’t afford the high rent. These apartments are very attractive. The residents tell us that having a place like this has transformed their lives.
Why did you build apartments for this target group?
Linda - There is a real need for these types of apartments because people and the families who are affected by mental illness have limited housing opportunities. In particular, they have a hard time competing for housing with college students who are a major part of Keene’s housing market.
How did you figure out the financing?
Linda - It was really complex and happened over a period of years. Because of unexpected delays, the project didn’t get off the ground as quickly as we thought it would. It took many years to acquire the necessary approvals. Initially, this project was handled by Monadnock Family Services, but they came to KHA for help when they ran into difficulties. Fortunately, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, which provided the major funding for the project, was understanding about delays that stretched over several years.
What was your role in the project?
Linda - I wrote the grant application and administered it on behalf of Cheshire County.
How did you hear about CDBG funding?
Linda - I was hired for the Community Development Block Grant program in Berlin, New Hampshire in 1975 and have worked in this field ever since. Monadnock Family Services was aware of KHA’s work on CDBG grants and came to us at the suggestion of New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority when it became apparent that more money was needed for the project.
Did you have access to traditional banking? Why did you end up using CDBG money?
Linda - For this project, we were limited to using home rents which are fairly low, so finding a traditional loan wasn’t viable financially. Instead, we used CDBG funds and money from NH Housing Finance Authority.
Would you have moved the project forward without CDBG money?
Linda - There is no question that CDBG funds were necessary to do this project.
What were the CDBG funds used for?
Linda - Grants from the CDBG program can’t be used for new house construction. Rather, we used the funds for site improvements like utilities, landscaping, and asphalt and concrete work.
What sets this project apart from others that you’ve done?
Linda - This project is the only one I’ve ever worked that was developed and managed by a cooperative of families. They have a cooperative board that is an active partner in running the apartments. We don’t have any other housing projects with this level of involvement.
Would you consider using CBBG funds again or would you recommend them?
Linda - Absolutely.
Are there any questions I haven’t asked, but you think people would like to know about?
Linda - The apartments really fit their name and have the feel of beautiful cottages. There was a need for this housing because it’s not readily available for this population. Lack of adequate or affordable housing was a major problem for these residents and interfered with their ability to solve their other problems. Having stable, affordable housing gives them a solid base from which they can work on their other problems.