Haverhill Developing Plans for Loan or Grant Program to Encourage Building Accessory Apartments

Mayor James J. Fiorentini, right, credits Rep. Andy X. Vargas with encouraging the development of more accessory dwelling units in Haverhill. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill residents who wish to add an apartment to their homes could qualify for special financing as the city consider another way to boost affordable housing.

As WHAV reported last week, state Rep. Andy X. Vargas secured a $50,000 earmark in the state budget to help residents with the expense of creating what have become known as “accessory dwelling units.” Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini told WHAV he envisions a pilot program along the lines of one created in Salem, Mass.

“Maybe a loan, maybe a grant. We’re not sure yet. We will tell homeowners who want to establish an ADU, but need some help doing the remodeling that’s necessary, and we will give you a low-interest loan or grant in order to do the ADU if you will guarantee that for a certain period of time it will be rented only as an affordable unit,” the mayor said.

Last March, after considerable debate, Haverhill city councilors voted 8-1 to expand the city’s accessory apartment ordinances that, decades ago, were known as “in-law” apartments and limited to relatives.

The new ordinance requires such apartments be at owner-occupied properties, have no more than two bedrooms, provide off-street parking, rented for no more than a year at a time, not be sold separately from the principal home, maintain the architectural character of the original property and not exceed 1,200 square feet in size.

Fiorentini credit Vargas with the expanded concept and the city has worked on details for the past one or two years.

“We have a lot of details to work out. What does the word affordable mean? How much money can we give out in this pilot program? How long will we require it to be affordable? That’s the general idea. We want to subsidize affordable units,” he said.

Once the program is established, it will be operated from the city Community Development Department, led by Division Director Andrew K. Herlihy.

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