BARRE — The Barre Housing Authority won’t have to worry about losing its administrative offices on Washington Street and the local Meals on Wheels program operated by one of its affiliates can expect an annual infusion of new revenue thanks to a creative public-private partnership.
Though the seeds for this one were sown nearly a year ago, just announced tax credits will help finance a $500,000 project former mayor Thomas Lauzon said features little risk and no real downside.
“This project kind of checks all the boxes,” said Lauzon, suggesting it is good for Barre, good for the local housing authority, good for isolated residents who rely on home-delivered meals and good for the private investors he is quietly recruiting.
So far, Lauzon said no one he has approached has declined and the list doesn’t need to get much longer.
Lauzon said both he and his wife, Karen, are in as are Dr. Mark Yorra and Fred and Joyce Oeschger.
Optimally, Lauzon is looking for 10 people willing to invest $20,000 in the already-complete acquisition and soon-to-start renovation of the Washington Street property that has been home to the housing authority’s administrative offices for the last seven years.
That won’t change, according to Lauzon, who swiftly did what the housing authority wanted to but couldn’t when the property became available last year.
“We bought it,” he said of the strategically located three-story building, that is home to the housing authority’s first-floor offices and a couple of vacant upper-level apartments that need to be brought up to code in order to be habitable.
Those and other renovations – nearly $300,000 worth – are part of a 10-year plan
Lauzon, who bought the property for $210,000 a year ago, said those and other renovations – nearly $300,000 worth – are part of a 10-year plan for which financing has been secured.
Some of the money – $200,000 – will come from investors who are being asked to purchase a share of the property for $20,000. Some will be covered by more than $52,000 in tax credits and the balance will be financed over 10 years by Community National Bank.
According to Lauzon, 10 years is the magic number, because once the debt is retired, investors will be asked to agree in advance to donate the property to Barre Housing Services Inc. – the non-profit that is affiliated with the housing authority, operates City Hotel Cafe and, by extension, the local Meals on Wheels program.
Lauzon said that matters because the Meals on Wheels program will be the beneficiary of what would start as a modest annual donation while investors own the property and significantly increase once ownership shifts to Barre Housing Services.
According to Lauzon’s calculations, while debt service is being repaid the donation to Meals on Wheels program should be slightly more than $5,000, once the debt service is retired it should spike to more than $50,000.
That assumes an incremental annual increase in the Barre Housing Authority’s $3,500-a-month rent and revenue generated by three one-bedroom apartments that will be established as part of the project.
“Everybody wins,” said Lauzon, who worked out the model with Brian Amones, chairman of the housing authority’s board and Charles “Chip” Castle, the organization’s executive director.
Under the arrangement, Lauzon said the housing authority will retain a stable and affordable home for its offices, the Meals on Wheels program will pick up an important new source of revenue and the city will retain a tax-paying property that will increase in value as as result of the proposed renovations.
Then there are the investors, who Lauzon said won’t make money during the 10 years they own a portion of the property, but will “get their money back” in the form of a charitable contribution he estimates at between $50,000 and $60,000 when the property is donated to Barre Housing Services.