Abenaki Springs housing ready for tenants next week

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WALPOLE, N.H. — New Hampshire needs more affordable housing if the state's economic boom is to continue, Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday at a celebration of the opening of the second phase of the $10 million Abenaki Springs housing development.

The governor, and other state officials, praised the project for its energy efficiency and efficient modular construction methods, as a means to keep the housing even more affordable.

Sununu said the Abenaki Springs project was notable for its speed of construction, the quality of work, and the cost, as well as energy efficiency.

"This economy is cranking," said Sununu, adding that without housing, the economy won't continue to grow.

Developer Jack Franks of Walpole, president of Avanru Development Group, said people will be able to move in starting next Saturday; a third phase of The Residences at Abenaki Springs housing project will be built next to the first two units, depending on demand.

Frank said he got waivers from state housing officials to build the project using pre-fab units, keeping the costs down. He said as a result, the project could be built in five months.

He said the project was super energy efficient, and he was able to heat the entire first 21-apartment project, for only $7,000 last year. There are 22 apartments in the second building, which is red and resembles a quintessential New Hampshire barn. The first building is white, and sits behind Tractor Supply Co. on Route 12.

Rents for the apartments, including the all-important heat, range from $1,080 for a two bedroom apartment to between $690 to $840 a month for the one-bedroom units. Residents have to meet income guidelines.

The project was praised not just by New Hampshire state housing officials and Sununu, but also by the people who live there.

Dave Schroeder has been in a wheelchair since 1997, when he fell off a building that was under construction in Massachusetts.

"I slipped and fell off a building," he said.

The former construction supervisor said he and his wife had lived at the first Abenaki Springs building for the past six months in one of the Americans with Disabilities Act apartments, but will be moving into a bigger ADA-compliant apartment in the second building - with a better view of Vermont.

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Schroeder, a native of Charlestown, N.H., said the new apartment is perfect and has a bigger bathroom, which is a big deal for people in wheelchairs. Plus, he said, he and his wife will be moving into a two-bedroom apartment that comes with two bathrooms, another big plus.

"Every woman wants her own bathroom," he said.

"Nobody plans on being disabled," said Schroeder, who listened in as the politicians, developers and financiers praised his home..

Marilou Blaine also lives at Abenaki Springs. She moved in after her home in Alstead became too much for her to handle - physically and financially.

"I don't have to worry about the snow," said Blaine, who is active in town government in Walpole, serving on both the planning board and the zoning board.

Blaine said most people who live at Abenaki Springs are employed, contrary to public perception, and she said there were few children living in the complex, which had been a concern before the project was built.

"They keep this place spotless," she said.

Walpole Selectwoman Peggy Pschirrer said the project is "perfect" and helps townspeople who need an affordable place to live. She said that while some people in Walpole opposed the construction of the project initially and sued the town and its planning board, the suit was dismissed and the project went forward.

"He does envision a third stage," Pschirrer said of Franks.

Financing for the project was given a big boost by federal low-income housing tax credits, and there was a combination of private and public financing.

Dean Christon, executive director of New Hampshire Housing Finance Agency, expects demand for this kind of housing to continue.

"New Hampshire has a strong economy and it has generated a strong demand for housing," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer@ssmallheer@reformer.com and at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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