NEWBURYPORT - Renovations to the Greater Newburyport YWCA’s affordable housing building that began in January and took years more of behind-the-scenes effort are just about complete, paving the way for the Market Street building’s residents to return and to welcome five more tenants.
For 15 years, low income tenants have called the circa-1880 Vernacular Victorian owned by the YWCA home. But in an effort to enrich the city’s stock of affordable housing, YWCA officials have spent the last couple of years securing needed funds from the city and state as well as permission from the city’s Historical Commission to double the number of units inside the approximately 4,000-square-foot house.
Tuesday afternoon, the YWCA held a lottery inside the Newburyport Public Library to award the new units to eligible tenants. Greater Newburyport YWCA Executive Director John Feehan said the lottery drew 54 eligible applicants who were each given a number. A library employee then chose the five numbers at random. Eligibility requirements varied depending on the five units, which included a two-bedroom apartment, two one-bedroom apartments and two studio units.
Those wishing to live in the single bedroom apartments, which are fully handicapped accessible, must be institutionalized and confined to a wheelchair. Only those homeless were eligible for the studio units while those seeking the two-bedroom unit had to be earning 30 percent below the annual median income statewide and be homeless.
YWCA officials called Tuesday’s lottery one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching experiences they have witnessed saying that while five people left the library happy, the majority left distraught knowing they could be spending another cold winter on the streets.
“What it speaks to is the absolute need for more affordable housing,” Feehan said.
The lottery drew people from across the region after it was advertised in several publications and online. Rents for all the units have been subsidized by the state and include Section 8 housing vouchers. Leases are for a year but can be extended with the idea that tenants would contribute more to their rents as their economic standings improved, Feehan said.