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Affordable family housing takes root in Beverly

Officials, funders, and all attendees give a big cheerful welcome to families who will soon make Anchor Point, Beverly, their home.Matt Greenberg

A local nonprofit has completed the first building in a project that is transforming a long-vacant site near Beverly High School into an affordable family housing community.

Harborlight Homes on July 29 held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the 38-unit apartment building on Sohier Road. Tenants, selected in a lottery from about 600 applicants, have begun moving into the two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The yearlong construction of the three-story building marked the first phase of Anchor Point, a development that will provide 77 families with affordable rental homes and support services. Next spring, Beverly-based Harborlight is set to break ground on the second phase, construction of a 39-unit apartment building set to open in July 2024.

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“Our hope is that this will be a game-changer model of a project,” said Harborlight Executive Director Andrew DeFranza, “providing not just affordable housing but on-site services that will allow the children that grow up there opportunities they will need for success, to drive their own visions.”

DeFranza said Harborlight has followed the model of pairing affordable housing and supportive services in some of its other projects, including Boston Street Crossing, 26 units it built in Salem in 2017 for people formerly homeless, and Catalyst Housing, 24 apartments it is preparing to build in Lynn for young people transitioning from foster care.

“With Anchor Point, the idea is to do that for families,” he said.

Harborlight is raising private funds for a final phase of Anchor Point, construction of a $5 million center to house the tenant services. The $44 million first two phases were supported by local, state, and federal financing.

Initially, Harborlight plans to offer tenants access to a service coordinator. But with the planned center, that assistance would expand to include services ranging from child care to after-school programs.

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Anchor Point has the strong support of the city of Beverly, which in 2018 made the 5-acre site a smart growth district under a state program that encourages dense residential or mixed-use development, with an emphasis on affordable housing, in areas deemed suitable.

“As a community, we’ve understood and embraced the need to provide more affordable housing for Beverly families,” Mayor Michael P. Cahill said, “families who are here and those who choose Beverly.” He said Anchor Light will help meet that goal and also assist tenants in meeting their other needs

“Harborlight has been a fantastic partner in the city,” he said. “This has been a communitywide effort.”

Cahill said the project is in keeping with the pledge he and the mayors of Salem and Peabody made in a 2017 memorandum of understanding to pursue regional solutions to the housing needs of local low-income families. The project is the latest of several in which the state allowed the cities to provide local preference for housing to residents of all three cities.

The Anchor Point site has been idle since North Shore Community College, which used it for parking at its former Sohier Road facility, closed that facility about 20 years ago. Harborlight acquired the building in 2019.

Of the 77 units, 51 will be rented to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median, or $82,000 for a family of four. The other 26 are set aside for households earning up to 30 percent of the area median income, or $42,000.

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Anchor Point, whose architect is SV Design, provides tenants with such shared amenities as community meeting and study rooms, and a courtyard playground — with other recreational facilities to be added if the center gets built.

DeFranza said he hopes the project can counter the resistance still seen in many communities to providing housing for low- and moderate-income families.

“We want to be able to tell kids and families that the community is happy to have you and wants to invest in the quality of your lives,” he said.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

Harborlight has opened a 38-unit affordable rental building in Beverly, the first phase of Anchor Point. This photo shows a playground in the courtyard of the now-opened Phase 1 building.Matt Greenberg