Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito stressed a “Focus on Housing” in Massachusetts during a tour Friday of Lyman Terrace, a 167-unit complex undergoing a $60 million transformation.
Baker and Polito crossed the state a day after the start of their second term in office. Baker and his team made stops in Lee, Springfield, Worcester and the one-hour appearance in Holyoke.
Lyman Terrace, built as Depression era housing in 1939, nearly faced the wrecking ball only a few years back. Tenants, local groups and city government opposed the demolition scheme, favoring a wholesale renovation of the then cramped, below standard apartments.
The Holyoke Housing Authority owns and operates Lyman Terrace, located a short walk from City Hall.
Baker said the state continues to fall short in meeting future housing needs. He visited Lyman Terrace in the summer of 2015. “The road and the journey to get to this point is a long and difficult one,” he said.
The governor said the project experienced “fits and starts,” delays and rejiggering the final vision for Lyman Terrace. “We don’t invest in things we don’t think are going to be successful,” he said.
Baker said his administration examines a project’s worthiness, the team in place and if there is widespread support. “I don’t want to make empty promises. I don’t want us to engage in commitments we can’t deliver on,” he said.
He wants to ensure projects like Lyman Terrace are fully funded and ready to commence.
“This was an important stop for the both of us,” Baker said. “It reflects a lot of key issues and opportunities associated with not only the way we think about housing but the way we think about community building, community development, and partnerships and possibilities.”
Baker called for passage of a new housing bill in the current term. “We in Massachusetts struggle to build housing. We just do,” he said. “Some of it’s the way the game is played. Some of it’s the way the rules are set up. Some of it’s we don’t appreciate the holistic issues that are at play here.”
The governor wants more cooperation in meeting the housing needs for future generations. “If we don’t, the supply we have is never going make it,” he said.
Polito wanted to highlight the impacts housing and economic and community development have on a community. She said the city partnered with state agencies and local nonprofits to make the Lyman Terrace renovations possible.
Matthew A. Mainville, the Holyoke Housing Authority executive director, led Baker, Polito and state housing officials on the tour, which included viewing a pre-renovated unit in need of serious repair and a newly renovated apartment occupied by Sonia Gonzalez, a longtime resident who led the effort to save Lyman Terrace.
Mainville said 88 of the 167 one-and-two bedrooms apartments are reoccupied. The apartments contain new kitchen appliances, wood-laminated floors, washers and dryers, updated bathrooms, energy-efficient windows and more secure doors.
A series of federal and state housing grants and tax credits support the project, including grants from MassWorks. The housing authority obtained an additional $20 million in funding to build a community center at Lyman Terrace.
Mainville said the administration is a model for bipartisan cooperation, which their “federal counterparts could learn from.” He said the Baker-Polito Administration identifies critical issues germane to Massachusetts, such as housing, education, and economic development
“The Baker-Polito Administration understands that without good housing, achieving one’s goals becomes infinitely more difficult,” Mainville said. Without good housing, succeeding in school, living a healthy lifestyle or obtaining gainful employment is nearly impossible.”
In 2018, the Baker Administration pushed and secured a $1.8 billion affordable housing bond, the largest in the commonwealth’s history. The state allocated $600 million for public housing modernization and redevelopment, which included a boost in housing subsidies.
Mainville said Lyman Terrace represents the positive effect such funding has on a community. He said the complex now offers stable housing for residents.
The Holyoke Housing Authority partnered with Community Builders, a Northampton nonprofit, on the Lyman Terrace project.
Housing authority commissioners, state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, and Marcos Marrero, the director of the Holyoke Economic and Planning Department, were in attendance.