By SCOTT JACKSON
Quincy officials on Wednesday announced plans to renovate a pair of historic homes on Spear Street in Quincy Center to provide between eight and thirteen units of affordable housing.
“Today for me is a twofer,” said Mayor Thomas Koch. “We’re talking about doing some affordable units while preserving a historic structure.”
Plans for the properties at 45 and 47-49 Spear St. were unveiled at Wednesday’s announcement. The city acquired the properties earlier in September for a combined $2.1 million, using funds from the Affordable Housing Trust.
The home at 47-49 Spear St. was originally built in the early 1800s by Seth Spear and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Koch said. The house at neighboring 45 Spear St. was built in 1910, according to the city’s online property records.
Speaking during the announcement, Koch said not every historic structure in the city can be saved, but it makes sense to do so in the case of the Spear Street properties.
“Spear Street is an interesting street. It’s got a mixture of types of housing and I know the neighborhood felt inundated when there was a proposal here just a few years back to put some 34 units on this site, and it would have had a dramatic impact on this site and the neighborhood,” he said.
“It’s not far from the historic district of Quincy Center or the transportation hub with Quincy Center station, but nonetheless it’s a little further into the neighborhood from the core of the center. Recognizing the sensitivity of that, recognizing the importance of the historic aspect of it and recognizing the need to continue to come up with workforce and affordable housing, we thought this was an easy one to pursue.”
With the buildings acquired, the mayor said the city would work with an architect to come up with plans to renovate the spaces. The city plans to use Community Preservation Committee funding to pay for the renovations.
“It’s early on in the process,” Koch said. “We’ve secured the building at this point and we’ll begin the process now working with the architect, getting the pricing down, the estimates down, going to Community Preservation Committee and then begin the process of the construction.”
The city hopes to begin work on the renovations in the spring and will take about a year to complete, Koch said. He added it was too soon to say what the price tag for the renovations will be.
Once complete, the new units will be for Quincy residents only, the mayor said.
“I’m really not interested in finding a house for somebody from Springfield,” Koch said. “This project is going to be Quincy people only.
“I said respectfully to the state there is no state money involved here, it’s all local money, so I think the people of our city should come first.”
The city will likely reach an agreement with the Quincy Housing Authority or an entity like NeighborWorks to maintain the properties going forward, Koch added.
Since the Affordable Housing Trust Committee was established in 2001, it has accepted a total of 125 on- and off-site units from private developments that are set aside for households making 80 percent of the median income for the area, said Sherry Zou, the housing programs manager for the city’s planning department. The committee has also accepted $38 million in payments in lieu of affordable units, she said.
“With that, we’ve funded affordable housing projects that directly resulted in the creation of affordable housing units, most of them occupied, some of them under construction and a few, like this project in front of us today, we have recently approved,” Zou said. “With this project’s current proposal…we would have a total of 600 units across the city as a result of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.”
Other projects receiving monies from the Affordable Housing Trust Committee include the Kiley Building and the Finn Building, both of which opened in Quincy Center last year and include a total of 54 units, Zou said. A total of $5.25 million in trust fund monies were allocated to those buildings.
Zou said that $1 million in trust fund monies were allocated to Father Bill’s and MainSpring for the construction of the new Yawkey Housing Resource Center. In addition, $1 million in trust fund monies were set aside to help residents impacted by severe winter storms in 2018 and another $1 million was used to provide rental assistance for service workers in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Koch credited Joseph Finn, the namesake of the Finn Building, for his work to pass the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance in 2001 while he was serving on the City Council.
“Joe worked very hard on this. That was his lifelong mission, really, to get people the help they need to get into a home,” Koch said. “Not necessarily a home – not everyone should be in a home with a white picket fence, but a home meaning they have somewhere to go at night…whether it’s a room or a couple of rooms to call their own.
“I want to certainly thank Joe Finn for all his vision creating the inclusionary zoning which led to today, the money and units that got poured in by the developers.”
Planning Director James Fatseas said the city would continue to develop new affordable housing.
“We haven’t finished yet,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do this mission.”