Linden Street residences/ Credit: Needham Observer

Since 2021, the Needham Housing Authority and the Cambridge Housing Authority have been joined at the hip, with the CHA doing the heavy lifting on devising and executing the NHA’s ambitious plans to transform its 336 deeply affordable units over the next decade.

The NHA project represents the town’s most promising option to preserve, or possibly even increase, its supply of affordable housing. The redevelopment is slated to have three construction phases, starting with replacing the 72 one-story studio apartments on Linden Street across from High Rock School with 136 new apartments at a projected cost of approximately $85 million.

Zoning changes necessary to facilitate the project will be voted on at Town Meeting in May, as will a request for an appropriation of an additional $5.5 million in Community Preservation Act funding to be set aside for construction costs and released once the project has been fully funded. The $5.5 million is expected to be the town’s final financial commitment to the project, with the town having already committed nearly $1.4 million to the CHA for its pre-development services.

The NHA is now weighing its options for transitioning from having the CHA as its pre-development consultant given that CHA is a prospective candidate to bid on being the project developer. While both the NHA and CHA feel the nearly three-year partnership has been positive and productive, the relationship may end when the developer selection phase begins.

One option had been for the NHA to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with a qualified local housing authority (LHA) such as the CHA in which the LHA would be the developer. The potential for project continuity, as well as for saving both time and money, led the NHA and CHA to engage in negotiations on a possible deal to have the CHA continue on in the role of developer.

However, at its April 2 special meeting, the NHA Commissioners were informed the negotiations had not produced an agreement and the NHA voted instead to seek a developer through the state’s competitive bid process, known as Chapter 30B.

Reg Foster, chair of the NHA Board of Commissioners, and Margaret Moran, deputy executive director of development of the CHA, both said the decision did not necessarily signal the end of the NHA-CHA relationship.

“It seems like it is a good idea for us to pause or suspend or discontinue those negotiations, and basically pivot, if that’s the right word, to a competitive Chapter 30B procurement for our development,” said Foster.

“We will do it in a way that would allow the Cambridge Housing Authority to be a full-fledged participant in that RFP process and to submit a proposal if they choose to do that.”

The CHA’s Moran explained “the NHA’s counsel did not feel comfortable with the Cambridge Housing Authority’s assessment of 30B and why we felt it was possible to proceed.”

 “It became apparent there was a difference of opinion whether or not a formal 30B process was required,” said Moran.

Commissioners expressed concerns that having to conduct a public bid process would consume a few months time, a delay that could cause the NHA to miss out on competing in the fall funding cycle for affordable housing projects. 

Nevertheless, the NHA commissioners voted 5-0 to suspend negotiations with the CHA to become its development partner “without any adverse connotation or prejudice.”

The NHA will form a steering committee to select a consultant to oversee the Chapter 30B procurement process. Foster expressed confidence the process could be completed expeditiously.

 Save as PDF

Click here to go Home