Raya Nepomuceno loves to work with flowers. As a gardener she provides landscaping for some of the prettiest homes in Wolfeboro, but her wages are not enough for her to own property in this affluent community herself. The lack of affordable living space is a systemic problem for the many low- to moderate-income people who work in the resort community’s service industry, but who have to commute from several towns away.
“It makes it difficult to find work. Bad weather can keep you from getting to your job,” says Raya. “And the quality of some of the apartments out there is really sketchy.”
This year Raya and her sister Leah moved into Harriman Hill, a workforce housing project envisioned by the Eastern Lakes Regional Housing Coalition and the Laconia Area Trust for Community Housing. The new 24 unit facility provides quality, dignified rental space for tenants.
CDFA supported phase one of Harriman Hill with tax credit awards in 2007 and 2008 totaling more than $558,000, CDFA then provided a Community Development Block Grant award of $500,000 in 2010. In November 2012, CDFA approved an additional $500,000 CDBG award; the money will be used for critical sitework needed to complete 24 additional units in phase two of the project.
From the outside, the completed units are clean and contemporary, and smash the misconception that affordable housing can’t match the character of a community. “Someone visited the project and made a disparaging comment that there weren’t any cars in the parking lot,” recalls Edie DesMaris of ELRHC. “I said, ‘They’ll all at work. This is workforce housing.’”
Inside, the units are neatly appointed. While hardly an extravagance, DesMaris had to advocate for washer and drier hook-ups inside each apartment. “If you’re a working mother who comes home and has to choose between making dinner for your kids or driving them to a laundromat, you know how important something like that is.”
Raya loves her new apartment at Harriman Hill. She even has a place on her stoop to plant her own flowers. As she tips a watering can into a bed she says, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to buy my own house here.”
If so, it will surely have the most colorful garden in town.