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January 28, 2011

Housing Groups and Pizzigalli Craft Deal to Preserve Low-Income Housing

6a00d83451b91969e20133f1f48f49970b-320wi On the day they were supposed to receive eviction notices, the 44 residents of Wharf Lane were handed much better news: A deal has been struck between two nonprofit housing groups and the building's owner that will keep their apartments as subsidized, affordable housing.

"We announced to the residents that we had a deal, in principle, on both Wharf Lane and Bobbin Mill and expected to sign purchase and sale contracts early next week," Paul Dettman, executive director of Burlington Housing Authority told Seven Days.

BHA is working with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency to purchase Wharf Lane and the nearby Bobbin Mill apartments, which is home to more than 100 people — many of them low-income families.

For almost a year, Wharf Lane's tenants — some of Burlington's poorest public-housing residents — have been caught in a battle between their landlord and two housing nonprofits. Negotiations stalled in late December, and it looked as if the residents would be evicted in April. Their leases expired March 31.

As Seven Days noted last year, Pizzagalli Properties put Wharf Lane on the market. It’s one of thousands of affordable housing complexes built 30 years ago using taxpayer-subsidized mortgages and rental subsidies provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The deal was: At the end of the mortgage, the developers would have the option to sell the low-income housing to the highest bidder.

A recent private appraisal reportedly estimates the building’s market value at $4.8 million, more than double the city’s 2006 assessment of $1.6 million. The lower figure reflects the building’s current use: home to 37 units of affordable housing. The higher number measures potential revenues based on converting those into high-rent units for college students.

Dettman did not disclose the purchase price for either property.

"We will be executing separate purchase and sale agreements," said Dettmen. "However, closing on Bobbin Mill will take place at a later date, no later than December 2012."

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