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Community celebrates start of Harriman Hill workforce housing construction



AELRHCEdieDesMaraisSpea
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ON FRIDAY, MAY 6, Edie DesMarais, head of the Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition (far right, behind the podium) extended appreciation to the many members of the community who have worked over the past six years to create the Harriman Hill Development, a source for workforce housing, to the community. A celebratory luncheon was held in the All Saints Episcopal Church undercroft. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
May 12, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The Harriman Hill Workforce Housing development is finally underway. Situated on a forested 35-acre parcel off of Route 109A in Wolfeboro, the start of the construction of rental units for workforce housing is the culmination of years of planning.

On Friday, May 6, Edie DesMarais, who has marshaled the project since its inception in 2004 as head of the Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition, stood before an assembly of well-wishers – individuals, businesses and town officials, who have had a part in answering a need identified in Wolfeboro's Master Plan 25 years ago.

The conservation cluster development will first offer rentals for households with incomes less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income ($63,400 for Carroll County), thereby offering affordable options for many more members of the local work force to live in the town in which they work rather than commute. The first two phases of the project will provide rental units; in the third phase home purchase options will become available.

DesMarais, who has spearheaded the cause of making Wolfeboro hospitable to its work force since 2004, led many rounds of applause as she acknowledged the "small army" of volunteers, including board members past and present, for "sharing their expertise, vision for our community, determination, courage to tackle so many unknowns… through so many frustrations and setbacks."

Wolfeboro's major employers, the Governor Wentworth Regional School District, Huggins Hospital, and Brewster Academy – all of whom stand to benefit, along with the community in general in maintaining and attracting an outstanding work force – placed representatives on the board and offered letters of support along the way.

DesMarais thanked Jeanne Harriman who agreed to sell the land and "stayed the course" through a two year water and sewer moratorium, rising costs attributed to finding more ledge on the site than anticipated, a real estate bust and economic recession. DesMarais told those gathered that Harriman "didn't charge interest until the last year, reduced the price significantly when the project faced financial hurdles, and kept her belief in the benefits of workforce housing in our community."

Bruce Beck provided the "miracle" early on with a gift of $250,000 in memory of his wife, Nancy, said DesMarais. The Nancy Clement Beck Memorial Enabling Fund, a perpetual legacy fund monitored by a three-member board of trustees (George Vanderheiden, Mary Patry and Susan MacMichael John), has grown to $330,000 and will be available for future initiatives.

Other financial support came from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and the Community Development Finance Authority and its Community Development Investment Program, which includes a system of tax credits.

The board and staff of the Wentworth Economic Development Corporation shared their office, time and expertise, noted DesMarais with gratitude, and the ELRHC continues to move forward in general partnership called EASTLACLT with the Laconia Area Community Land Trust, led by Linda Harvey – an organization which DesMarais described as an award winning workforce housing developer/administrator and asset manager.

She also credited the Planning Board and town planner Rob Houseman for playing a part in the success of the project (they wrote the first work force housing ordinance in the area), Conservation Commission Chairman Dan Coons, who set up the conservation easement on the property, as well as the people of Wolfeboro, who voted 2-1 in favor of the endeavor.

ELRHC is currently adding names to its waiting list. Applications will be sent out. The returns will be examined on a first come first served basis. The Web site, elrhc.org, is a comprehensive source of information. Interested parties may also contact dyoung@elrhc.org .

Garnet Hill
Penny Pitou
Martin Lord Osman
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