The Keene nonprofit Cheshire Housing Trust has transferred several dozen affordable apartments to the local housing authority as part of its upcoming dissolution, the organization announced recently.
Keene Housing acquired the 48 rental units — across nine properties in Keene and Marlborough — through an affiliated group earlier this month and is committed to preserving their affordable rates, according to a CHT news release.
Created in 1987, Cheshire Housing Trust was intended to address a housing shortage and large rent hikes plaguing the area, the release states. The organization acquired and rehabilitated apartments in several communities, often using federal construction grants and rental aid to help keep them affordable for families of low and moderate incomes, it states.
With only a two-person staff, however, CHT has been concerned about its ability to manage those properties, according to Linda Mangones, a Keene Housing employee who also serves in a volunteer role as CHT’s executive director. The decision to close was not prompted by any financial problems, Mangones said.
“This is the kind of business that’s 24/7,” she said. “You have to be available all the time.”
CHT previously owned 63 units but sold several of them last year to a private landlord and to the region’s social-support agency, Southwestern Community Services, Mangones said. The properties acquired by Keene Housing include the 18-unit Hampshire House at the corner of Winter and School streets in Keene.
CHT will formally dissolve once it completes the financial and legal aspects of that move, likely by the end of this year, she said.
Mangones, who’s been involved with the organization since its creation, said she feels it has “accomplished quite a bit.” The Monadnock Region, which experts say still has a housing shortage that is causing rents to climb, had even less affordable housing several decades ago, she said.
“It’s been a great partnership,” she said of CHT’s work with public agencies to keep its apartments affordable. “I think it’s been great for the people in these communities.”
A majority of CHT tenants already have their rent subsidized through federal aid distributed by Keene Housing, according to Executive Director Joshua Meehan.
That includes some tenants whose apartments are permanently subsidized through so-called “project-based” vouchers and others with “mobile” vouchers that contribute to rent wherever they live, Meehan said. Keene Housing plans to attach project-based vouchers to all 48 units to keep them affordable in perpetuity, he said.
“We’re very pleased to be able to secure the long-term affordability of these units, which are in very good shape and were very well-maintained by CHT,” he said. “We’re just thrilled that they entrusted us with that portfolio.”
While one CHT employee plans to retire, Meehan said the organization’s property manager has joined Keene Housing.
“That’s been great because there’s real continuity,” he said. “And there won’t be any disruption for the residents at all.”
Cheshire Housing Trust’s closure does mean, however, the end of its annual Garden Tour fundraiser — a self-guided circuit to see the gardens and other landscaping at area homes, and which has also included plant and bake sales. In its recent news release, the organization thanked its board members for planning the event, past donors and “the many local gardeners who opened their lovely gardens to the community.”
“I think this was one of the most delightful and community-building fundraisers I’ve ever been involved with,” Mangones said.