Housing Profiles

St. Polycarp Village Apartments

Somerville, Massachusetts

John Morrison


St. Polycarp Village Apartments provides 24 new affordable rental apartments on the site of a former Diocese of Boston parish property in Somerville, Massachusetts. In addition to housing, the initiative also includes ground-floor commercial space.

St. Polycarp was built with an array of green, energy-efficient features, including solar panels to generate electricity and heat hot water, a green roof, heat-conserving insulation, and a cutting-edge, energy-efficient heating system.

Financing for the development included a $250,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston's Affordable Housing Program through member Bank of America Rhode Island, N.A.

“We think fondly of AHP funding because we can use it very flexibly, which isn’t always the case with our funding sources,” says Courtney Koslow, senior project manager at sponsor Somerville Community Corporation.

In this FHLB Boston multimedia profile, tour St. Polycarp's housing and commercial space, visit a resident, and learn about the sponsor’s plans for the next phase of this three-phase development.

(Photo left: St. Polycarp Village Apartments.)


The Developer

Courtney Koslow is senior project manager at Somerville Community Corporation, the developer of St. Polycarp Village Apartments.

St Polycarp parish was closed in 2002 as part of a Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston consolidation process to address declining attendance in some parishes. In 2005, the archdiocese put the entire 3.5-acre property on the market. The Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) was immediately interested in developing the property. There isn’t much developable land available in Somerville, so the church property represented a great opportunity for us.

Our first step was to get input from the neighbors on what they would like to see developed on the property. We heard they were looking for retail, in particular a small market. A commercial corridor bordered the Mystic Avenue property before I93 was built nearby. The neighbors wanted to have amenities within walking distance. They also wanted a mix of rental apartments and condominiums.

(Photo right: Courtney Koslow at St. Polycarp Village Apartments.)


We distributed fliers in the neighborhood and reached out to people we knew there. The Somerville Housing Authority has its largest housing development adjacent to the site, so we reached out to them as well as the city.

We bid on the property and were selected by the archdiocese to purchase it. There were five buildings on the site and we wanted to preserve as many of them as we could. We looked at the church and school buildings and realized they were not going to work as housing. We decided to look for another church congregation to buy the church building, eventually selling it to the Missionary Church of the Haitian Community.

The nonprofit Just-A-Start Corporation was interested in relocating its shelter for young woman and their children from the convent on the site to the rectory, which had more space and was in better condition. Just-A-Start purchased the rectory and moved its program there a couple of years ago. We took down the school building, the convent, and a small garage and library building.

Our original plan was to build 24 affordable tax-credit rentals with ground-floor retail space

(Photo right: View of the church and rectory at St. Polycarp Village.)



on an open section of the site. We also had plans to build 60 mixed-income condos around an open space and playground on the rest of the site. We didn’t receive funding for the condos and the housing market was going through a difficult time. We feel lucky that we decided to do rental housing rather than condos.

For phase one, we developed 24 units of rental housing and three ground-floor retail spaces. Two young gentlemen opened an independent market in one retail space; Just-A-Start moved its GED program from the library building to another space; and a dentist will open an office in the third. We were able to fill all of the spaces despite the down economy. It’s not our normal approach to develop retail space, but St. Polycarp is located in a busy corridor and there’s not much retail in walking distance. We think of St. Polycarp as a smart-growth infill site and wanted to provide amenities for the neighborhood. We’re glad it worked out so well.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
After a couple of applications, we received our tax-credit allocation and subsidy. We were just about to close on the financing in January 2008 when the tax credit market began to show signs of stress. We lost our tax-credit investor a week or so from closing. It was a big

(Photo right: Market owner Sachin Kayastha at St. Polycarp Village.)


setback for the project, but we were lucky and connected with a new investor a couple of months later. We closed in June 2008 and started construction a month later. We felt very fortunate. There were 29 or 30 other projects that lost their funding around the same time. Others had to wait some time before they could get new funding.

Construction went smoothly, though there are always challenges in a project like this. For the most part we stayed on our timeline and the building received its certificate of occupancy in June 2009.

We had 300 applications for apartments in our initial lottery, and the building was rented up by September 2009. Some of the units are reserved for clients of the Department of Mental Health, others for formerly homeless people. The four clients of the Department of Mental Health continue to have access to services. Heading Home, a provider of services for the homeless in Cambridge, provides support services for the formerly homeless residents. There’s a nice mix of people living in the building, including families with young children and couples just starting out. Our residents are racially and ethnically diverse.

We have a range of funding associated with the various apartments. The funding associated with each unit determines how he rent is set. Some units have project-based Section 8

(Photo right: View of St. Polycarp Village Apartments.)

vouchers. Most people are familiar with the mobile Section 8 vouchers that
allow an income-eligible person to find an apartment wherever one is available. The holder of the voucher pays 30 percent of the rent and the federal government pays the rest. Project-based vouchers work the same way only the voucher stays with the unit. Some of our residents also use Section 8 mobile vouchers.

The remaining units at St. Polycarp are funded primarily with tax credits. Residents of tax-credit units are screened for income eligibility and pay from 30 to 35 percent of their income for rent. The rents are set so that people who make 60 percent of the area median income can afford them. WinnResidential manages the property.

We think of St. Polycarp Village Apartments as the gateway to Somerville. One side of St. Polycarp is on Temple Street, which drivers often use to enter Somerville after exiting I93. In addition to providing new affordable housing, St. Polycarp Village has livened up the area. We are planning two additional phases for the St. Polycarp site. When completed we will have 84 units of affordable housing. We have been awarded funding for the second

(Photo right: The market at St. Polycarp Village.)


phase, which will consist of 29 units of affordable rental housing, a playground, and a community room. These units will be spread among three new four-story buildings surrounding a landscaped courtyard. We are anticipating that construction will start in mid-November. Construction of the third and final phase should follow the next year.

SCC celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Our work includes affordable-housing development, community organizing, and supportive services. Our mission is to create comfortable housing in Somerville for people of all incomes and backgrounds. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Somerville, including the planned extension of the MBTA’s Green Line and the rezoning of Union Square. Our organization is happy to see the city making progress but we also want to insure that Somerville remains an affordable community for people with a range of incomes.

(Photo right: The former school will be demolished and replaced with more housing.)


Video Tour

Take a video tour of St. Polycarp Village Apartments with Courtney Koslow, senior project manager at Somerville Community Corporation.

Video: Click on the Start link at the right to tour St. Polycarp Village Apartments. >>

(Photo right: St. Polycarp Village Apartments.)



The Numbers

Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston Affordable Housing Program Direct Subsidy
City HOME Funds
Housing Stabilization Fund
MHFA Affordable Housing Trust
Facilities Consolidation Fund
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
Deferred Developer Fee
City Affordable Housing Trust
Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund
Mass Housing and LISC Green
Total Sources




Construction Costs
Construction Contingency
Financing Expenses
Developer Fee
Developer Overhead
Legal Fees
Other Soft Costs
Capital Operating Reserve
Total Uses


The Resident

Resident Kirstin Hirth talks about the smart-growth features of St. Polycarp Village Apartments and the attraction of living in a green building.

Video: Click on the Start link to the right to view the video. >>


(Photo right: Resident Kirstin Hirth.)


Green Building

Courtney Koslow is senior project manager at Somerville Community Corporation, the developer of St. Polycarp Village Apartments.

We put a lot of effort into making St. Polycarp a green, sustainable building. The property recently received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Renewable energy features include solar panels to generate electricity and solar thermal panels to heat hot water. The property has a green roof and a storm-water filtration system to filter out pollutants. We used recyclable materials as much as possible. Our heating system is efficient and cutting-edge, and we used blow-in Icynene insulation to reduce heat loss.

(Photos right: St. Polycarp's green roof and solar panels.)



FHLB Boston Housing Profiles

August 2010