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One year later: What’s happened with the mixed-income rental housing complex at Brushwood Farm in Lenox?

Illustration of playground, walking paths and buildings (copy)

LENOX — It’s been a year since the town approved a mixed-income rental apartment complex at Brushwood Farm off Pittsfield Road (Route 7/20), but while site preparation was expected to begin this spring, the site remains untouched.

The developer, Pennrose LLC, told The Eagle this week financing delays will likely delay the start of construction until next year.

The project, designed to address a critical shortage of housing options for local workers in the town, was first unveiled in June 2021.

The estimated total development cost is around $30 million, not including the undisclosed purchase price for the nearly 15-acre site adjacent to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and across from the Lenox Commons mixed-use complex of stores, restaurants, professional offices and two condo developments.

The approved permit is for 13 townhouse buildings with five apartments in each — 65 affordable and workforce housing units for one-year rentals, subject to annual renewal, for eligible individuals and families at various income levels. No sublets or corporate leases are allowed.

Pennrose is still awaiting state Department of Housing and Community Development approval of financing assistance, including tax credits, to help launch the project.

In a best-case scenario, according to Charlie Adams, Pennrose’s regional vice president for New England, tax credits could be awarded in May or June. “We’ve applied for federal and state credits, as well as various pots of ‘soft-loan funding’ from the state,” he said.

A soft loan offers either no interest or a below-market rate of interest. Also known as “soft financing” or “concessional funding,” soft loans have lenient terms, such as extended grace periods when only interest or service charges are due, and interest holidays.

The Lenox Community Preservation Committee has committed $500,000 of taxpayer-supported funds to demonstrate the town’s support of the project to the state agency.

After getting private investors on board and gaining building permits, Adams predicted, shovels could go in the ground in early 2024, with projected completion and move-in before the end of 2025. “There are a lot of different items to make these things come off,” he acknowledged.

Despite the current, challenging economic climate, Adams voiced cautious hope that major construction costs may stabilize in the year ahead so the project could move forward without the need to seek additional financing to fill in the gaps.

“We’re reasonably optimistic this project will happen,” he said.

Monthly rentals of the one-, two- and three-bedroom units would range from about $800 to $2,500, according to current projections, but will be adjustable based on market conditions when leasing begins, Pennrose developer Rebecca Schofield stated on Thursday.

All 65 apartments proposed at the site would be affordable or workforce apartments. Fifty of the units would be classified as low-income housing for renters with up to 60 percent of the area’s median income. At least nine of those apartments are reserved for applicants at 30 to 50 percent of the median income.

Fifteen apartments would be reserved for applicants with 60 to 120 percent of the area’s median income. For a two-person household in Lenox, part of the Pittsfield metropolitan area, the median income is $76,800; it’s $86,400 for three people and $96,000 for a four-person household, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Based on income, 75 percent of Lenox residents would qualify for housing in the Brushwood Farm complex, Adams has stated. The apartments would be awarded to applicants based on an advertised 60-day lottery.

Subject to state approval, during the first year of the application period for rentals, 35 apartments could go to eligible, income-qualified Lenox residents, people who work in the town or those with students enrolled in the public schools.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com.

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