Affordable Senior Housing in Town Moves Forward

Affordable senior housing is on its way to becoming a reality in Londonderry.

The Planning Board listened to a proposal by Steven Lewis to build a 102-unit complex for residents 62 and over at the Nov. 1 meeting. The site is on Sanborn Road, near North Elementary School. The land is owned by the town and would be developed by Lewis and his company, who specialize in affordable senior housing.

“I was approached by the town of Londonderry, if I would consider building senior housing here,” said Lewis.

Lewis and his team work with the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, who “offers safe, fixed rate mortgages; rental assistance for low-income families and individuals; and financing for the development of quality, affordable rental housing,” according its website. Lewis told the board that Londonderry does not have an affordable housing option like the one he is proposing.

This complex would be different from others in town because of the age of its occupants. A lot of senior housing is available to those 55 and older, but Lewis’ complex would only accept occupants who are 62 or older. This is because the federal standard is 62-years old and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the rent. Thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court, seniors are considered a “protected class,” which allows Lewis and others to set certain ages for senior housing.

The complex would include a community center, complete with a small kitchen, a computer room with printer and a “services coordinator” available to assist residents with using the technology if they need it, according to Lewis. He also designed it so the exterior would be reminiscent of an old train station. He said he was inspired by the railroad that once ran through the area.

Lewis asked for six waivers from the Planning Board, including a request to make the building four stories tall instead of three and that the sidewalk leading to the service access entrance be four feet across. Other requests pertained to the drainage pipes and the site plan’s map scale.

Member Ann Chiampa wished the building was three stories instead of four.

When asked about any traffic concerns, Lewis said “the elderly population is pretty static.” He said they tend to go out when everyone else is not, so the complex would not really affect peak traffic times. Based on the traffic from his existing buildings the traffic “was generated at low traffic times,” said Lewis.

Vice-chair Mary Wing Soares asked about parking. Lewis said there is a “huge amount of handicap parking.” Residents would be assigned parking based on physical need rather than age.

Jan McLaughlin is a Londonderry resident who volunteers at the Senior Center. She said many seniors in town have moved because they could not find affordable enough housing.

“We really need this project,” she said.

After public discussion closed, the board approved the measure to allow Lewis the conditional use permit.