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Work force apartments are a big hit with Salem officials

SALEM — The new Clough Farm apartment complex didn't officially open until this past Friday, but two-thirds of its units are already occupied.

Construction on the three-story, 32-unit affordable apartment community began late last summer and concluded just a couple of weeks ago.

Town officials couldn't be happier with the results.

"We had a number of things working in our favor," Planning Director Ross Moldoff said on Monday. "We had this great location; we had this terrific builder who's very experienced in this type of project. And we had a Planning Board that was very, very receptive."

The project represents the town's first under the work force housing ordinance adopted three years ago.

Located on Braemoor Woods Road, which is off Veterans Memorial Parkway, the large apartment complex cannot be seen from the main road, but its still easily accessible from Route 28 and Interstate 93.

The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority's tax credit program will allow rents to stay in affordable range (between $800-$1,000 a month, including some utilities).Salem implemented its current work force housing ordinance in 2010 after the state passed legislation requiring communities to provide "reasonable opportunities" for work force housing in the majority of residential districts.

Community Development Director Ross Moldoff said Salem had an easier time complying with the new law than some other area communities because officials had already made provisions for affordable housing.

Working closely with a N.H. Housing Finance Authority consultant, town officials were able to rewrite the town's housing ordinance to comply with state requirements, with officials ultimately agreeing that Clough Farm would be the first — and so far only — project.

"It went pretty smoothly, to say the least," said Moldoff.

Project builder Steven Lewis of Atkinson was away on vacation on Monday and was unable to be reached for further comment.But Moldoff said Lewis was the ideal builder to work on the project, as he'd already built some affordable senior citizen apartments in town, the nearby Glenridge Apartments.

"It seems to me that we've ended up with a very high quality project," Moldoff said. "I think there's still a stigma when it comes to work force housing. People tend to think these homes aren't on par with those going for market rate. But (Clough Farm) shows us otherwise."

Lewis added lots of extra touches to the community, Moldoff said, including landscaped areas, carports, a children's playground, walking paths and a community garden.

Residents and town officials were invited to check out the site for themselves last week, during a public open house, building tour and dedication ceremony Friday afternoon.

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