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Powder House Village

Ipswich Massachusetts

Powder House Residents.

Introduction: Housing for Families, YMCA Membership

Developed by the YMCA of the North Shore, the Powder House Village initiative created 48 units of affordable family rental housing adjacent to the YMCA's Ipswich branch.

In addition to the housing, the Powder House development also includes commercial space for a YMCA child-care center and a branch of the Institution for Savings of Newburyport, which sponsored the initiative's Affordable Housing Program application.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston's Affordable Housing Program awarded the initiative a $400,000 grant and a $1.25 million subsidized advance with an advance subsidy of $398,987.

In this AHP multimedia profile, tour Powder House Village, visit the home of a resident, and learn how the YMCA overcame opposition from a vocal segment of the community to make this quality affordable housing possible. (Photo: Residents Marya and Connor Marsh at Powder House Village.)


The Developer

John Meany is chief executive officer of the YMCA of the North Shore.

It was kind of serendipitous the way we came to develop Powder House Village. We had built a YMCA in Ipswich in 1999 and had received a great reception. We were able to raise a decent amount of money and had a campus setting of 19 acres.

Ted Raymond — a developer we knew — was building a high-end housing development called Turner Hill adjacent to a very nice golf course in Ipswitch. The initiative had an affordable housing requirement of 20 or 25 percent associated, but the zoning board had given him permission to build the units off-site. He bought the property in front of the Ipswich YMCA and planned to build the required units on that site.  I believe there was going to be 14 or 16 townhouses.

Our local legal representative called me up and said ‘I know you guys are doing affordable rental housing and do a good job of it. Well, Ted Raymond is going to do 14 to 16 units of homeownership affordable housing and I was wondering if you guys had any interest in making that a bigger project and maybe rental housing, which might be more suitable for the town.’ (Photo right: View of Powder House Village.)


So we talked about it and I said, ‘yes, we might have an interest in it.’ If we changed the concept to rental, acquired the property in front of the Y, and took over Ted Raymond’s responsibility to provide the affordable housing, I thought there was a good chance we could get the housing approved. It would allow us to provide rental units, which we felt were more needed than ownership units in the town.

We entered into an agreement that we would build what eventually evolved into Powder House Village on the condition that we received a permit. We went through a very long permitting process and were finally approved. The project turned out to be 48 units of affordable family rental housing and a small commercial component. The town planning board had asked us to include the commercial space because part of the property was in the commercial district.

For the last 18 or 19 years we had been involved in developing affordable housing, so when the opportunity presented itself to develop this project we came up with a concept that we thought would be appealing to Raymond Properties and to the town.

(Photo right: Institution for Savings at Powder House Village.)


We didn’t detect a great deal of resistance during the permitting process, but as soon as we received the permit we were appealed by an abutter — a single-family homeowner — and the Ipswich Housing Authority, which is located in a neighborhood across the road from us.

It took us about nine months to get through the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission process. But the appeal delayed our project for over three years. We went to Superior Court and received a summary judgment, which delighted us. But that judgment was appealed by the Court of Appeals. We never appeared in that court because the Supreme Judicial Court decided to hear the case, and we won resoundingly.

The permitting process was thorough and fair. In the end, we reached an agreement on conditions that made sense to everyone, which was great. Obviously, the appeal process was difficult. The opponents were very nebulous in their opposition. It was the usual NIMBY stuff (not in my backyard): the development was too dense; it could affect home values; it would send too many of 'those kind of kids' into the Ipswich schools and be a financial burden for the district.

(Photo right: The Marsh family home.)


We received Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, but when we were ready to start construction we were into the recession of 2008 and 2009 and couldn’t sell the credits at a high enough number to make the project feasible. As a result, the project languished for another year.

We were finally able to sell the tax credits and start construction with help from the economic stimulus program (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). The program still hold those tax credits and at some point will sell them to recover the stimulus money. Without the stimulus money the project would have been delayed even further because there were still no buyers for the tax credits. So, all in all, it took us almost eight years to finish this project.

The YMCA and Affordable Housing
Our corporate headquarters is in Beverly, but we have six YMCAs in six different communities on the North Shore — in Gloucester, Haverhill, Ipswich, Beverly, Salem, and Marblehead.

(Photo right: View of Ipswich YMCA.)


Although housing goes back to almost the beginning of the YMCA in the United States, many YMCA buildings and the affordable housing they provided were phased out in the 1960s, ’70s, and, ’80s. Some YMCAs continued to provide single-room-occupancy housing. Our YMCA had SRO housing and had developed more of it 16 or 17 years ago. After that, we evolved from just having SRO housing to having family housing as well.

We developed Powder House Village because we felt there was a real need for affordable family housing here. Because the housing would be on the campus of the Ipswich YMCA, we thought the Y could act as a catalyst to involve the residents in the community. Ipswich is a lower middle class community with a population of about 14,000. I think the affordable-housing stock in Ipswich was at about three to four percent prior to this project.

Today, the residents of Powder House Village have access to Y services, including afterschool and preschool child care, sports and recreation programs — everything that goes with the YMCA membership is provided to all residents of Powder House Village. The YMCA’s child care center — for which financial aid is available — is in Powder House Village commercial space. The child care center is open to the whole community — not just to residents of Powder House Village.

(Photo right: The Marsh home at Powder House Village.)


The residents of Powder House Village are diverse, which is true of all affordable developments. There are young working families; people who may have had a bad turn in life; retirees on a fixed income; single adults who may have been recently challenged economically — all kinds of people. The residents couldn’t be more pleased to be living there. Many have told me it’s the best place they have ever lived. Our residents include people who are getting a first chance and people who are getting a second chance and people who are getting a last chance. It’s a very diverse group of people.

The Institution for Savings of Newburyport has a branch in the Powder House Village commercial space. The bank has been very supportive of the work the YMCA does in the community and is one of our big donors. They approached us right away and said, ‘We love that location and want to be development partners with you.’ Originally, they were going to build a small branch there, but the bank liked the location so much it changed its plans early on and decided to put a full-fledged branch there. So we have the bank and our child care center in the Powder House commercial space.

The Outcome
Powder House Village looks great, is in a great location on the Y campus, and is close to downtown and public transportation. The housing doesn’t have a look that says: this is an affordable housing complex. This was important to us. We wanted the apartments to be bright and well appointed,

(Photo right: The Institution for Savings at Powder House Village.)


with a well-maintained, clean look so people would feel proud of where they lived and want to take care of the property. This was our vision.

Having gone through a fair amount of animosity during the appeals process and some real backlash from the community, I think that — two years into this — most people would say we were right about how we thought this would turn out — that what our critics thought would happen didn’t happen, and what we said would happen did happen. We are proud of Powder House Village, which is attractive, well-run housing. We really think we did a good job on it.

Two things have to be solid when you develop affordable housing: first, your development pro forma has to be on the money — you have to understand what it is going to cost to get this thing built from a permitting, design, and construction perspective.

Second, your operating pro forma has to be right. You have to be able to attract residents and be able to rent up quickly, including when turnover occurs. You have to be able to maintain your facility so that people want to move there. Your rental income pays for your debt service, operations, and everything else, so you’ll get upside down if you don’t get that right.

(Photo right: The Marsh home at Powder House Village.)


Some of our residents are at 15 percent of area median income; others are at 30 percent and 60 percent.Your pro forma has to take this into account. About eight units are subsidized by Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and eight have HUD Section 8 support. The rest have to stand on their own.

We have a housing department within the YMCA that manages the building. Housing is about 10 percent of what we do at our Y — but it’s a vital 10 percent. We look at our organization as a community-service organization. If you are a good community-service organization, you examine the needs of the communities you serve. United Way did a survey several years ago and identified affordable housing as the number one community need on the North Shore, so we want to play a role in meeting that need. Housing here can be expensive, particularly rental housing. Young families have a real problem getting a foothold here or remaining here because there just isn’t enough housing for people with limited incomes.

Providing this housing means a lot to us — a lot to our board and volunteers. They understand it is difficult to do housing. The fact that the Y can hang in there and endure the process and get it done is very fulfilling. We are very proud of what we have been able to do with affordable housing.

The genius of the Y is it is constantly changing. We are good collaborators and totally invested in our communities. Being a community resource puts us in the room with a lot of

(Photo right: The Marsh Home at Powder House Village.)


different organizations, and interacting with those organization gives us a sense of where we need to go and what we need to do. As a vibrant ever-changing organization, the Y is always looking for opportunities to meet community needs and, if necessary, morph into something new to do that. I think we are a logical partner in affordable housing.

We have over 45,000 members in our six YMCAs on the North Shore. We’re the largest provider of preschool and afterschool child care on the North Shore. Child care is also a huge concern on the North Shore. If you ask people what is needed most after affordable housing on the North Shore, they will say affordable child care. We also run camps, healthy-living program and aquatics programs, and youth and senior programs. These diverse activities and programs are part of our mission.

The Y supports itself through the services it provides. Those who can afford them, pay for those services. But the Y is also a charitable organization and supports itself in part through philanthropic donations and some government funding for its child care and teen programs. This collection of income sources allows the Y to continue to exist and to include everybody regardless of their ability to pay. It’s a pretty unique organization.

(Photo right: View of Powder House Village.)


Video Tour

Take a video tour of Powder House Village with Kathy Churchill, housing director for the YMCA of the North Shore.

Video: Click on the Start link at the right to tour Powder House Village.

(Photo right: Kathy Churchill at Powder House Village.)



The Numbers: Powder House Village

FHLB Boston AHP Direct Subsidy
Permanent AHP Subsidized Advance
Developer Fee Loan
Sponsor/Dev Equity
Massachusetts Housing Partnership Affordable Housing Trust
Facilities Consolidation Fund
Danvers State Hospital
Local HOME Funds
State HOME Funds
MHP Home Funders
Condominium Sales Proceeds
Town of Ipswich
Tax Credit Exchange
Total Sources


Capitalized Operating Reserve
Construction Contingency
Developer Fees
Developer Overhead
Development Consultant
Financing Fees
Legal Fees
Other Soft Costs
Total Uses


The Residents

Visit the home of the Marsh family at Powder House Village.

Video: Click on the Start link to the right for an interview with Marya Marsh.

(Photo right: The Marsh family home at Powder House Village.)


The Member

A senior vice president responsible for commercial lending at member Institution for Savings in Newburyport, Karen McCormack’s primary focus is overseeing the bank’s $135 million commercial portfolio.

But Ms. McCormack has also been the point person for her bank’s sponsorship of local affordable housing initiatives, including Powder House Village.

Her involvement with affordable housing started with the Powder House project. Although opposition and legal action held up construction of the project, the bank stayed with the sponsor through the difficult years. “Not everybody was enamored of having a 48-unit affordable housing project in the community,” Ms. MacCormack says. “But we stuck with it — our bank president and board didn’t blink.”

“Powder House Village was an important project for the Ipswich community,” she adds. “It created affordable rental housing, and it was sponsored by a strong community nonprofit — it had everything that was important to our bank.” (Photo right: Karen McCormack.)

FHLB Boston Housing Profiles December 2013


View of Kingstown Crossing.