AYER -- Potential residents heard information about 13 affordable-housing units in the new Willows development, now partially constructed and occupied at the top of a hill near Willow Road.

Maureen O'Hagan of MCO Housing Services explained the eligibility criteria and lottery system at a small public meeting at Town Hall.

The affordable homes range from two-bedroom townhouses set at $169,700, and three-bedroom homes at $188,400.

Applicants must not exceed certain income levels according to household size. A family of four, for instance, must have an income of no more than $67,750. Assets can also not be higher than $75,000, and applicants must be a first-time home-buyer, with a few exceptions.

"The home must be your principal residence, it cannot be rented or leased, and you cannot have a cosigner on a mortgage," O'Hagan said.

Ten of the 13 units are reserved for people who meet the local preference criteria as an Ayer resident or an employee for the town or school system, she said.

Qualified applicants will be drawn from a lottery system, two lotteries of a local pool and two lotteries of an open pool. Local applicants are also included in the open pool, thus creating a higher chance for them to win.

Within the local pool, 27 percent of applicants must be a minority, O'Hagan said. If the pool doesn't meet that percentage, lottery directors will move minorities from the open pool into the local pool through another lottery to meet that 27 percent.


Applicants must provide three years of tax returns and W-2 forms to verify that they have not owned a home for three years, O'Hagan said. MCO also requires five months of activity on all checking accounts and five consecutive pay stubs.

Mortgages must be from an institutional lender and have a fixed interest rate at the current fair-market price.

O'Hagan cautioned attendees of maintaining their credit scores, urging them not to buy a new car or furniture.

"You just want to maintain that credit score and have no changes to your financial situation," she said.

Three of the two-bedroom units will be available in July and August, while the openings of the other 10 are not yet determined.

Karen Morand, sales associate with MCO Realty Services, said all of the other Willows units currently constructed are already sold.

The Willows neighborhood, developed by MCO & Associates, Inc. and Habitech Homes, features 97 units. Through an agreement with the town, 25 units must be affordable housing.

The development faced a minor halt when selectmen withheld permits after it was discovered that developers owed $250,000 to the town through the agreement.

Mark O'Hagan, principal of MCO & Associates, said in a phone interview that the development has paid $12,000 for each of the four houses that have closed, totaling $48,000 that has been turned over to the town so far.

He said he's built about 70 units to date, with most of them already sold. About 10 affordable units not included in the lottery have been sold to a third party, he said.

A few condo owners who showed up for a public hearing at Town Hall that appeared to be posted for the wrong day expressed some frustration with Habitech and the development's current Board of Trustees, a position that is currently managed by Habitech but will be transferred to residents next year.

Condo owners Duncan Brown and Mark Kotfila, who are on the ad-hoc committee developed to prepare for the transition, explained that they had been having trouble setting up a time to meet with Habitech.

Last winter caused ice damages in a few of the homes, Kotfila explained, and were paid for with the common funds instead of from insurance. He said it has taken a very long time for the issue to be addressed.

But O'Hagan said the issue is just related to scheduling, and that he has heard from Habitech that there is a tentative date to meet.

In regard to the ice damage, O'Hagan said he believed there was a decision to do the work instead of involving insurance because of the marginal advantage of not having increased premiums. 

A change in the management crew for the development also extended the decision-making a bit, he said.

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