Affordable Housing Initiative FAQ

South Church Affordable Housing Initiative – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the South Church Affordable Housing Initiative?

A: In 2012, Habitat for Humanity and the Andover Community Trust (ACT, a local land trust organization) approached South Church about purchasing land with the purpose of building affordable housing. This land, a 1.06 acre lot roughly opposite Elm St. Automotive, was given to South Church in 1938 by Mary Byers Smith. In support of both South Church’s and Mary Byers Smith’s long standing commitment to outreach and caring for neighbors, a small team gathered information to help the Congregation consider this request.

Q: How did South Church come to own this land?

A: Mary Byers Smith was a legacy of her benevolent Smith and Dove  (now Dundee Park) mill owner family who had built housing for their workers, a village hall for Abbot Village, recreational facilities, established a pension fund, funded the Alms House and the family founded Memorial Hall Library. Mary never married and was a leader in social services in Andover and worked for many State Boards of education and social services.   She gave much to the Town including her time being the first women to serve on the School Committee, donations of money to organizations, and this unrestricted donation of land to South Church in 1938.

Q: What will Habitat and ACT do with the land?

A: They propose to collaboratively build 4 units (2 duplexes) or 6 units (3 duplexes) of affordable homes.  Some will be built by Habitat and some by ACT.  ACT will own the land.  They have developed a Memorandum of Understanding between themselves to facilitate their collaboration.

Q: What is the timeline for the Initiative?

A: South Church members will vote to make a decision on this initiative at the all church meeting on May 7th. If passed, it will take roughly a year for Habitat and ACT to get the required permits. They hope to start construction in the summer of 2018 with families in by the summer of 2019.

Q: What will be the role of South Church?

A: Habitat and ACT will have the lead roles in building the units, selecting the homeowners, and maintaining the properties.  They have invited South Church members to participate on the Selection Committees, help Habitat with construction, and serve as mentors for the families.  There are numerous other ways all members of the congregation (youth and adults) can be involved (feeding workers, helping with landscaping, making curtains, etc.)

Q: What does South Church use the land for now?

A: Currently, a small corner is used for composting leaves.  Trustees are developing alternative options for leaf composting or creating an easement to allow the continuing of leaf composting on a small corner of the site.

Q: What other options did South Church consider for the land?

A: When this offer first came to South Church, the Trustees looked into other options for the land including: expanding the cemetery, building a home for the Associate Pastor, and continuing their current use of the land. The ledge at the site presents a challenge for expanding the cemetery. Only cremains can be put there and they already have space for that without using the Mary Byers Smith lot.  Additionally, there is a 40+ year supply of gravesites in town between Spring Grove Cemetery and West Parish.

Q: Could the church lease the land to ACT and Habitat instead of selling it?
A: While ACT and Habitat are open to that option, it is not clear that it is in the best interest of South Church. Continued ownership means additional responsibilities as landlord. ACT is experienced at this, has professional staff, and seems best suited to be the owner of the land. Second, financially, it is likely that the proceeds will generate more interest income in the hands of the Trustees of the Trust Funds than the yearly payment for a 99-year lease. Third, at the end of the 99-year lease, we could only really sell it to ACT because of the buildings on it.

Q: What is the price and how was it arrived at?

A: ACT and Habitat proposed a price of $150,000-200,000 based on their affordability formula.  ACT’s formula allows them to pay a maximum of $50,000 per unit and Habitat’s formula allows them to pay a maximum of $25,000 per unit.

Q: What would be the value of the land if South Church sold it at “market rate”?

A: The 2016 Appraised value of the land is $283,000.  Tom Carroll, a local realtor, estimated that the value of the land, if sold for two house lots, would be $300,000. There is no sewer access to the land except along School St., which would require pumping.  This kind of expense is reasonable to spread over 6 units but difficult to recover if selling only two homes, which may be why no one has proposed buying it before now.

Q: If South Church sells it, is there an assurance that the homes will remain permanently affordable?

A: Yes, ACT will own the land under all dwelling units, and the completed homes will be sold at an affordable price as condominiums to homeowners with a 99-year ground lease. The resale formula in the ground lease, issued by ACT, will insure that the homes remain affordable in perpetuity.

Q: What will South Church do with the proceeds if they sell the land?

A: The Trustees have voted to direct the proceeds to the Trustees of the Trust Funds for management without restrictions. This increase in the amount of the Trust Funds will subsequently increase the annual distribution from the Trust Funds to the General Fund (general operating costs).

Q: Does Andover need more affordable housing?

A: Andover is an expensive town to live in and offers much to its residents but many people cannot afford the cost. Keeping at least 10% of the homes in Andover at “affordable” rates helps the Town in numerous ways.  The Town is currently just at 11% but that is likely to change when the 2020 census is done therefore it is in the best interest of the town to add affordable homes now.

We are sure you have additional questions!  Please submit them to  Not only will we answer you but we’ll add them to this list!  Thank you for your interest.