LACONIA — Not only does the Lakes Region Community Developers organization want to find homes for people of limited means, it wants to help them after they move in.
That’s why the new offices for LRCD, formerly called Laconia Area Community Land Trust, includes a meeting space where people can come in and discuss issues affecting them and their community.
The organization is currently based at 658 Union Ave., near Aroma Joe’s, but it has purchased and is renovating the old Walter’s Market building at 193 Court Street to serve as its new home.
“Our present building is like an old house,” said Carmen Lorentz, executive director. “We don’t have community meeting space. We can’t do events with residents.”
Her organization has always had resident services for families that may be struggling.
“We now have a new program for community building and engagement, working with residents on leadership and career development,” she said. “We want to help them identify and address issues in their neighborhoods. We want to lift them up.
“Basically we refer them to other organizations or services. On the bigger-picture level, as you can imagine in Laconia, one issue of impact is substance use disorder. For a couple years in a row that has been one of the top issues in our Laconia portfolio.
“People want safety in the neighborhood. They may find drug paraphernalia or are seeing activity that makes them uncomfortable. We want people to come together and try to do something about that.”
Her organization plans to move into the new space by August. It will include 10 individual offices and a large kitchen.
There will be significant upgrades to the exterior south wall of the building, including installation of windows, additional insulation and new siding.
“As a non-profit community development organization, we are thrilled to be redeveloping a vacant building into a vibrant hub of activity,” Lorentz said. “It’s what we do best.”
The project is funded by a Community Development Block Grant from NH Community Development Finance Authority and a loan from Meredith Village Savings Bank.
LRCD is planning a second phase of work to complete the exterior treatment on the other walls of the building, as well as resurfacing the parking lot and doing landscaping and signage improvements.
The organization, which is 26 years old, owns and operates a $53 million real estate portfolio of 365 affordable apartments in Ashland, Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, Tilton, and Wolfeboro.
Many of the tenants receive a government rental subsidy, which is tied to income qualifications.
To aid homeless families in securing stable employment and permanent housing, LRCD’s also operates a four-unit transitional housing program where families stay with us for about 18 months.
LRCD’s old office will be used as a group house for women in recovery.
Some people are under the false impression that LRCD does not pay property taxes on the housing it develops. Lorentz says it pays about $140,000 in property tax to Laconia yearly.