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November 09. 2012 7:46PM

NeighborWorks expands to Nashua

NASHUA - Expanding beyond the Queen City, NeighborWorks Greater Manchester has changed its name and is increasing its territory to offer services in Nashua and surrounding communities.

Officials with the newly titled NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire are excited about its expansion, as they see a demand for quality, affordable housing throughout the city.

"We are not trying to bring something into a town that people don't want. We only want to work where people tell us there is a need," said Robert Tourigny, executive director of NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire. "We don't come in with a prescribed set of goals."

Speaking to the aldermanic Human Affairs Committee and the Economic Development Committee, Tourigny said Thursday that his organization adjusts its mission depending on what each community wants.

NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire is a non-profit group dedicated to improving lives in the region by providing access to quality housing services, revitalizing neighborhoods and breaking the cycle of poverty, according to its website.

It is affiliated with NeighborWorks America, a national network of community development groups working to offer affordable housing and improve communities nationwide.

According to Tourigny, his organization has accumulated 350 rental units since its inception 20 years ago, spanning throughout Manchester, Goffstown, Hooksett, Amherst and now Nashua.

"Our focus really was in the (Manchester) center city," he said, explaining certain areas of Manchester in the early 1990s were struggling with absentee landlords, drug houses and abandoned properties.

A group of volunteers, organizations, politicians and residents joined forces to take back the neighborhood and improve the quality of life in certain sections of Manchester, Tourigny said, adding that the effort grew beyond Manchester in 2006, and is now expanding its focus to Nashua.

Bellwether Community Credit Union had a vacant piece of property on Birch Street in Nashua, which is currently being used by NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire for local seminars and meetings on foreclosures, home ownership and more.

"We are about helping residents help themselves," said Tourigny, explaining one of their goals is to develop leadership throughout city neighborhoods.

Last month, NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire broke ground on a $6.7 million housing project in Amherst. The townhouse development consists of 28-units now being built on a 14-acre parcel at 104 Amherst St., the future home of Hidden Pond Apartments.?While the group does often focus on buying, selling and renting affordable real estate, Tourigny told city officials that there is much more to his organization, which also provides community services and helps tenants enhance their quality of life by remedying trash problems, parking constraints and other concerns.

When Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Nashua began to decline, there was a need for another organization within the city to work to develop and maintain affordable housing in Nashua, according to organizers. NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire if filling that void, taking on some of their previous properties and assessing the buildings to determine their fate, Tourney said.

"We have no project on the horizon," he said, adding a community advisory committee has been formed in Nashua that will help guide his organization in the right direction for possible future endeavors.

"We appreciate that you are here in nashua," Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire told the group, praising them for trying to reach out into the community, and for hosting a recent block party on Ash Street.

khoughton@newstote.com


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