News

Housing Quality and Health: Revealing the Connections, Addressing the Challenges #3

July 26th, 2021 by Don Bianchi & Elana Brochin

Revitalize CDC in Springfield improves housing conditions by performing assessments and interventions for adults and children with asthma to safely remain in their home. (Photo credit: Revitalize CDC)

 

MACDC has long supported its members in their work to improve housing quality. In recent years, MACDC worked with it's members to establish health equity work as a defining characteristic of the contemporary community development movement in Massachusetts. We are now in the beginning stages of an initiative to link these two strands of our work. We would like to engage with as many stakeholders as possible in this process, and, therefore, are publishing this series of blog posts to share out ideas and get your feedback.

Part 3: Current Programs Addressing Property-Level Distress

In our prior blog, we provided a snapshot of current housing quality and safety problems that negatively impact resident and community health.  For each of these problems, we identified the unsafe housing conditions, the resulting health and safety problems, and the impact on at-risk populations.  

 We now turn to an examination of current interventions to address these housing quality problems. Because of the broad dimensions of current efforts, we will cover these efforts in two blogs, the third and fourth in our series: 

  • This blog, our third, will examine current programs focused on addressing property-level distress, including programs to confront lead hazards in homes, poor indoor air quality, and other unsafe housing conditions. 
  • Our following blog will focus on efforts to address broader factors, without which, initiatives to address property-level distress are destined to be inadequate: neighborhood disinvestment, and climate change. 

 

The fifth and final blog post in our series will identify gaps and advocate for increased investment in and alignment of housing quality and health programming and funding. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – which will bring more than $8 billion dollars into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – is a once in a generation opportunity to invest in creating affordable housing, and also to invest in improvements to the quality and safety of Massachusetts existing housing stock, which is among the oldest in the nation. Through investing $100 million in healthy housing and de-leading programs, we can improve the housing stock and improve the health and well-being of residents across the Commonwealth. 

  

Programs to address lead hazards: 

The Massachusetts Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under 6 live. A landlord can be held legally responsible if a child living in a unit they own becomes poisoned from lead.  It is illegal under MA law to evict, or refuse to rent to, a family with a young child; this is enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). Yet, 50 years after passage of the Lead Law, we have not come close to addressing the hazards, and landlords routinely discriminate against families with children- underscoring the need for new legislation. 

 

There are public programs, including the State’s Get the Lead Out Program (GTLO) administered by MassHousing, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Lead-Based Paint and Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant Programs that aim to accelerate lead removal from residences.  Local agencies, both public and nonprofit, administer these programs. For example, Worcester’s lead abatement program assists property owners with costs associated with lead abatement and conducts studies to protect children and families from health hazards in their homes. 

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) offers training to build capacity to address lead hazards and ensure safe lead abatement.  It provides training for renovation, repair, and painting contractors on how to work safely in housing with lead-based paint and comply with EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, and HUD's Lead Safe Housing Rule. It also provides Moderate Risk De-leading training to certify contractors, agents and property owners that want to remove lead in Massachusetts on their own.  

 

Programs to address poor indoor air quality: 

The Environmental Epidemiology Program (EEP) within the State’s Bureau of Environmental Health (BEH) provides information about asthma and the environment and helps to educate the public about the variety of environmental exposures that can trigger asthma attacks. BEH conducts annual asthma surveillance of children ages 5-14 by gender, grade, school, and community in Massachusetts. 

 

Regulations and incentives to make multi-unit buildings smoke-free can reduce exposure to secondhand smoke which causes asthma, poor blood circulation, heart disease, and lung cancer. For example, as of 2018, all Public Housing Authorities funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development are required to implement a smoke-free housing policy. The Massachusetts Smoke-free Housing Project provides support to tenants, landlords, and condominium owners and associations to understand the benefits and challenges of making homes smoke-free.1  

 

On the local level, public agencies, nonprofits, and healthcare institutions have joined forces to address indoor air quality. The Boston Public Health Commission runs a variety of programs focused on various aspects of home health and indoor air qualityThrough the Boston Asthma Home Visit Collaborative, Community Health Workers conduct home visits to assess the environment for asthma triggers, share information on resources to reduce or eliminate them, and work with the family to create an Asthma Action Plan.  BPHC also offers a training program to help landlords make their properties smoke-free. 

The Springfield Healthy Homes Program is partnership among Revitalize CDC, Baystate Medical Center, Health New England, and the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. The program connects Springfield residents to services that address a variety housing quality and safety concerns that impact health, including asbestos, asthma triggers, carbon monoxide, and pests, among othersHospitals throughout Massachusetts participate in programs that aim to decrease home asthma triggers. For example, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Community Asthma Initiative conducts home visits to identify asthma triggers and provides tools for asthma mitigation, including vacuums, bedding encasement, and integrated pest management services. 

 

Programs to address other unsafe conditions in homes (and keep safe homes in that condition): 

Responsible Property Management: In multifamily properties, sound property management practices are essential to providing a safe living environment. One resource for property managers, the New England Affordable Housing Management Association (NEAHMA) provides training to encourage best practices. Through quality property management, proactive maintenance, and timely upgrading and replacement of building systems, properties in good condition can be maintained as such.  

 

Code Enforcement: Code regulations and enforcement of existing housing quality requirements are a tool for ensuring adequate housing quality and safety. Through the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, and other laws and regulations, all homes, including those in the private market, are subject to certain minimum standards of health and safety. Tenants in Massachusetts have legal protections from landlords who are not responsive to tenant complaints, including the ability to withhold a portion of the rent or move out, even if there is a lease or rental agreement in place. These rights are described in the MA Attorney General’s Guide to Landlord and Tenant Rights 

 

Housing Rehabilitation Programs: Several CDCs and many municipalities administer Housing Rehabilitation Programs using public funds such as federal CDBG funding to address code violations and improve living conditions. Hilltown CDC administers its Housing Rehabilitation Program for several towns in its rural region, making funds available to property owners as zero interest deferred-payment loans, with repayment due upon sale or refinancing of the property, and forgiven over time Revitalize CDC in Springfield administers a home improvement program for veteransand others, with a focus on making their homes safe, healthy, accessible, and energy-efficient. 

 

MassHousing administers a Home Improvement Loan Program, with loans of up to $50,000 to address home repair needs.  MassHousing also assists first-time homebuyers to address home repair needs when their home is purchased through its Loan Program for purchase and rehabilitation. 

 

The Home Modification Loan Program is a state-funded program that provides loans to homeowners and small landlords to fund changes to keep people with disabilities and elderly individuals in their homes, through improvements such as installing grab bars which can allow elderly residents to safely live in their homes. 

 

The programs and interventions discussed in this article have addressed health and safety problems in thousands of homes, and dramatically improved the lives of countless families.  In our next blog, we’ll describe existing programs that address two broader problems that must be addressed if we are to sustain property-level improvements: neighborhood disinvestment and climate change. We will then detail the ways in which, through greater program alignment and a significant investment of ARPA dollars, we can improve housing quality and safety for current Massachusetts residents and generations to come. 

 

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Mel King Institute Public Housing Training Participants Form New Tenant Groups

July 21st, 2021 by Nadine Sanchara

In spring of 2020, just as COVID was ramping up, Judy O’Kulsky began knocking on her neighbors’ doors at the public housing development where she lives in Belchertown, MA. Judy was able to get her neighbors involved in a newly forming tenant group. As of July 2021, the group has held an election, adopted by-laws, and is on the brink of being “officially recognized.” 

Judy took several trainings with the Mel King Institute’s (MKI) Public Housing Training Program (now known as the Resident Leadership Academy) last summer, fall and spring. The Program provides trainings for residents of public housing to support their full participation in the oversight of their housing developments. She has also worked closely with the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants in getting her LTO up and running. 

In an interview, Judy said getting people on board was slow at first. In many housing developments, residents are held back by fear and sometimes by a sense of hopelessness. After holding many conversations with residents, Judy and others have been able to overcome these barriers and involvement has been good. Eleven people from the Belchertown development participated in the MKI training on how to start a tenants’ organization.  

“As a result of the training, people are excited to get a tenants organization up and running. The training has breathed new life into this place. We’re pretty darn amazing to be able to get this far during COVID! If we can get a tenants’ organization up and running during COVID, there’s nothing we can’t do,” said Judy. 

Over in Greenfield, MA, the residents at the Elm Street development have also started an official tenant group. Along the way, the group experienced some roadblocks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with MKI, Greenfield resident L’aura Jordan said the tenant group had some months of inactivity. Participation is relatively low at virtual meetings since many residents do not have access to, or knowledge about, the technology required to attend the meetings.  

L’aura also said that some members of their group do not have much experience and understanding of organizing, and that can be a challenge. Despite these challenges, L’aura was happy to report that as a group, they are having important conversations about bridging divides amongst tenants. She said the MKI training has helped them to brainstorm about steps they can take, and that that hearing from other participants at the trainings about their experiences and about what worked for them was very helpful.  

“I’m really grateful that I have had the chance to participate in the trainings, and I hope I can do more, because it has given me tools and awareness that have made a huge difference in how I approach my work in my community,” said L’aura. 

We also interviewed Randi Parks, a Greenfield resident who serves on the Greenfield Housing Authority board. Randi reports that the MKI training is helping residents to learn the system so that they can change, and then help others to change. Randi said she learned a lot about housing through the training, and it helped her to gain the confidence to speak up and act. 

“Everything I know about housing and the board is all because of the Mel King Institute. I wouldn’t have had any other way to learn it. I used to be scared and just sit back and listen at the board meetings, but I realized that I don’t have to do that anymore. I have more backbone because I get what’s going on now. It makes a lot of difference when I know what’s going on.” 

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MACDC Members Stepped up and Responded to the Pandemic, investing $842M in Local Communities – The MACDC GOALs Report

July 20th, 2021 by

2020 was a year unlike any other, and (we hope) will not be replicated any time soon. The human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic, with more than 3 million people dying worldwide, and well over half a million deaths in the United States. The economic fallout from the pandemic has been no less severe. In Massachusetts, the unemployment rate jumped from 2.9% in March 2020 to over 16% the following month; one year later, it still stands at 6.8%, with many more uncounted.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the health and economic toll of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately on Communities of Color, starting with the first wave of the pandemic, where an analysis cited in the Boston Globe showed that the mortality rate surged higher in MA cities, towns, and ZIP codes with larger concentrations of poverty, economic segregation, People of Color, and crowded housing. The disproportionate economic disparities persist. 

While CDCs responded quickly and creatively to meet the pandemic-related needs of their communities, it is unsurprising that many regular CDC activities were significantly disrupted in 2020. Many CDC construction projects were delayed by construction bans and other disruptions, so much so that 54% of the homes originally projected to come online in 2020 were delayed until 2021. The result is lower than usual housing production totals in this year’s report, and a corresponding reduction in construction jobs and investment dollars. Many regular CDC programs were also disrupted by public health restrictions. 

CDCs found new ways to serve the needs of their community’s most vulnerable residents. Forty-four CDCs conducted wellness calls and other efforts to ensure resident and community health and safety, and 42 CDCs assisted with food delivery. 

Twenty-six CDCs continued long-standing efforts to support small business entrepreneurs, in old and new ways, helping these entrepreneurs access almost $12 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans and close to $10 million in grants, providing an essential lifeline to these small business owners. To help community residents struggling to pay rent for apartments in the private market, CDCs provided cash assistance totaling $28.2 million in 2020, an increase of $10 million from 2019.

CDCs redoubled their efforts to make their organizations reflective of the communities they serve.  In 2020, 36% of senior staff at CDCs were People of Color, up from 29% in 2019, and the number of CDCs hiring racial equity consultants increased by almost 50%.  

Some have called CDCs “second responders” to reflect the role they play during a crisis as they help people survive, recover, heal, and rebuild. Never has that been truer than in 2020. While the numbers and stories in this short report cannot tell the full story, we hope they give our readers a sense of how CDCs rose to the occasion during this most difficult and trying of times.

Read and download the report here.

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Energy Cohort Meeting Examines Combining Federal Historic Tax Credits with Passive House

July 20th, 2021 by Don Bianchi

Retrofitting vacant and underutilized historic buildings to Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) standards leverages an existing building’s embodied carbon, which combined with low carbon and carbon storing materials, can transform our historic buildings into carbon sinks - a good thing! With careful consideration, the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program (FHTC) can provide an additional source of funding for these ambitious Passive House projects. 

 

At its July 15th convening, the Energy Cohort, a peer learning group co-convened by LISC BostonMACDC, and New Ecology, featured a presentation by Heather Clark of the Rocky Mountain InstituteCurrently under construction, Moran Square, in Fitchburg, is one of the first affordable, PHIUS, Historic Tax Credit projects in the U.S. The site includes a historic firehouse, a vacant lot, and historic three-story building. The presentation covered how the team managed to meet the rigorous historic requirements of the FHTC Program, while achieving ambitious PHIUS and low carbon construction goals. 

 

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Governor Announces Rental Round Awards in Lawrence

July 19th, 2021 by Don Bianchi

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, joined by senior Administration officials and area legislators, traveled to Lawrence on July 15th to announce funding awards to 28 affordable rental housing projects. This in-person event is evidence that Massachusetts is increasingly open for advancing affordable housing development. 

The Commonwealth awarded $93.3 million in direct subsidy funding and federal and state low-income housing tax credits, which will generate an additional $310 million in tax credit equity. These awards will advance the development of 1,526 new rental units, including 1,311 homes affordable to low and extremely low-income households. 

Eight MACDC Members were among the sponsors receiving awards.  Collectively, the projects sponsored by these Members will create or preserve 327 rental units, including 277 affordable units. 

  • Rosewood Way Townhouses is a new construction project for families to be built in Agawam, sponsored by Way Finders. When completed, the project will offer 62 units, including 47 affordable units.
  • Valley CDC will newly construct Amherst Supportive Studio Housing, which will include 28 studio units with supportive services, with 20 of these units being affordable.
  • Burbank Terrace is a transit-oriented new construction project for families to be built in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, sponsored by Fenway CDC. The project will provide 27 affordable units.
  • B’nai B’rith Housing is sponsoring Residences Off Baker, a new construction project for families to be built in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood. It will provide 60 units, including 45 affordable units. 
  • The Neighborhood Developers will newly construct 25 Sixth Street in Chelsea, providing 56 rental units for families, including 44 affordable homes. 
  • 555 Merrimack Place is a new construction project to be built in Lowell. Sponsored by the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA), the project will provide 27 affordable units and supportive services for a population in recovery from substance use disorder. 
  • Metro West Collaborative Development will newly construct Glen Brook Way Phase 2, and provide 44 affordable units for seniors in Medway. 
  • Granite Street Crossing is a new construction project to be built in Rockport, sponsored by Harborlight Community Partners. This intergenerational project will provide 23 affordable units, with 17 units restricted for seniors.
     

Congratulations to sponsors of all these critically-needed projects!

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Housing Quality and Health: Revealing the Connections, Addressing the Challenges - Part #2: Defining the Problem

July 7th, 2021 by Don Bianchi & Elana Brochin

Revitalize CDC in Springfield improves housing conditions by performing assessments and interventions for adults and children with asthma to safely remain in their home. (Photo credit: Revitalize CDC)

​​

MACDC has long supported its members in their work to improve housing quality. In recent years, MACDC worked with it's members to establish health equity work as a defining characteristic of the contemporary community development movement in Massachusetts. We are now in the beginning stages of an initiative to link these two strands of our work. We would like to engage with as many stakeholders as possible in this process, and, therefore, are publishing this series of blog posts to share out ideas and get your feedback.

In our first blog post, we discussed how housing quality can impact health on a broad scale and how Massachusetts’ housing stock is particularly susceptible to these challenges because of its age. In the following blog post, we detail how specific housing quality and safety problems can result in negative health outcomes for individuals and communities. We also discuss how and why many of these challenges disproportionately impact vulnerable populations such as children, elderly, low-income families and people of color.

Lead
Unsafe Housing Conditions:
Over 70% of homes in Massachusetts were constructed before lead paint was banned in 1978. All homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint which can be inhaled or ingested1 unless steps have already been taken to make them lead-safe or remove that lead paint.

The Resulting Health and Safety Problems:
Any amount of lead in the body can hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, slow down growth and development, make it hard to learn, damage hearing and speech, and cause behavior problems. These problems are particularly harmful to children who absorb lead more easily than adults and who are still growing and developing. Between 2013 and 2017, 16,961 children in Massachusetts were estimated to have blood levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter – the level at which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the source of lead exposure should be investigated.2

Impact on Populations at Risk:
Lead exposure is unevenly distributed across the Commonwealth with communities that face inequities in accessing quality housing being particularly susceptible.3 According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Black children are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have lead poisoning than white children. Additionally, children living in low-income communities are over 3 times more likely to have elevated lead levels than children living in high income communities.4 This disproportionate impact translates to over half of children with confirmed elevated blood levels being concentrated in just 19 cities and towns in Massachusetts.5

Poor Indoor Air Quality
Unsafe Housing Conditions:
Poor indoor air quality is caused by mold, dust, second-hand smoke, poor ventilation, and leaky pipes and faucets. Outdoor air pollution, from cars, smoke, and industrial sources, can also impact indoor air quality, as can weather patterns like humidity, precipitation, and wind patterns.

The Resulting Health and Safety Problems:
Poor air quality can cause respiratory and allergy symptoms including coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Exposure to air pollution can also cause asthma or make asthma symptoms worse.  Asthma is particularly pervasive in Massachusetts: about one in eleven people currently has asthma,  including 10.2% of adults and 12.9% of children. Asthma that is not well-controlled interferes with daily lives. For example, almost half of children with current asthma missed at least one day of school or day care as a result of their asthma symptoms.7

Impact on Populations at Risk:
Like many other health outcomes associated with housing quality, asthma is unevenly distributed across the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts 13.8% of Black, Non-Hispanic adults in Massachusetts suffer from asthma as compared with 10.4% of white adults.8 This trend is mirrored in children where, according to a 2017 report9, Emergency Department visits were 2.5 and 3.5 times higher for Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic children as compared with white children in 2012. This same report showed that 17.1% of children living in a household with income of less than $25,000 suffered from asthma as compared with 8.1% of children living in households with an income of $75,000 or greater.

Properties in Unsafe Condition
Unsafe Housing Conditions:
In rental housing in MA, the landlord is responsible for compliance with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code. The Code requires, among other things, that the rental unit have adequate sewage disposal, heating, and hot water. The home must also be free of hazards, ranging from pest infestation to asbestos and, for households with a child under 6 years old, lead paint. While a tenant has rights in the event a landlord is not in compliance with the Sanitary Code, enforcing these rights can be time-consuming and challenging, while in the interim the unsafe conditions persist. Owner-occupants may lack the resources to address unsafe conditions in their homes. 

The Resulting Health and Safety Problems:
Renters and homeowners who live in homes that are substandard or not suitable for them can suffer health consequences, including accidents and falls and the spread of infectious disease. The risks associated with overcrowded living conditions became potentially deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fires, whether stemming from unsafe (and often hidden) electrical problems or other causes, can have deadly consequences. 

Impact on Populations at Risk:
The same populations that are particularly impacted by unsafe housing face the double whammy of having fewer housing choices when they determine that their current homes are unsuitable.  Many elders and persons with disabilities encounter a dearth of homes with the accessible or adaptable features they require. For low-income and low-wealth households, the high cost of renting or buying limits their options. For all of these households, and households encountering discrimination, finding other safe, suitable and affordable housing may not be an option at all. Further, in the event that a family is able to relocate to safer housing, the unsafe conditions that they left persist for the next family. 

Despite state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the sale and rental of housing, discrimination persists in MA. A study released in 2020 by the Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP) at Suffolk University Law School, showed that housing providers showed Black testers about half the number of apartments they showed to white testers.  The same study demonstrated that, about 40 percent of the time, the housing providers stopped communicating after testers revealed they intended to use vouchers. HDTP researchers also found that families with young children faced rampant housing discrimination.

Two Factors That Exacerbate the Impact of Substandard Housing on Resident and Community Health
Two broader problems deepen substandard housing’s impact on health, and make addressing this impact more complex and challenging:

  • Neighborhood-and community-level property distress requires policy interventions that go beyond individual property strategies; and
  • The already pernicious impacts of climate change render addressing housing quality, without addressing climate resilience, inadequate in order to protect resident and community health.

Neighborhood Disinvestment:
Lead paint, poor indoor air quality, and unsafe housing conditions each affect community and individual health in distinct ways. As noted previously, they each disproportionately impact particular populations. Geography also plays an important role. 

Many lower-income neighborhoods in Massachusetts—most notably, but not solely, in the state’s Gateway Cities and some rural communities —struggle with the challenges of weak real estate markets, where low rents and declining values, caused in significant part by decades of discriminatory housing policies, make it difficult to maintain an aging housing stock. According to a 2018 study by the Brookings Institution, “Homes of similar quality in neighborhoods with similar amenities are worth 23 percent less in majority Black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no Black residents.”  As a result, all of the housing quality and safety problems described above can exist, and persist, on a neighborhood or community-wide scale.

In these neighborhoods, as the cost of maintenance rises, home values can steadily decline to the point where it can stop making economic sense to invest in these structures for the long term. Where this happens, one sees absentee owners buying cheap and collecting as much rent as they can before rot wins out and the building is no longer habitable. Often the result is a dilapidated problem property sitting idle, sapping value from surrounding homes and devaluing the equity that nearby homeowners were counting on to provide financial security and a nest egg for retirement.10 These community-wide impacts call for community-level (or even regional) responses.

Climate Change:
Climate change impacts many aspects of our lives. Efforts to combat climate change, and its impact, are underway in Massachusetts, including passage of legislation to dramatically reduce climate emissions.  Nonetheless, the harmful impacts of a warming climate are already being felt, in homes and neighborhoods across the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), in its Massachusetts Environmental Public Health tracking, identifies the most serious climate-related health hazards as those resulting from:

  • Increasing numbers of very hot (>90°F) summer days
  • Increasing precipitation leading to flooding
  • Increasing storm-related inland and coastal flooding
  • Rising sea levels

According to EOHHS, climate change is expected to increase the number of days over 90°F each year, which may increase hospitalizations for heat-related illnesses. People who work outdoors, live in urban areas with limited greenspace, or lack air-conditioning are more likely to experience heat illness during extreme heat events. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that “heat islands” (urban areas where structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited) were responsible for daytime temperatures in urban neighborhoods rising as much as 7 degrees higher than those in outlying areas. The EPA found that the worst temperature differences are in more humid cities along the East Coast.

There are a wide variety of other ways that climate change can negatively impact human health. Air pollution events, sea-level rise, flooding, and severe weather that can result in both acute and chronic health impacts, including mental health. People who live near rivers or coastlines that experience flooding may come in contact with contaminated flood waters or experience respiratory impacts from mold growth in water-damaged homes or buildings.

Conclusion: 
While housing quality and safety challenges pose a threat to community and individual health, and an even more serious threat to particular populations, there are a number of interventions that are designed to address these problems. In our next blog post, we will introduce you to these interventions and begin to identify where there are gaps. 

We welcome your thoughts and reactions and would encourage you to share them with us. Elana Brochin can be reached at elanab@macdc.org; Don Bianchi at donb@macdc.org.

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1 - https://matracking.ehs.state.ma.us/Inspections/lead-inspection.html
2 - http://www.mass.gov/guides/phit-data-childhood-lead-poisoning https://www.mass.gov/guides/phit-data-childhood-lead-poisoning
3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222490/; https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/quality-of-housing
4 - https://www.mass.gov/doc/childhood-lead-exposure-impact-at-a-glance/download
5 - High-risk communities are defined as those with a 5-year incidence rate of children who have a confirmed concentration of ≥ 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter cases that is above the state 5-year incidence rate after adjusting for low to moderate income and old housing stock (built pre-1978)
6 - www.mass.gov/service-details/statistics-about-asthma#:~:text=About%20one%20out%20of%20every,United%20States%20and%20in%20Massachusetts.
7 - https://www.mass.gov/service-details/statistics-about-asthma
8 - https://www.mass.gov/service-details/statistics-about-asthma#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20asthma%20is%20high%20in%20Massachusetts&text=The%20prevalence%20of%20current%20asthma,ethnicity%20subgroups%20in%2020152.
9 - https://www.mass.gov/doc/pediatric-asthma-data-bulletin-0/download
10 - Ben Forman and Alan Mallach, “Building Communities of Promise and Possibility: State and Local Blueprints for Comprehensive Neighborhood Stabilization”, January 2019

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The Mel King Institute Celebrates its 12th year with a Virtual Breakfast Event

June 24th, 2021 by Ian Sloan

At the Mel King Institute's 12th Anniversary Virtual Breakfast, stories of community resilience were on the menu. About 150 leaders from across the Bay State came together on Zoom to celebrate what has been a tremendously challenging year. MACDC Board Member and Main South CDC’s Casey Starr led the program, helping us highlight the many different ways community organizations have stepped up during the pandemic. After having all of the interesting presentations and discussions, it is clear that this past year can be summed up in two general yet very powerful words: resiliency and leadership.

One central point during the Breakfast event was the announcement of the Mel King Institute’s Resident Leadership Academy, which will be officially launched this fall. Through this new program, the Mel King Insitute’s training sessions and helpful events will reach residents directly in CDCs and other kinds of subsidized housing. By expanding the availability of our resources, we can help foster resident power and engagement. Taking from our 2021 Yearbook, “the training helps residents build networks of shared power, as well as build key skills such as running meetings, communications, issue identification and taking action.” Our impact is clear and over the past year, we have:

  • Trained 120 residents;
  • Offered 82 training sessions;
  • Offered 8 open roundtables;
  • Engaged 52 housing authorities across the Commonwealth.

In all, we have trained 361 residents all time, allowing communities to harness and effectively utilize both their individual and collective power.

Also on the menu was a fascinating and enriching conversation with Marietta Rodriguez, President and CEO of NeighborWorks America. Throughout the discussion, Marietta further introduced ways for community leaders to lift up the residents around them. As we all looked back on a year dominated by public health and emergency action plans, Marietta explained how communities can become stronger now more than ever, especially as old challenges persist and new ones begin as the Commonwealth recovers.

Through engaging pieces of poetry, Mah Camara and Maria Luisa Arroyo helped us bring context to the challenges facing Massachusetts and every corner of the world. As we look ahead to steadily reopening in-person sessions and trainings, and as we prepare to face these future challenges head on, Maria Luisa Arroyo’s “Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn” sums it up best: “According to Mel King, it is all about access.” You can read the poems in the 2021 Yearbook.

Watch the full breakfast video.

Watch our annual video series:

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Governor’s FY22 Capital Budget Includes New Funding for Key MACDC Priorities

June 21st, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On June 14th, the Governor announced the release of his Administration’s FY22 Capital Spending Plan.  The FY22 Capital Budget funds new programs authorized in the recently enacted Economic Development law, while level-funding most longstanding affordable housing programs. 

 

MACDC’s Analysis of the FY22 spending plan for all of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) housing programs, and for selected Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) community development programs of interest to CDCs, is attached. It includes a comparison to FY21 spending. 

 

With the spending on newly authorized programs, overall spending on affordable housing increased by more than $18 million when compared to FY21 spending, to more than $255 million.  MACDC is particularly pleased about the spending on DHCD housing programs authorized by the Economic Development legislation, including $6.5 million for Neighborhood Stabilization, $2 million for a Rural and Small Town Development Fund, and $1.7 million for climate-resilient affordable housing. For EOHED programs, the FY22 Capital Budget includes level funding for Brownfields Redevelopment and the MA Food Trust Program, an increase of $1.75 million in grants for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and $8 million in new funding to support the redevelopment of underutilized or vacant properties into active commercial, housing, or green civic space. 

 

MACDC is thankful to the Baker-Polito Administration for its funding of critical affordable housing and community development programs, and to the MA Legislature for its authorization of these programs. MACDC is also grateful to its members for the great work they do every day to ensure that the funding provided will result in projects and programs that benefit residents in every corner of the Commonwealth. 

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Division of Banks Provides Unprecedented Funding for Financial Counseling- CDCs in Central Role

June 21st, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On June 16th, the MA Division of Banks (“The Division”) announced $2.25 million in grants for a Pilot Program to fund financial literacy and debt resolution education programs.  The grants are supported by the Division’s Banks Mortgage Loan Settlement Trust, established to accept settlement funds related to mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. 

 

Impressively, all but one of the 18 nonprofits awarded funds are MACDC Members, demonstrating the crucial role that CDCs play in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure for empowering residents with the knowledge they need to obtain and keep a home, save and pay for a college education, and better understand maintaining their overall finances. 

 

These awards come just weeks after the Division awarded over $2.5 million in grants to fund first-time homeownership education programs and foreclosure prevention counseling centers throughout the Commonwealth. The 21 awards, through this “Chapter 206 Grant Program” went to 10 foreclosure prevention regional centers and 11 consumer counseling organizations, with the majority of awards going to MACDC Members.  The more than $2.5 in awards was the most ever awarded by the Division in the 13 years of the Chapter 206 program, an increase of $1 million over the $1.5 million awarded each of the prior three years. 

 

Taken together, in just the past few weeks, the Division has awarded more than $4.5 million in grants to support essential financial counseling and education.  MACDC is thankful to the Division of Banks, and to the Baker-Polito Administration. They have responded to the needs of the Commonwealth’s families, who have endured the economic fallout from the pandemic, by tripling the amount of grants awarded for financial counseling. We are also grateful for the key role that CDCs play in educating and empowering these families- and proud of our association with them. 

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An Update on MACDC’s Racial Equity Work

June 9th, 2021 by Tiana Lawrence

After the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the spring of 2020, a national and global uprising and fight towards racial justice, equity and peace was reignited. As a response to the collective action, many Massachusetts based Community Development Corporations expressed the necessity of increasing and strengthening their commitment to racial equity work. Consequently, MACDC has been engaging members since, leading in racial equity initiatives and supporting the membership in their journeys. Here’s a timeline of action steps taken so far: 

Summer 2020  

  • MACDC’s 2020 Member Survey collects data on the various racial equity efforts being taken by the membership. 
  • The Organizer's Peer group decides to work together on Racial Equity.  
  • The Organizer's Peer group develops a racial equity pledge and asks MACDC members to sign on. 
  • Organizers meet with the Alliance Steering Committee.  
  • A working group of organizers and one Mel King Alliance Steering Committee member further develop the pledge including discussions with their executive directors and organizations’ racial equity/diversity/inclusion committee members. 

Winter 2020 

  • MACDC hosts their 2020 Member Meeting: Venturing Towards Racial Equity. 
  • The Organizers Peer group presents the racial equity pledge at the MACDC member meeting on racial equity. 
  • The MACDC Board agrees to include the pledge as part of MACDC's racial equity work. 

Winter 2021 

  • MACDC develops a Racial Equity Advisory Committee to discuss racial equity work being done, where it is headed, and further develop and distribute the racial equity pledge to the larger membership. 

Racial Equity Advisory Committee Members  

  • Joseph Kriesberg, Executive Director; MACDC 
  • Shirronda Almeida, Director; MKI 
  • Pamela Bender, Senior Organizer; MACDC 
  • Tiana Lawrence, Community Engagement Fellow; MKI 
  • Kimberly Lyle, Director of Strategy and Development; Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation 
  • Emilio Dorcely, Chief Executive Officer; Urban Edge 
  • Jennifer Van Campen, Executive Director; Metro West Collaborative Development 
  • Samantha Montano, Senior Community Organizer; JPNDC 
  • Sharon Fosbury, Director of Community Building; TNDINC 
  • Francisco Ramos, Director of Community Organizing; New Vue Communities

 

  • MACDC and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee begins to work with All Aces, Inc. for guidance and support with the process and distribution of the racial equity pledge and next steps. 
  • MACDC distributes a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity Transformation (DIET) assessment and holds focus groups for members in partnership with All Aces. 

Spring 2021 

  • MACDC staff and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee reviews the data summary from the DIET Assessment. 
  • The Racial Equity Advisory Committee continues to meet, discuss and develop the racial equity pledge and avenues for the process of having the MACDC membership sign on. 
  • The Mel King Institute holds its largest virtual Stand Against Racism Event. Check out the blog post about the event.
  • Members of the Racial Equity Advisory Committee attend All Aces workshops.  

Summer 2021 

  • MACDC staff and the Racial Equity Advisory Committee continues to discuss and finalize the racial equity pledge and work with All Aces to roll out the pledge and All Aces workshops to the larger memberships. 

Next Steps 

  • Finalize and launch the racial equity pledge. 
  • Provide activities and trainings to support those committing to the pledge. 

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