News

Supportive Housing Units Receive State Funds

April 7th, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On March 31st, Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and House Speaker Mariano joined Quincy Mayor Koch in Quincy to celebrate the awarding of funding to seven affordable supportive housing projects. Joined by other state officials, legislators, and affordable housing advocates, the Governor announced the award of more than $13 million in capital funding and project-based vouchers to support the production and preservation of 67 units of supportive housing for vulnerable populations, as well as 100 shelter beds.

The MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), working with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), will make available approximately $2.6 Million from the National Housing Trust Fund, in addition to $10.7 million in state bond funds through the Housing Innovations Fund and Housing Stabilization Fund.

Among the seven projects awarded funding are five sponsored by CDCs. They include:

  • Two Boston projects sponsored by Allston Brighton CDC were awarded funding: 6 Quint Avenue will be redeveloped into 14 supportive housing units, targeted toward extremely low-income (ELI) individuals in the advanced stages of addiction recovery.  Ashford Street will involve the rehabilitation and preservation of an existing 12-unit single-room occupancy (SRO) building, including improved accessibility.
  • A Place to Live- 30 Winfield Street in Worcester, sponsored by South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), will involve construction of a new 3-story building for chronically homeless single adults- including 18 studio apartments and full-time onsite case management.
  • Valley CDC will create 28 enhanced SRO units, along with office space for onsite property management and for a Resident Services coordinator, at Amherst Supportive Studio. Constructed on the site where an existing single-family home will be demolished, the building will achieve Passive House certification.
  • North Shore CDC will convert 18 unrestricted units into affordable units for homeless individuals at New Point Acquisitions in Salem. Located in 3 buildings in the Point Neighborhood close to Salem’s center, the CDC will implement supportive services, in addition to the capital improvements.

As House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano noted at the event, “the grants awarded today will support organizations that serve our most vulnerable residents and provide them with a path to safe, stable and dignified housing.  The Massachusetts House is proud to support the work of the awardees and provide opportunities for them to expand their services.”

 

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State Housing Agencies Team Up to Offer New Path for Emergency Rental Assistance

April 7th, 2021 by Don Bianchi

The MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) Program , a collaboration with MassHousing and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP).  SHERA will allow qualified owners of income-restricted units, as well as Local Housing Authorities, to apply for help directly on behalf of all of their income-eligible residents with past-due rent. This will expedite relief to tenants in need, while also allowing RAFT-administering agencies to concentrate on applications from non-subsidized tenants in need of assistance.  More information will be forthcoming from DHCD. 

 

MACDC, and our allies, advocated that DHCD provide this new path to deliver much-needed emergency rental assistance to tenants in subsidized affordable housing so it is exciting to see it come to fruition.   

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MACDC Members Prominent as DHCD Announces Affordable Housing Awards

March 10th, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On March 2nd, Baker Administration officials were joined by local officials and project sponsors in a virtual announcement of 12 affordable housing awards.  Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and DHCD Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox were joined by, among others, Emilio Dorcely, CEO of Urban Edge. 

 

Funds were awarded to 12 projects in 8 communities, which, when completed, will create 572 homes, including 507 affordable units.  These projects will collectively receive more than $46 million in direct subsidies, as well as state and federal low-income housing tax credits that will result in $125 million in equity. 

 

Eight of the 12 projects were sponsored, or co-sponsored, by MACDC Members. When completed, these 8 projects will provide 357 units, including 340 affordable rental units: 

 

  • The Residences at Kelly’s Corner, a new construction project in Acton, is sponsored by Common Ground Development Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Community Teamwork. It will provide 31 affordable units for seniors. 

  • Urban Edge will construct 65 units of affordable family housing at its 1599 Columbus Avenue project in Boston, built to Passive House standards. 

  • Seniors will be served at 9 Leyland by Dorchester Bay EDC, by the new construction of 43 affordable units in Boston, also to Passive House standards. 

  • Dudley Crossing will provide 47 family units, with 42 of these being affordable units. Nuestra Comunidad is the sponsor of this combination new construction and preservation project. 

  • The Neighborhood Developers, in partnership with Traggorth Companies, will construct 1005 Broadway in Chelsea. When completed, the project, built to Passive House standards, will provide 38 affordable family units. 

  • CDC of South Berkshire received an award for the construction of 910 Main Street in Great Barrington, to provide 49 affordable family units. 

  • The Lighthouses is a 46-unit new construction, all affordable project that will be built to Passive House standards, on two sites in Salem. The project is sponsored by North Shore CDC. 

  • Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) will undertake a historic rehabilitation/adaptive re-use project in Taunton’s central business district. Union Block, a mixed-use project, will provide 38 units, including 26 affordable units. 

 

Massachusetts has successfully moved forward during a difficult year to fund the creation of desperately-needed affordable homes. The Commonwealth’s success is due, in large part, to the diligence, skill, and commitment to mission of community-based organizations across the Commonwealth- many of whom MACDC is proud to call its Members. 

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MACDC Partners with LISC Boston and Resonant Energy to Launch Solar Retrofit Program

February 2nd, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On January 28th, more than 60 people, including representatives from a dozen MACDC Members, attended the Launch, via Zoom, of the Solar Technical Assistance Retrofit (STAR) Program. You can review the presentation slides and listen to the recording of the session. 

 

The STAR Program will provide financial and technical resources to help affordable housing organizations explore solar opportunities for their buildings, with the goal of installing 1 Megawatt of solar (2,500 solar panels) over the next 18 months, in partnership with CDCs and other mission-aligned organizations across Massachusetts. 

 

STAR was launched as a collaboration among Resonant Energy, LISC Boston, and MACDC. Ten qualifying organizations will receive mini-grants of up to $2,000 to dedicate the staff time to go through a solar feasibility analysis.  

 

The STAR solar feasibility grant application is now live on LISC Boston’s STAR program page.  

 

Applications are due by February 26th for first round solar feasibility grant consideration. 

 

NOTE: Grant preference will be given to certified community development corporations, organizations in varied geographies, and organizations that apply by 2/26. Funding is limited and submitting an application is no guarantee that a solar feasibility grant will be awarded. Selected owners will be supplied with an MOU to sign. LISC will reach out to applicants to request recent audited organizational financial statements for reference.  

 

Please reach out to Emily Jones (ejones@lisc.org) with any program eligibility or related questions. We look forward to your application and participation! 

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Two CDC Projects Awarded Funds in 2020 Affordable Housing Program Competition

December 28th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston awarded $7.2 Million to 5 Massachusetts affordable housing projects, through its Affordable Housing Program (AHP), part of more than $53 Million awarded to affordable housing initiatives in New England. 

 

Five Massachusetts projects received funding, including two CDC projects: 

 

  • Hilltown CDC received a $650,000 AHP grant for Chester Commons, an historic structure that Hilltown CDC will acquire and rehabilitate, to create 15 affordable rental units for residents with disabilities and residents aged 55 years or older.  Hilltown CDC will continue to provide public use of the Hamilton Memorial Library and Museum, located in the building, an important resource in Chester, a rural community in Western MA. The AHP grant was provided through Florence Savings Bank, which will also provide construction financing. 

 

  • North Shore CDC received an AHP subsidy of just under $1 Million and a loan of almost $3 Million to develop Lafayette Housing II, located in the historic Salem Point neighborhood.  Through the acquisition and rehabilitation of 11 buildings, 61 affordable apartments, including some large family units, will be provided- along with two commercial spaces. The AHP grant was awarded through Eastern Bank, which is also providing construction financing and financing to bridge receipt of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. 

 

MACDC congratulates Hilltown CDC and North Shore CDC on their awards! 

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OneHolyoke CDC and MACDC Featured in Abandoned Housing Workshop

November 10th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

Originally scheduled as an in-person event last spring, the MHP Western MA Housing Conference emerged this fall as a series of seven virtual workshops, geared toward officials, volunteers, and employees in small and rural towns in Western MA.

On November 5, the workshop on Distressed and Abandoned Properties featured Mike Moriarty from OneHolyoke CDC and Don Bianchi from MACDC, along with Maja Kazmierczak from the MA Attorney General’s Neighborhood Renewal Division. More than 30 people, ranging from municipal officials to regional planning agencies to CDCs, joined the workshop.

The workshop highlighted three approaches to addressing the problems associated with distressed and abandoned properties:

  • The Attorney General’s Neighborhood Renewal Division’s use of the enforcement authority of the State Sanitary Code to turn abandoned residential properties around. (See presentation here
  • OneHolyoke CDC’s experience as a Receiver in Holyoke, bringing a community development and nonprofit housing perspective to abandoned properties. (See presentation here)
  • The Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative, a multi-faceted approach to addressing vacant and distressed properties in weak market neighborhoods and communities statewide. (See presentation here
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MACDC Members Stand Tall in State’s Rental Round Awards

October 26th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

On October 21st, Governor Baker announced the 2020 Affordable Rental Housing Awards- 28 projects in 19 communities, which will result in more than 2,400 housing units, including 2,166 affordable rental units. These projects will collectively receive more than $105 million in direct subsidy funds, as well as federal and state tax credits that will result in $370 million in equity for these projects.

As always, MACDC’s Members will play a prominent role in developing these homes.  Sixteen of the 28 projects were sponsored, or co-sponsored, by MACDC Members. When completed, these 16 projects will provide 882 units, including 811 affordable rental units:

  • Anchor Point 1, the first phase of a two-phase new construction project in Beverly, will provide 38 affordable units. It is sponsored by Harborlight Community Partners.
  • Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood will benefit from the new construction of 3368 Washington Street, a transit-oriented, mixed-income project sponsored by our associate member Pine Street Inn and The Community Builders. The project will provide 202 total units, with 156 of the units restricted for extremely low-income individuals, many of them transitioning from homelessness.
  • Boston’s historic North End will host 41 North Margin Street, sponsored by East Boston CDC. This new construction project will provide 23 affordable homes for seniors.
  • Nuestra Comunidad is partnering with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) on Bartlett Station D, a new construction project near Nubian Square in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. It will provide 50 units for seniors, including 44 affordable units.
  • J.J. Carroll is a new construction project for seniors, in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood. The project, sponsored by associate member 2Life Communities, will provide 142 units, all but 1 affordable.
  • Codman Square NDC was awarded funding for two projects, both in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood! Four Corners Plaza will provide 35 newly constructed affordable homes. At Walando Homes, CSNDC will rehabilitate and preserve another 59 units, including 58 affordable units, in two properties on separate streets- Waldeck Street and Orlando Street.
  • Brewster Woods will provide 30 new affordable homes. Housing Assistance Corporation will partner with POAH on this new construction project in Brewster.
  • The Neighborhood Developers will convert 181 Chestnut in Chelsea from an existing market-rate project to 32 units of mixed-income rental housing. Over time, 22 of the 32 units will be converted to affordable units.
  • Cleghorn Preservation Project consists of three separate, occupied buildings in Fitchburg in need of rehabilitation. NewVue Communities will undertake this scattered-site substantial rehab, and provide 29 units, including 26 affordable units.
  • NeighborWorks Housing Solutions will newly construct Holbrook Center Senior Housing. The project will provide 72 units in Holbrook for seniors, 70 of them affordable.
  • Island Parkside Phase 1, sponsored by Lawrence CommunityWorks, will provide 40 affordable, newly constructed units, in Lawrence.
  • The former Brookings School in Springfield will be converted to Elias Brookings School Apartments, 42 affordable homes sponsored by associate member Home City Development.
  • Rural Development, Inc., aided by Valley CDC, will newly construct 33 affordable homes in Sunderland at Sunderland Senior Housing.
  • Island Housing Trust is sponsoring Perlman House Apartments, an adaptive reuse of a former inn into 7 affordable units in Tisbury, on Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Grand Street Commons will provide 48 homes in Worcester, including 46 affordable units. This new construction project, which will include a mix of townhouses and flats, is sponsored by Main South CDC.

In the midst of a global pandemic, so many activities have proven challenging, and affordable housing development is no exception. Kudos to the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development- and to the MACDC Members and other project sponsors- for managing to move essential affordable homes forward in a difficult year!

 

 

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Youth and Elders Well-Served by CDCs

September 8th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

In July, MACDC released the 2020 GOALs Report, to highlight the collective work that CDCs across the Commonwealth accomplished during calendar year 2019, including that CDCs collectively served over 70,000 families in 2019.  Readers can see tables with detailed information in the GOALs Appendix.

The data tells many stories: more than 1,500 homes created and preserved, almost 4,200 jobs created and preserved, more than $918 Million invested in local communities. The Families total itself reflects a broad array of programs- from programs to assist renters and homebuyers, to assistance with tax preparation and asset building, to adult education and workforce development. In comparing the results from 2019 to 2018, one thing stands out: programs to aid the eldest and youngest in our communities collectively served more than 10,400 people in 2019, an increase of 74% from the prior year.

This is an opportunity to highlight the work of two CDCs, in particular, One Holyoke CDC and Hilltown CDC. At first glance, beyond both being based in Western MA, these CDCs appear to be polar opposites: in their target areas (a dense urban community versus a sparsely populated rural region) and in the age of the populations targeted (the young versus elders in their post-retirement years).  Yet these two organizations share a passionate commitment to serving their communities, and something else: a spectrum of programs designed to serve challenges specific to the areas they serve.

Youth Programs:

In 2019, CDCs collectively served 6,643 youth, a 56% increase from 2018. There are childcare and afterschool programs.  Summer jobs and construction skill training.  Sports and other recreation. College readiness and scholarships.  Mentoring and leadership development.  The breadth of these programs is almost as impressive as the young people they benefit.

The youth programs administered by OneHolyoke CDC are suited to two distinct features of the City of Holyoke: a high incidence of poverty, and a high proportion of young people. According to U.S. Census data, in 2019, 29.7% of the population in Holyoke lived in poverty, almost 3 times the statewide poverty rate of 10%. Median household income in the City of $40,656 is about half the statewide income of over $77,000.  With nearly three children under 5 years old in Holyoke for every two children in that age range statewide, the importance of youth programs cannot be overstated.  OneHolyoke CDC is more than up to the task.  Three programs in particular stand out.

The Holyoke- A City that Reads campaign is a platform to encourage reading, childhood literacy development, and community connections.  Despite a long-standing early literacy crisis in Holyoke, this is a positive campaign to highlight the reading and learning that does happen. Dozens of participants offered short narratives to highlight the program.  Since schools closed in March, OneHolyoke CDC has regularly shared recordings of high-quality children’s books, read by many notable figures locally and nationally, on social media.   

Last year, OneHolyoke CDC launched the Nature & Nurture Program,  a six-week course in cooperation with multiple organizations in the greater Holyoke area where youth participants, ages 12 to 16, attend weekly educational workshops, with projects centering around the planting of twelve trees in the Flats neighborhood in Holyoke. Through the Commonwealth’s Greening the Gateway Cities Program, and supported by the Boys and Girls Club of Holyoke, young residents of the Flats learned to be stewards of these trees, and contributed to increased shade and reducing summertime air temperatures.

Through a third OneHolyoke CDC youth program, called "Conociendo Mi Barrio/Knowing my Neighborhood", youth in grades 8-10 explored the arts and their neighborhood. The goal was to have youth discussing and making art and design projects as they get to know their neighborhood better. In the most recent program, eight youth met with eight UMASS students and their professor to design their Utopian City of Holyoke and create the artwork.

Elder Programs:

CDC programs for seniors also grew in 2019, with 3,804 elders served, more than twice the 1,745 elders served in 2018. CDCs provided seniors in their communities with home care, exercise classes, volunteer opportunities, transportation, meals, and grants for home repair- just to name a few!

The elder programs administered by Hilltown CDC address two distinct features of the hilltowns of Western MA: a rural population dispersed across a wide geography, and a high proportion of seniors. The majority of towns served by the CDC have populations of less than 50 people per square mile![1]  In Massachusetts rural communities, 17 percent of people are 65 years of age or older, compared to 15% statewide- and many rural communities have over 20% of their population in that age category.[2] Furthermore, the average of median ages in 7 towns in the Hilltown CDC region is 48.4 years, compared to a statewide median age of 39.4 years.[3]

Hilltown CDC has long been a leader in serving seniors, in many cases delivering services to seniors in their homes. On a personal note, when I worked at Hilltown CDC from 1995 to 2004, the Hilltown Elder Network (HEN) Program  was already a well-established and highly regarded program.  Then, and now, HEN provides rural elders with in-home services, such as home chore assistance, cleaning and laundry, food shopping and meal preparation- even snow removal. Likewise, Hilltown CDC’s Health Outreach Program for Elders (HOPE) is a longstanding program, where the CDC partners with the Hilltown Community Health Center to provide in-home medical services to homebound elders.

In 2019, Hilltown CDC served 352 elders, almost four times the 90 seniors served in 2019! This huge jump in impact is due in part to the expansion of its “Hilltown Easy Ride” Senior Van Program, a demand response service in coordination with the Franklin Regional Transit Authority. As there is no public transportation in this rural region, the program provides seniors transportation to their medical appointments, grocery shopping, and social outings.

Hilltown CDC’s newest service is its Mobile Market, which coordinates with Councils on Aging and local farms to provide fresh produce, between July and October. This program was piloted in two towns in 2019 and has now expanded to four towns.  According to Hilltown CDC Executive Director Dave Christopolis, the primary focus of the Mobile Market is to serve the needs of seniors, who need access to healthy food options.

Conclusion:

Of course, so much changed in early 2020, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the health and economic crises it spawned.  Elders, particularly those with other health problems, suffered the most serious adverse health impacts.  The lives of young people, and their parents, were greatly disrupted as schools had to adjust to remote learning. Communities of color and low-income communities were disproportionately impacted: these communities typically had less access to the technology that is essential for remote learning, experienced higher rates of infection and death, and experienced more economic dislocation.

With their programs for elders and youth, these two CDCs, and many others, are positioned to address the impact of the pandemic. 

 


[1] Hilltown CDC Community Investment Plan 2020-2023

[2] Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, October 2019

[3] U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, December 2019

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CDC Associations and the Coronavirus: Divergent Paths Toward the Same Goal

July 29th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” - Barack Obama

As Massachusetts reopens, MACDC is weighing how to transition to a “new normal.” Like our members, we are thinking about when and to what extent do we reopen our office, how do we ensure the safety of our staff, how we can commute safely, and care for our children?  Beyond that, how do we accomplish our raison d’etre, which is to provide support to CDCs and our other MACDC Members across the Commonwealth who deliver essential programs, projects, and services to their communities?

In order to better understand how other CDC associations are approaching reopening, I’ve talked with some, scanned association websites, and joined a call with our national association, NACEDA. I’ve learned that these organizations are continually striving, like we are, to determine how best to serve their members.  While the information presented here is anecdotal, it offers insights into some of the many paths that CDC Associations are taking to arrive at the shared goal of serving our members.

In my conversations and research, several themes have emerged.  I looked at these themes, and the paths that MACDC and other CDC Associations have chosen to address them.

Ask Your Members What They Need

“USA Today has come out with a new survey - apparently three out of every four people make up 75% of the population.”David Letterman

Effective surveying is challenging.  There are tradeoffs between survey comprehensiveness and ease of completion.  Should the survey be general, or more narrowly focused on specific topics?  The answer to this last question, by MACDC and other CDC Associations, is yes and yes.

CDC Association Surveys

Some CDC associations, including the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis Survey and Prosperity Indiana Survey, utilized general surveys to gauge the impact of Covid-19 on their members’ financial health and programs. The Ohio CDC Association issued its Re-Opening and Recovery Survey to better serve its members as they navigate through the Covid-19 recovery.

On a targeted basis, The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania conducted a survey of landlords to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting property owners and managers tasked with maintaining operations while experiencing an unprecedented loss of rental income. Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) surveyed its members on how CDBG funds allocated to the City should be spent.

MACDC Surveys

In July, MACDC sent out a Member Survey, to inform our work over the next year.  Questions ranged from how CDCs are serving their communities through the Covid-19 crisis, to their response to the racism embodied in the murder of George Floyd, to more general questions about how they are managing financially and operationally. More targeted, through its central role in the MA Small Biz COVID Response Coalition, MACDC issued a survey, and is using the Survey Results to inform our policy advocacy. The surveys complement other MACDC efforts to gauge resident needs, including virtual monthly member meetings and calls to individual members.

Lesson Learned

It matters what you ask your members.  It matters just as much that you ask them.  Whenever we ask our members what they want or need from us, they express their appreciation.  It is an invitation to a conversation.

Consider How Local Community Development COVID-19 Response is Impacted by Local and State Policies

Michigan’s Dual Approach

Michigan is served by two CDC associations. CDAD serves the residents of Detroit, who face daunting problems that pre-date Covid-19.  Detroit possesses the highest rate of child poverty among the 50 largest cities in the U.S., has crumbling infrastructure, and 26% of its residential lots are vacant. CDAD successfully advocated for adoption of a Community Benefits Ordinance in 2016, that requires developers to engage with Neighborhood Advisory Councils, to identify community benefits and address potential negative impacts.  Covid-19 has hit Detroit very hard, as the health pandemic has merged with a pandemic of poverty, and CDAD’s response includes supporting its members involved in food delivery, health services, and other public services.

On the state level, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) advocated for an extension of the statewide eviction moratorium, and for using the federal funds from the CARES Act for rental assistance.  CEDAM also regularly advocates that CDBG funding be allocated to meet housing needs, such as housing counseling.

As noted by CDAD Public Policy Director Ruth Johnson, CDAD focuses on the City of Detroit, and works with CEDAM on state-level matters.  Given the severity of the economic challenges facing Detroit, CDAD plays a crucial role in advancing the work of nonprofit, community-based organizations in Detroit, while its partnership with CEDAM provides the opportunity to impact state policy. 

"All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy." - Samantha Power

MACDC’s Comprehensive Approach

As the only CDC Association in Massachusetts, MACDC’s work must impact both state and local policy. Over the years, MACDC has grown to include 88 members representing 60 state-certified Community Development Corporations across Massachusetts.  We also have committees and peer groups representing cities and regions, including the City of Boston, the smaller Gateway Cities across the State, and the Western MA region. One positive byproduct of the Covid-19 imperative to work virtually has been that geographic distance is not a barrier to participation. Though we provide a variety of member services (including peer learning and training), much of our work is focused on advocacy for public policies that facilitate the work of our Members- statewide and locally.

Lesson Learned

Tip O’Neill famous declaration that “all politics is local” does not apply to all policies. In fact, we have seen that not even all local policies are local. During the current pandemic, we’ve seen how local policies on social distancing and mask-wearing can impact infection rates across a region, and how state policies can impact infection rates across the nation.

Be Flexible, Adaptable, and Creative in Serving Our Members

NACEDA Member Examples

Funding: The Ohio CDC Association identified the need among its members for cash, and set up a Community Recovery Fund, to provide small grants (up to $5,000) to them.  It also partnered with an Ohio-based foundation through the Empowering Communities Grant Challenge, to provide grants ranging from $37,000 to $150,000 to its Members working to address the social determinants of health.

Access to Information and Resources: The Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis provided information on Covid-19 training, with up-to-date links to CBN and Member partner events. Prosperity Indiana established an information and resources hub.

Creative Use of Available Platforms: CEDAM ramped up virtual Town Meetings, on a variety of topics. In July, CEDAM hosted three webinars on widely divergent topics.  They included one on Eviction Diversion and Rental Assistance Programs, a second on Successful Onboarding in a Virtual World, and a third on Building Self-Empathy through Social Journaling. 

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” - Albert Einstein

MACDC

Early on in the crisis, we created information and links to Covid-19 resources on our website which we have kept frequently updated.  Later we created a page specific to helping our members navigate reopening. We also adapted two major events, taking advantage of the available technology to increase the connection we have to our Members, while planning a third virtual event.

A key part of MACDC’s advocacy is our annual Lobby Day, when our Members converge at the State House for inspiration, networking, and meeting with their legislators. This April, an in-person Lobby Day was not possible. We held our Lobby Day virtually, including inspiring remarks by State Senator Eric Lesser and virtual meetings between MACDC Members and their legislators.

The Mel King Institute for Community Building celebrated MKI’s 11th Anniversary Breakfast in virtual style, highlighted by an inspiring keynote speech by Dr. Atyia Martin, CEO and Founder of All Aces, Inc., which partners with organizations to advance racial equity and build resilience.

MACDC is approaching our Annual Meeting this fall in a similar spirit.  We are partnering with NACEDA and with CDC Associations across the nation for a shared, virtual, national conference in October “Strengthening Resilient Communities”.  While the details are still being planned, this shared event will allow our members to participate in national workshops, as well as local workshops tailored to Massachusetts.

CDC Associations around the country support their members in a variety of ways, and our planned joint national conference is just the latest manifestation of how we work together to support our Members, as they transition through the Covid-19 recovery.  Please be in touch if you have any thoughts as to ways MACDC can continue to support our members in this transition.

Lesson Learned

We can make lemonade from lemons.  It’s not hard to see the many challenges the Covid-19 crisis and accompanying economic crisis have posed for CDC associations nationwide: how to serve their members facing logistical complications, financial shortfalls, and the need to rethink program delivery to populations in need.  But we’ve also seen increased participation in virtual member convenings without regard to distance, access to some of the great leaders in community development without concern for travel details (and costs), and a new openness by public officials to levels and kinds of assistance that six months ago were considered non-starters.

“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”Muhammad Ali

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Affordable Rental Housing Remains Out of Reach for Many Americans, New Report Shows

July 16th, 2020 by Don Bianchi

“Right now, our efforts to ensure that everyone has a safe, healthy home to weather the coronavirus storm are hampered by the fact that we already had a housing crisis in this country before this virus ever hit our shores”  U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown pointedly notes in the Preface to “Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2020.”

Since 1989, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has issued Out of Reach, to call attention to the gulf between actual wages and what people need to earn to afford their rents. The report affirms that even before the massive economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, housing costs outpaced what many workers could afford; more than 7.7 million extremely low-income renters were spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs.

According to the Report, in Massachusetts, the average or Fair Market Rent (FMR)[1] for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,847. For a household to be able to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, the household must earn a “Housing Wage” of $35.52 per hour (annual pay of $73,890). The average hourly renter wage in Massachusetts is estimated at $21.74, meaning that two incomes are required to afford the rent.  For single parent households, or other households where only one person is employed, the household income is typically not sufficient. For those making the minimum wage of $12.75, the situation is dire, as 111 work hours per week would be required to afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

In the Boston Metropolitan Area, the required Housing Wage is even higher, at $44.44 per hour.  But some communities outside of Boston face a steeper affordability challenge, as incomes are lower.  In the Brockton area, although average rents of $1,528 for a two-bedroom apartment are lower than the state average, the average renter wage is only $11.69 per hour.  At this income, even a household with two full-time employees earning the average renter wage could not come close to affording the average rent.

Of course, as noted in the Report, “the economic downturn spurred by the virus further increases the risk of housing instability for millions of low-wage renters at a time when stable housing is vital.” The unemployment rate for African Americans and Latinx Americans remains several percentage points higher than the overall rate. Low-income households are facing disproportionate hardships; the Federal Reserve’s May report on the economic well-being of U.S. households found that 39% of people working in February with household incomes below $40,000 reported job losses in March.

The Report describes the significant investment in federal rental housing programs needed to ensure that everyone has a decent and affordable home. It notes that the federal eviction moratoriums for renters in federally supported rental properties, and other state and local moratoriums, offer important protections for renters during this crisis, and should be extended. The Report adds that, since the moratoriums do not relieve renters of their obligations, significant federal assistance is needed, including the following:

  • Emergency Rental Assistance: $100 billion in emergency assistance is included in the HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House and awaiting Senate action;
  • National Housing Stabilization Fund: Creation of an emergency assistance fund to prevent evictions and provide housing stability for families facing a sudden and temporary shock to their finances is included in the “Eviction Crisis Act,” introduced on a bipartisan basis by Senators Bennet and Portman;
  • Rental Assistance: Fully fund the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which allows households to pay 30% of their incomes for rent, as well as increased funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance. Senators Hirono, Gillibrand, and Booker have introduced legislation to fully fund Housing Choice Vouchers;
  • Increase Supply of Affordable Housing: Expanding the supply of affordable rental housing with significant increases in capital investments is necessary. For example, multiple bills have been introduced to provide additional funding for the National Housing Trust, currently capitalized at less than $1 billion per year; and
  • Capital Investments in Public Housing: NHLIC estimates that public housing authorities face a backlog of capital repair needs of $70 billion.

At its current funding levels, federal housing assistance is available to only one in four eligible low-income households (Fischer & Sard, 2017).  A sustained commitment to the investments described above are needed to make affordable rental housing, in Massachusetts and in the nation, in reach for everyone.

 


[1] Fair Market Rent:

Source: NLIHC calculation of weighted-average HUD fair market rent. Affordable rents based on income and benefits data from

BLS QCEW, 2018 adjusted to 2020 dollars

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