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Workshop at New England Brownfields Summit Puts Spotlight on CDC Projects

June 15th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

At the New England Brownfields Summit in Devens, MA on May 18th and 19th, nearly 300 brownfields practitioners from across the region, celebrated accomplishments, discussed challenges, and identified best practices.  While the weather was changeable (a beautiful and sunny spring day, followed by a rainy day) the quality of the information shared among project developers, licensed site professionals, public officials and others remained consistently high and thought-provoking. 

On the Summit’s second afternoon, MACDC presented a workshop entitled “Brownfields Redevelopment in Massachusetts: Case Studies in Boston and Beyond.”  MACDC President Joe Kriesberg moderated the panel, and two CDC Executive Directors shared their successful experiences redeveloping challenging brownfields sites, and an executive from MassDevelopment presented on a number of projects funded by the Massachusetts Brownfields Redevelopment Fund.

Teronda Ellis from Jamaica Plain NDC (JPNDC) described the JPNDC’s efforts to redevelop Jackson Square, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. She described the history of the site going back to the 1950s and 1960s, when large swaths of the neighborhood were bulldozed to make way for the extension of Interstate I-95, before organized residents succeeded in halting the extension. Teronda has guided the redevelopment of Jackson Square, including the brownfields assessment and remediation, for many years, from her days as Real Estate Director at JPNDC to her current role as Executive Director. She described how the many hours she invested in learning the technical aspects of brownfields redevelopment strengthened JPNDC’s hand in negotiation with, and oversight of, the contractors and professionals involved in the redevelopment.  She also emphasized the need for teamwork among the professionals and meaningful, sustained, and iterative engagement with the community.

Jess Andors from Lawrence Community Works (LCW) described how LCW’s development of Lawrence’s Mill District was, and is, driven by extensive community visioning and engagement in design and problem-solving. The historic redevelopment of the Duck Mill posed numerous challenges, starting with legacy structural challenges associated with having penstocks and raceways under the building and site, to having funds from the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund being frozen partway through construction. Jess shared insights she gained during the process, including the importance of having both technical and “adaptive” experience, making sure there is broad community and stakeholder support, and leveraging any, and all, soft power and connections you may have to solve your problems.

The third presenter, David Bancroft from MassDevelopment, told the stories of several sites along the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line, which runs through the heart of Boston’s neighborhoods. He shared some amazing before and after photos of these sites, along with a quote from a woman who lived in one of the beautiful, redeveloped buildings, who described how she used to pass the vacant building every day and say to herself “This is the house I am going to live in one day with my family.” MassDevelopment administers the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, an essential resource for site assessment and remediation.

Close to 50 people attended the workshop at the end of the two-day summit, demonstrating the value of learning from those who have done the work on the ground (and in the ground) to turn contaminated sites into community assets.

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Home City Development Celebrates Grand Opening 11 Years After Tornado’s Devastation

June 15th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

On June 1st, MACDC Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended the Grand Opening of the Elias Brookings Apartments in Springfield. Home City Development rebuilt this beautiful building, with 42 rental homes and a spacious auditorium for resident and community use, on the site of the former Elias Brookings School, destroyed on June 1st, 2011 by the devastating EF-3 tornado that cut a huge swath through Springfield and nearby communities. 

The significance of holding this celebration 11 years, to the day, since that awful day, was not lost on the presenters or the attendees.  In addition to hearing from leaders of Home City Development, one of MACDC’s Western MA Members, there were remarks by Congressman Richard Neal, State Senator Adam Gomez and Rep. Bud Williams, as well as by Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno and representatives of project funders. Among all of the speakers, the most powerful was Terry Powe, the Principal of the Elias Brookings School (which has been rebuilt on a nearby site) who was the principal on that day 10 years before.  With imperfect information, she made the decision to close the school that day, and so, when the tornado struck the school building just past 4:30 p.m., students and teachers who would normally be there for after-school activities were instead safely home.   

After the presentations, a few of the residents graciously made their homes available for a tour. The units, which were renovated with great skill and care, each contain a chalkboard. The building’s renovation included other historic features: terrazzo corridor floors, a wood gymnasium floor, and carved “grotesques” (pictured above) featured in classroom corridors. 

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Housing and Community Development Get a Bump in FY23 Capital Budget- Something to Build Upon

May 17th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

On May 5th, the Baker-Polito Administration released its Five-Year Capital Investment Plan for 2023-2027, which includes its Fiscal Year 2023 Capital Budget. MACDC, as it does every year, reviewed the Capital Budget for housing and for other community development line items of interest to CDCs. You can see our analysis here.

In comparison to FY22, the top line housing budget for FY23 increased by just over $5 million, from $255.6 million to $260.8 million. This understates the increase, as the Legislature enacted, and the Administration signed last December, a bill allocating significant federal funding for housing, including $150 million for supportive housing, $115 for rental housing production, $115 million for homeownership production, $150 million for public housing maintenance, and other related spending. Bottom line- when it comes to the FY23 Capital Budget in relation to prior year capital budgets, we are not comparing apples to apples! 

Selected community development programs also received higher amounts in the FY23 Capital Budget than in FY22. Among these selected programs, the budget increased from just over $114 million in FY22 to just under $131 million in FY23, an almost 15% increase.  MACDC was pleased to see a significant increase in funding for underused properties but was disappointed that the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund continues to be inadequately funded with just $2.5 million. (There is $30 million of unused capital authorization for the Brownfields program). 

It is important to recognize that the small increases referenced above are far below inflation and even further below the increasing costs for construction.   

When it comes to affordable housing funding, we need more, much more, to meet the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents. This is why MACDC is advocating with the Legislature to use the once in a generation opportunity presented by the availability of the remaining ARPA funds to support the following: 

  • $200 million for emergency rental relief, to prevent the displacement of the thousands of MA households still impacted by the economic devastation caused by COVID; 
  • $320 million to expand homeownership opportunities and close the racial homeownership gap; 
  • $150 million for rental housing preservation and development, and additional supportive housing for priority populations, to address the crisis in affordable rental housing; and 
  • $100 million for a new MA Healthy Homes Initiative, to address the tens of thousands of homes in MA still containing dangerous levels of lead paint and address other housing conditions that pose a serious threat to residents’ health and well-being. 

MACDC is thankful to the Baker-Polito Administration for its funding of critical affordable housing and community development programs, and for being a partner to MACDC and CDCs in our efforts to create opportunities for all Massachusetts residents. It will be up to the next Governor, the Legislature, and all of us to ensure that we do everything possible to address the unmet needs for affordable housing and inclusive community development, on behalf of all of our neighbors across the Commonwealth. 

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DHCD Rental Round Awards Announced in Gloucester

April 21st, 2022 by Don Bianchi

On April 14th, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and DHCD Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox joined state and local officials in Gloucester to announce awards for 15 affordable rental housing developments, located in 14 communities. 

The Commonwealth awarded $63 million in direct subsidy funding along with federal and state low-income housing tax credits, which will generate additional equity of over $200 million. This funding will support the development of 697 units of rental housing, including 629 homes affordable to low and extremely low-income households. 

Six of the projects were sponsored by MACDC Members. Collectively, these six projects will create or preserve 233 rental units, including 212 affordable homes. 

  • Rindge Commons Phase 1 is a new construction transit-oriented project located in Cambridge, sponsored by Just-A-Start. When completed, this project, built to Passive House standards will provide 24 homes, all affordable, along with retail space. 
  • Hilltown CDC’s Chester Commons, located in Chester’s town center, involves the historic rehabilitation of 15 units, all affordable. 
  • NewVue Communities will undertake adaptive re-use of an historic structure, Fitchburg Arts Community. This project, located in proximity to the Fitchburg Arts Museum, will provide 68 units, including 47 affordable units. 
  • Library Commons 2 will provide 41 homes, all affordable. Way Finders is sponsoring this project, located near downtown Holyoke. 
  • Island Parkside Phase 2, a new construction project located in Lawrence, will provide 40 homes, all affordable. The sponsor, Lawrence CommunityWorks, intends to build the project to Passive House standards. 
  • Harborlight Community Partners is the sponsor for Maple Woods, a new construction project for seniors located in Wenham. The project will provide 45 units, all affordable. 
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Madison Park Development Corporation Creates a Pathway to Generational Wealth

March 9th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

On March 8th, MACDC’s Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended an event, “Madison Park Next Door: Opening Doors to Building Wealth,” at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. The event celebrated Madison Park Development Corporation’s innovative program, which offers its residents downpayment assistance of up to $100,000 for home purchases in Boston, and up to $50,000 for purchases outside the City of Boston. 

At the event, Madison Park’s CEO Leslie Reid touted the program, which has to date provided downpayment assistance to 9 families, and counseling to more than 200 families. As Leslie noted, homeownership is a journey, and she introduced a new homeowner assisted by the program, who spoke about her journey.  Dwayne Watts, the CDC’s Resident and Community Engagement Manager, offered concluding remarks, noting that he tells people on their homeownership journey, “the most important piece is making sure you invite me to your barbecue.” 

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MA Division of Banks Issues Ch. 206 RFP, Broadens Eligibility to Include All Certified CDCs

January 4th, 2022 by Don Bianchi

The MA Division of Banks (DOB) has posted the RFP for grant funding in support of first-time homeownership counseling programs and for regional foreclosure education centers, under Chapter 206 of the Acts of 2007. MACDC’s advocacy was pivotal to passage of the law, which also for the first-time regulated Massachusetts non-bank lenders. 

Eligibility, submission, and other important details are available in the bid RFP.  To access the bid visit www.commbuys.com, enter bid number ‘69422’ in the top search bar and click the search button. For easy reference, here is the RFP

In prior years, eligible applicants were limited to those previously awarded Chapter 206 funding. We heard from several MACDC Members who provide homebuyer education and/or foreclosure prevention counseling, and were not eligible to apply for Chapter 206 funding by virtue of not being awarded grants in prior years.  In response, we recommended to DOB that they broaden eligibility to include certified CDCs and organizations who are recipients of the Collaborative Seal of Approval by the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative.  DOB accepted our recommendation, and broadened eligibility. 

All proposals are due no later than January 14, 2022. If you have any questions pertaining to the RFP, they must be submitted to DOB via e-mail to chapter206grants@mass.gov before 5pm January 6, 2022. 

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Workshop Focuses on Addressing Distressed Properties in Holyoke

November 1st, 2021 by Don Bianchi

On October 28th, MACDC joined our partners at the Neighborhood Hub and in Holyoke to present a workshop at MHP’s Housing Institute for Gateway Cities. The workshop, titled “Addressing Distressed Properties in Holyoke,” offered perspectives on the partnership among the Neighborhood Hub, the City of Holyoke’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, and OneHolyoke CDC

Holyoke was one of five Gateway Cities selected by the Neighborhood Hub to receive two-year technical assistance grants to identify equitable strategies to address the challenges presented by distressed and abandoned properties, and build local capacity. The City of Holyoke is using the Hub funding to: 

  • Identify locations for housing development in the South Holyoke and Flats Neighborhoods of Holyoke 
  • Create base maps 
  • Provide attributes and obstacles for housing development on 5 sites 
  • Conduct stakeholder interviews 
  • Provide a housing development toolkit 
  • Prepare a plan to address the capital needs for properties owned by OneHolyoke CDC 

The project’s prospects for success are aided by the strong relationship between City government and OneHolyoke CDC, and by the able consulting assistance provided by LDS Consulting Group.  As Aaron Vega, Director of Holyoke’s Office of Planning and Economic Development stated, “The City can only do so much. Partnerships expand the City’s ability to get things done.” 

 

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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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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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