News

MACDC’s Advocacy Results in More Lead-Safe Homes

December 5th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

Despite substantial gains made over 45 years of public health intervention, lead exposure remains a significant health risk for children in Massachusetts. Recent evidence suggests that for children there is no safe level of exposure to lead and that exposure to relatively low levels can result in irreversible health effects.  Due to recent advances in State policy, there are new tools to combat the dangers posed by lead paint.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has proposed amendments to regulations on Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control, to lower the threshold of Blood Lead Level (BLL) defining lead poisoning.  DPH notes that this will broaden the protection of children by expanding the number of properties where the Commonwealth would require inspection and remediation of violations of the Lead Law, increasing the number of lead-safe units.  The change also underscores the need for funding to remove hazardous lead paint.  Fortunately, funding is now more readily available to help homeowners.

In October 2016, MassHousing, which administers the Get the Lead Out Program on behalf of the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), announced enhancements to the Program.  These enhancements make it easier for all families throughout the Commonwealth to gain access to the GTLO funds.  One important enhancement is that now all owner occupants have access to 0% loans, with repayment deferred until the home is sold, transferred, or refinanced. Mass Housing also made technical changes that make it easier for banks and non-profit agencies, including CDCs, to administer the program.

These changes were the result of advocacy by MACDC, its Members, CHAPA, the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, and the Massachusetts Public Health Association.  We met with representatives of DHCD and MassHousing late in 2015, and again in May of 2016.  The agencies were receptive to our recommendations, culminating in the significant changes announced in October of 2016.

These improvements to the GTLO Program have paid off.  In fiscal year 2017, 80 loans were made – the most since fiscal year 2008.  In fact, these 80 loans were more than the combined loans made during the four-year period from fiscal years 2010 through 2013!  MACDC’s advocacy played a significant role in this success.

Exposure to lead paint remains a serious problem.  Due to the welcome increase in the number of GTLO loans, the available funding has been reduced to approximately $3.5 million.  MACDC hopes to work with DHCD and MassHousing to secure additional funding for this important program in the coming months and years.

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MACDC Members Discuss Innovations in Clean Energy

November 6th, 2017 by Don Bianchi
Representatives of a dozen MACDC Member organizations participated in a discussion on energy efficiency and clean energy, at the November 1 meeting of MACDC’s Housing and Real Estate Peer Group.  Mike Davis and Emily Jones from LISC Boston, who administer LISC’s Green Retrofit Initiative, Ed Connolly from New Ecology, Inc. and Beverly Craig from the MA Clean Energy Center, led a discussion on how CDCs can incorporate the latest technologies and systems in their real estate developments to reduce energy use and lower operating costs.  The topics covered included the following:
 
1. The successes and challenges of the LEAN Multifamily Program which uses utility funding to provide energy retrofits, and the newly developed energy efficiency roadmap which brings together the utilities with the Commonwealth’s quasi-public housing funding agencies to provide funding for projects at the point of refinancing;
2. The Commonwealth’s upcoming 3-year Energy Efficiency Plan for 2019-2021, as the current 3-year Plan expires at the end of calendar year 2018.  A draft plan will be available for comment in 2018; the plan will guide the priorities for approximately $2.1 billion in energy efficiency funding;
3. Planned and potential trainings covering passive house design and construction, LEED Green Associate training, and Building Operator training.
 
Don Bianchi from MACDC will work with CDCs, LISC, and other public and private actors to explore the potential for shared capacity, collaborations, and new initiatives.
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CDC Projects Receive First Community-Scale Housing Awards

September 6th, 2017 by Don Bianchi
 
On August 24, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash and DHCD Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay traveled to Arlington to announce $2.2 million in the Commonwealth’s first awards under its Community Scale Housing Initiative (CSHI), for development of 36 units. http://www.mass.gov/hed/press-releases/administration-awards-2-2m-for-housing-initiative.html
 
Three awards were made, all to MACDC Members.  Each municipality contributed Community Preservation Act funds, and some communities pledged other funds as well.  Awards were made to the following developments:
The Housing Corporation of Arlington received $320,000 in CSHI funding for 20 Westminster, Arlington, which will provide 9 units of affordable housing and resident services. Some units will offer a preference to homeless veterans.
Metro West Collaborative Development was awarded $1 million in CSHI funding, along with other State funds, for the development of 40 River Street in Norwell.  The project will include 18 units, affordable to households across a range of incomes.
Scotts Grove in West Tisbury, sponsored by Island Housing Trust, received $900,000 in CSHI funds.  The project will consist of 9 affordable units.
 
CSHI is a joint pilot initiative of the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and MassHousing.  The agencies made $10 million available for CSHI, and have indicated that they plan to open a new award round by the spring of 2018.
 
MACDC long advocated for a separate funding round for community-scale projects (rental projects between 5 and 20 units that cannot utilize low income housing tax credits).  The launch of CSHI in March, and the awards in August, are significant milestones in our efforts to advocate for funding for these smaller projects to complement the larger tax credit projects, and thereby see affordable housing built in more communities statewide.  
 
Our hope is that future funding rounds will result in more quality projects being funded, as MACDC Members and others have more time to develop a pipeline of these community-scale projects.  We are grateful to DHCD and MassHousing for launching this initiative.
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12 MACDC Member Projects Among Rental Round Award Recipients

August 18th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

On August 15, Governor Baker and State officials announced the award of over $72 million in subsidy funding, as well as state and federal housing tax credits that will generate more than $180 million in subsidized private equity, for the development of affordable rental housing.  When completed, these 25 projects http://www.mass.gov/hed/press-releases/administration-awards-72m-to-create-and-preserve-housing.html will create or preserve 1,978 rental units, including 1,698 affordable units, with 402 of these affordable units reserved for very low-income families and families making the transition out of homelessness.

 

MACDC Members were well represented among the awardees, with 12 receiving awards, resulting in the creation or preservation of 747 rental units, including 631 affordable units:

  • Fenway CDC will preserve 52 units, including 39 affordable units, in Burbank Gardens, located in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.
  • Jamaica Plain NDC will newly construct 47 units, including 40 affordable units, in General Heath Square Apartments, located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
  • Lena Park CDC, in partnership with New Boston Fund, will construct 100 units, including 40 affordable units, on the site of the former Boston State Hospital, in Olmstead Green Mixed-Income.
  • Codman Square NDC will develop 40 affordable family units in Talbot Commons Phase 1, located in Boston’s Codman Square neighborhood.
  • Urban Edge will preserve 99 units, including 89 affordable units, in Wilshire Westminster House in Boston.
  • Just-A-Start will preserve 112 affordable units in several properties in Cambridge, including those destroyed by fire, in JAS Consolidation.
  • Berkshire Housing Development Corporation will develop 60 affordable units in Great Barrington, through a combination of rehabilitation and new construction, in Bostwick Gardens.
  • Coalition for a Better Acre will construct 44 affordable units in The Gerson Building, located in Haverhill.
  • NewVue Communities will develop Carter School, an historic rehabilitation project in Leominster consisting of 39 affordable units.
  • North Shore CDC will preserve 27 single-room-occupancy units, including 26 affordable units, in Harbor and Lafayette Homes, located in Salem.
  • Home City Housing will preserve 104 units in Springfield, including 79 affordable units, in Chestnut Crossing.
  • Domus, Inc. will develop Moseley Apartments, an historic rehab, with 23 affordable units, located in Westfield.

 

The strong showing by CDCs reflects the growing strength of the CDC sector in Massachusetts due in part to the Community Investment Tax Credit program, the Mel King Institute for Community Building and other capacity building efforts undertaken in recent years.  MACDC will continue to steward these programs while also advocating for for more housing resources that will enable CDCs and others to expand the production and preservation of affordable housing in the Commonwealth . 

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Division of Banks Awards Counseling Funds, as MACDC Members Lead the Way

June 7th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

On May 31, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $1.05 Million in grants to fund first-time homeownership counseling programs and foreclosure prevention education centers throughout the Commonwealth.  Twenty awards were made to eleven regional foreclosure prevention centers and nine consumer counseling organizations. (link to award announcement)

MACDC Members play a prominent role in providing this counseling.  Of the twenty grants, thirteen were made to MACDC Members or to coalitions which include MACDC Members.  From Boston to Springfield, and from Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod, CDCs are helping homebuyers acquire their first home, and assisting homeowners at risk of foreclosure in keeping their homes.

The counseling awards were created through Chapter 206 of the Acts of 2007.  Since the inception of the grant program in 2008, the MA Division of Banks (DOB) has awarded more than $10 million to organizations that have assisted over 37,000 families.  From data compiled by DOB, approximately 80% of households receiving foreclosure prevention counseling under the Chapter 206 awards have been able to successfully stay in their homes.

The funding made available this year is lower than the $1.3 million awarded each of the last couple of years, which creates challenges for the organizations which must maintain the effectiveness of their programs with reduced funding.  However, the continued funding for this program in the face of the Commonwealth’s recent revenue challenges is testament to the effectiveness of this program and the Administration’s commitment to it.  MACDC is grateful to the Administration and to the DOB for their longstanding support for this program.

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Policy Experts Weigh Impact of an Uncertain Political Landscape on Housing Policy

May 23rd, 2017 by Don Bianchi

On May 22, CHAPA held a breakfast forum on “Doing Business in Times of Uncertainty.” The forum featured remarks by Chrystal Kornegay from DHCD and Tim Sullivan from MassHousing on their collaborative efforts to provide funding for an array of affordable housing projects, from the current tax credit rental round; to the Community Scale Housing Initiative for projects of 5-20 units; to MassHousing’s commitment of $100 million for workforce housing, for families whose incomes are too high for subsidized housing, but are priced out of market rents.  A roundtable of public and private housing leaders discussed how the political context for affordable housing is different than in prior years, and provided insights into the legislative machinations in Washington, D.C.

The federal Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Bill maintained funding for housing programs in the HUD budget.  Given the demonstrated support for programs like CDBG and HOME, there is some hope that the deep cuts proposed by President Trump in the FY18 budget will not be adopted, but some cuts are likely.  The fate of tax legislation is uncertain.  While a reduction in corporate tax rates, if enacted, will impact the pricing on the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, the sense of the presenters is that the rate will get nowhere near the 15% tax rate proposed by Trump.  They noted that the LIHTC, along with the New Market Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit, have strong bipartisan support.

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Governor’s Housing Capital Budget Includes Funding for MACDC Priorities

May 15th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released his capital budget for Fiscal Year 2018, and the affordable housing capital budget increased by $9 million to a total of $221 million.

In just two years, the housing capital budget has increased by almost $25 million.  Most of this increase is in funding for preservation of affordable housing in projects where affordability is at risk of being lost.  The Governor is supplementing state bond funds with additional dollars from MassHousing and the new National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to boost total capital spending for affordable housing.

Other MACDC priorities also received support in the capital budget.  The budget includes $2.65 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, administered by MassDevelopment, for the assessment, remediation, and redevelopment of environmentally contaminated sites.  Unfortunately, this funding level is less than half what MACDC believes is necessary to meet demand.  The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) will have $250,000 in new dollars to provide grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to match federal or private dollars in support of small business development.  Through the Massachusetts Food Trust, CDFIs will also receive $1 million in grants to support loans to ventures that increase access to healthy foods.

CLICK HERE for a spreadsheet with the details of the FY18 housing capital budget, along with a comparison of how the budget has varied over the past five years.

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DHCD Awards National Housing Trust Funding for Supportive Housing

May 9th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

On March 29, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced funding for 177 affordable units in seven supportive housing projects, providing project funding coupled with rental assistance and funding for support services for these projects targeted to serving Extremely Low Income and homeless individuals and families.

MACDC Members again figured prominently in the Commonwealth’s efforts to serve the neediest households.  Two projects, including 38 affordable units, were sponsored by MACDC Members: The Neighborhood Developers and Worcester Common Ground.

DHCD has held three prior Supportive Housing Rounds since 2014; through these targeted funding rounds, DHCD has now awarded funding to over 900 homes for low-income individuals and families needing housing and support services.  In this round, DHCD provided almost $17 million in subsidies and low income housing tax credits, along with $3.1 million from the National Housing Trust Fund, a newly authorized federal program that supports the development of affordable housing for individuals and families with the greatest needs.  With funding for this and other federal housing programs at risk, the DHCD awards underscore the need to continue federal support for housing vulnerable populations.

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OneHolyoke CDC Teams with Attorney General’s Office to Turn Blight into Opportunity

March 21st, 2017 by Don Bianchi

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Initiative” as “an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something,” an apt description for The Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative (AHI).  AHI is a partnership among the Attorney General (AG), municipalities, the courts, and private organizations, including CDCs, to address seriously blighted properties whose owners are neglecting them.

As described on the AG’s website, blighted properties, abandoned by their owners in residential areas, create safety hazards, attract crime, and lower property values. AHI uses the enforcement authority of the State Sanitary Code to turn these properties around.  Working in close partnership with cities and towns, the AGO seeks out delinquent owners of abandoned residential property and encourages them to voluntarily repair their properties and make them secure.  If owners refuse, then AGO attorneys will petition the relevant court to appoint a receiver to bring the property up to code.

One such property, a single-family home at 140 Beech Street in Holyoke, had been abandoned years before.  The bank was taking no action on its mortgage, the roof was failing, and all the plumbing was stolen.  When the Springfield Housing Court appointed OneHolyoke CDC as Receiver and they first made entry, job one was removing over 100 used hypodermic needles laying throughout the interior.  The CDC’s cost estimate to simply bring the house to compliance with the State Sanitary Code exceeded what they could sell it for.  Enter the City of Holyoke’s Office of Community Development, which provided the needed subsidy using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to upgrade the home into an attractive, livable, and marketable residence.  Once on the path to almost certain demolition, this beautiful home will be sold this spring to a young family of four, who could only access homeownership through a program like this.

Here’s how Receivership works.  When a municipality invites the AG’s office to intervene, and the court concurs, the AG will invite the owner to meet, with the hope of reaching an agreement to address the property’s repair needs. If these negotiations fail, and owners do not respond to complaints, the State Sanitary Code permits the AG and/or the municipality to petition the court to appoint a receiver.  The State Code allows the receiver to place a lien against the property for all costs incurred by the receiver during the project, which is given a priority over all existing liens, except municipal liens.  At the conclusion of the receivership, which is generally six months to one year, the owner may reimburse the receiver for costs and clear the lien.  If the owner cannot or will not pay the costs, the receiver can foreclose on the lien, and the property is sold at auction to the highest bidder.

The need for aggressive action on blighted properties persists, as some communities have still not recovered fully from the effects of the foreclosure crisis. When Attorney General Maura Healey announced the expansion of AHI in 2016, she noted that “in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, the rehabilitation of abandoned properties is the next important phase of our recovery for families and our communities.  Abandoned properties are public safety hazards, reduce property values, and hinder economic development.” AHI operates in 88 cities and towns statewide.

The success of AHI in Holyoke is one example of the effectiveness of targeted, collaborative effort.  Michael Moriarty, the Director of OneHolyoke CDC, cites their role as a Receiver for 140 Beech Street in Holyoke as one of the proudest moments of his career.  Thanks to a resolute Attorney General, determined municipal officials, proactive courts, and responsible receivers stepping up, municipalities have a strong tool to tackle a sometimes-intractable problem, and offer opportunities to families needing quality, affordable homes.

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DHCD and MassHousing Launch Community Scale Housing Initiative

March 2nd, 2017 by Don Bianchi

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and MassHousing issued a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Community Scale Housing Initiative (CSHI). This is a great opportunity for sponsors of smaller rental projects (5-20 units) to have these projects considered outside of the DHCD Tax Credit Rental Rounds.

MACDC has long advocated for a separate funding round for these community-scale projects.  These more modest scale projects are necessary if the Commonwealth is to see affordable housing built in more communities in Massachusetts, including suburban areas with little or no affordable housing, rural areas where the smaller scale is more appropriate, and infill locations in Gateway Cities where small projects can have a catalytic impact on neighborhoods.  MACDC’s analysis of data from DHCD’s last seven “regular” rental rounds (excluding rounds dedicated to supportive housing) demonstrates the challenges that smaller projects face in these rounds focused on tax credit projects.  Of the almost 10,000 units awarded funding in these seven rental rounds, dating back to 2011, less than 3% of the units were in projects of fewer than 20 units which did not utilize low income housing tax credits.

This should change with the launch of CSHI.  Under the NOFA, production projects of at least 5, but no more than 20 rental units, located in communities outside of Boston, are eligible.  Units are considered affordable if targeted to households with incomes at or below 80% of area median income.  The maximum subsidy per CSHI affordable unit is $150,000 if project-based rental assistance is sought, and $200,000 otherwise, with the maximum project subsidy of $1 million.  Projects must be ready to proceed to closing and construction within 12 months of award.  CSHI will make $10 million available from a combination of an allocation of $5 million from DHCD’s Housing Stabilization Fund and $5 million in new money from MassHousing’s Opportunity Fund.

DHCD and MassHousing will hold an information session on March 15 at 11:30 a.m., in the dining room of Shillman House at 49 Edmands Road in Framingham.  Anyone interested in attending this session should email Bertha Borin at DHCD to reserve a seat.  Those with questions about the NOFA can contact Lynn Shields at MassHousing at 617-854-1381.

MACDC President and CEO Joe Kriesberg praised the launch of the new program.  “Community scale projects are incredibly valuable in urban, rural and suburban communities, but are currently difficult to finance in an affordable housing system oriented around the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.  Tax credit deals typically require 20 or more units, and securing the resources necessary for these smaller projects is difficult, even with their reasonable development costs. The Community Scale Housing Initiative program is a smart way to overcome these challenges, so we can build cost effective homes that fit nicely into the existing neighborhood context and market.  MACDC thanks MassHousing, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Baker Administration for their creative approach to this challenge, and for their response to the need for such a program that has been expressed by MACDC and others.”

MACDC appreciates the efforts of its members and allies in working with MACDC to achieve this victory in securing the launch of this valuable program.

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