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CDCs Go Green by Developing and Preserving Sustainable Buildings

July 30th, 2018 by Don Bianchi

CDCs throughout the Commonwealth are leaders in the green economy according to two new reports by MACDC detailing these efforts. The first report, "CDCs Go Green Part I: A Snapshot of the Environmental Initiatives of MACDC’s Members," released in March of this year, describes a wide range of sustainability programming, ranging from activism and advocacy, to supporting the local food economy, to open space preservation and stewardship. The report also describes CDC involvement in restoration and environmental clean-ups, recycling and waste initiatives, and resiliency and climate change preparation. All these initiatives reflect community-driven priorities to promote sustainable development.

MACDC is now releasing CDCs Go Green Part II: Developing and Preserving Sustainable Buildings. Part II, like the first report, was authored by Allison Curtis, MACDC’s Graduate Student Research Intern. This report focuses on buildings, which, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States. It covers the housing and other real estate developed by CDCs, energy retrofits for existing buildings, clean energy technologies, and healthy housing.

    Here are some highlights from the report, obtained from the MACDC GOALs Survey:
  • Eighty- three percent of new developments in 2017 included some sort of environmental strategy including efficient building systems, healthy indoor air quality, exterior insulation, and more;
  • Over 5,500 of the rental units in CDC portfolios have been retrofitted to be more energy efficient in the last five years, with more than 1,100 units receiving retrofits in 2017 alone, representing a value of more than $9.7 million;
  • Fifty-seven percent of CDCs surveyed utilize clean energy technologies, with solar photo-voltaic technology being the most prevalent;
  • The rental portfolios of 92% of CDCs surveyed are either fully or partially smoke-free.

MACDC is committed to supporting and enhancing CDC environmental sustainability initiatives, through our advocacy for policies and resources, and through our training and peer learning efforts. We hope that these reports will shine a light on the comprehensive approach that so many CDCs have adopted to preserving the finite resources entrusted to us.

CDCs Go Green Part II: Developing and Preserving Sustainable Buildings

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Valley CDC Celebrates 30 Years of Serving its Neighbors

April 26th, 2018 by Don Bianchi

Joined by more than 200 of its closest friends and supporters, Valley CDC celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 12.  Valley CDC primarily serves four communities in Western Massachusetts: Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, and Hadley.  Through affordable housing development, services to homebuyers and homeowners, and small business development services, Valley CDC demonstrates its commitment to economic justice every day.

In her remarks, CDC Executive Director Joanne Campbell said that she moved to Northampton in 1997, and joined Valley CDC to run the CDC’s affordable housing initiatives, thinking that work in Western MA would be slower-paced than what she left in the New York City area.  She soon realized that affordable housing work is by its nature difficult anywhere.  Undeterred, in less than a year, Joanne became Valley CDC’s Director, and led the CDC out of difficult times.  More than one speaker noted how fortunate we are that Joanne is leading the organization, along with other skilled and dedicated staff.

The highlight of the evening was a keynote speech by Charles M. Blow, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, CNN commentator, and author of his best-selling memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones.  Mr. Blow spoke for 30 minutes, and then answered questions submitted by the audience for another 40 minutes.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Blow provided counter-points to a number of widespread talking points about poverty and the black community.  He noted how President Trump, in his campaign, described life in the inner cities as “hell”, and rhetorically asked those living there what they had to lose.  Mr. Blow replied that the answer was, and is, “everything.”  He went on to speak about the “othering” of communities, and that “more law and order is simply code for organized state oppression in many of these communities.”  He concluded his prepared remarks by using a metaphor of life being a hill; some people start at the bottom while others start halfway up or at the top, and finished by declaring “For God’s sake, stop pretending there’s no damn hill.”  In response to one of the audience questions, he pushed back against the belief that racism is only a southern thing, with “No, it’s your thing,” citing segregation in New York’s schools and how Martin Luther King Jr. fought for fair housing in Chicago toward the end of his life.  He added, “Liberal cities cannot lecture anybody else until they take a long hard stare in the mirror.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, attendees bid their good-byes and ventured out into the night.  And, no doubt, Valley CDC’s staff went home for a night’s sleep before returning to work the next day to start the CDC’s 31st year of service to the community.

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State Awards $1.5 Million for Sustainable Homeownership Counseling

April 11th, 2018 by Don Bianchi

 

On April 9, state officials visited two CDCs to announce $1.5 million in awards for eleven regional foreclosure prevention centers and ten organizations that provide consumer and homeownership counseling.   EOHED Secretary Jay Ash traveled to the Neighbor Works Homeownership Center of Central MA in Worcester and to Wayfinders in Springfield to announce these important grants.

CDCs continue to be among the leaders in providing these essential services, with thirteen of the twenty-one awards made to MACDC Members or coalitions which include MACDC Members.  CDCs serving urban, rural, and suburban areas across the Commonwealth are helping homebuyers acquire their first homes and assisting homeowners at risk of foreclosure in keeping their homes.

The counseling awards were created through Chapter 206 of the Acts of 2007 – a law that MACDC helped enact through our advocacy with CHAPA and MAHA.  They are funded by fees associated with the licensing of mortgage loan originators. These grants have enabled Regional Foreclosure Education Centers and Consumer Counseling Agencies to serve more than 4,700 Massachusetts consumers in 2017. More than 85 percent of the families receiving foreclosure prevention counseling were able to avoid foreclosure and successfully remain in their homes.  Since the inception of the Grant program in 2008, the Division of Banks (DOB) has awarded more than $12 million to organizations to assist over 41,000 consumers.

In his remarks, Secretary Ash noted that he and Governor Baker know that “without a stable roof over your head, nothing else is possible.”  Undersecretary John Chapman of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation acknowledged the role of the Division of Banks in administering and advocating for the program, and DOB Commissioner Terence McGinnis closed the event by noting the Division’s rigorous review of applications and thanking the counseling organizations for accomplishing their mission in a fiscally responsible manner.

The $1.5 million awarded is higher than in recent years.  MACDC appreciates the Baker-Polito Administration’s recognition of the importance of these funds to organizations that so many families rely on to acquire and keep their homes.  We are particularly grateful to the Division of Banks for its continued advocacy for the program and for its thoughtful and effective oversight.

 

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CDC Projects Catalyze Revitalization of Northampton Corridor

December 13th, 2017 by Don Bianchi

 

The City of Northampton has spent the last four years developing a plan to revitalize the Pleasant Street Corridor, a stretch that has been identified as an important gateway to downtown Northampton.  Two CDC affordable housing developments have played a key role in the rejuvenation of the corridor.

Way Finders’  Live 155 Apartments, currently under construction, will provide 70 mixed-income studio and one-bedroom apartments when it is completed in the spring of 2018.  Just across Pleasant Street is Valley CDC’s  Lumber Yard Apartments, which will break ground next month on 55 affordable units.  Both projects will include commercial space.

These projects complement the City’s efforts to transform Pleasant Street from a state highway into a city street that serves the needs of residents and local business.  Infrastructure improvements include new raised crosswalks, curb extensions, improved bicycle and pedestrian paths, the addition of on-street parking, landscaping, and a new rotary that provides some separation between the highway and the main city street.

Both projects were assisted by The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), a public-private community development finance institution that provides financial resources and technical expertise for community-based and other non-profit organizations engaged in effective community development in Massachusetts.

In its weekly blog, Insites, CEDAC highlights the catalytic role that these two projects are having in Northampton.

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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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