Baker Administration Introduces FY 2017 Budget Recommendation & Separate Economic Development Legislation

January 28th, 2016 by David Bryant

Yesterday, Governor Baker unveiled his $39.6 billion FY 2017 budget proposal and this morning he filed an economic development bill, “An Act to Provide Opportunities for All,” seeking legislative authorization for nearly $1 billion in capital investments over the next five years.  There is a great deal of information to digest in these two proposals, and we will spend the next several days examining key items of interests to MACDC members.  For now, here is brief overview of various line items we will be tracking throughout the legislative process.

House 2 – FY 2017 Budget Recommendation from Baker / Polito Administration

  • Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program:  proposed level funding ($2 million)
  • Urban Agenda Grant program:  proposed level funding ($3 million – combined economic development and housing grants)
  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP):  proposed funding cut $8 million, to $82.9 million
  • Foreclosure Prevention Counseling:  proposed level funding ($2.35 million)
  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP):  proposed level funding ($4.6 million)
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT):  proposed level funding ($12.5 million)
  • Housing Preservation & Stabilization Trust Fund (HPSTF):  no proposed funding (- $11.5 million)
  • Community Preservation Act (CPA):  proposed level funding ($10 million – transferred from the state’s end-of-year budget surplus)

“An Act to Provide Opportunities for All” – Economic Development proposal seeking legislative authorization to fund over five years:

  • $500 million for MassWorks
  • $50 million for the Transformative Development Fund to enhance redevelopment projects in Gateway Cities
  • $75 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund
  • $25 million for a new site assembly and pre-development fund, to support commercial and industrial development in regions outside of Boston
  • $25 million for the Smart Growth Trust Fund, combined with proposed changes and expansions to Chapter 40R, to meet Commonwealth’s need for smart growth housing development at higher density and development of “starter homes”.
  • Revision to the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP); allow new construction (in addition to rehabilitation) and raise reimbursement from 10% - 25%.


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Growing the Housing Resource Pie

January 28th, 2016 by Joe Kriesberg & Don Bianchi

As we begin a new year, MACDC plans to be working on a wide cross section of housing issues. Our goal is to create an affordable housing system that is better able to meet the diverse needs of our residents and communities. This will require both more money and more flexibility. In a series of articles to be published over the next few weeks, MACDC will articulate some of its thoughts about how we do this. The first article talks about how we can grow the resource pie – the first and most essential step to meeting increasing demand for affordable housing. In subsequent articles, we will talk about how to reduce costs, how to make our programs more flexible, and how to ensure that we are allocating the limited resources that we have in a way that is more responsive to local market conditions and to the hopes and desires of local communities.


Growing the Housing Resource Pie

Toward the end of a lovely video tribute to Jeanne DuBois, the former Executive Director of Dorchester Bay EDC, she is shown repeating many of her favorite sayings, including this one: “There is never enough money and there is always enough money”.

Jeanne, of course, is correct. In a society as rich as ours, there is always enough money to get something done if it is deemed important enough and if the sponsors are creative, persistent and patient in assembling the necessary resources.  CDCs, like Dorchester Bay, have become masters at this, cobbling together funding from 10 or more sources, working for years to put the deal together, and then pinching pennies to make the numbers add up.  Every year, we see more and more examples of this capacity to create exciting, impactful projects.

So why don’t we do it more often?  Well, because Jeanne is also right that there is never enough money … to do all the projects that are needed.

This is why MACDC is currently working with countless allies at the state and local level to grow the resource pie and ensure that resources are used as efficiently as possible. These efforts include the following:

  • Continue to grow the MRVP program steadily in the coming years because it is one of the few programs that targets our most vulnerable families and provides a long-term solution to family homelessness. With support from Governor Baker and the State Legislature, housing advocates just won a major increase in funding for the Mass. Rental Voucher Program from $65 million to $90.9 million, a 40% increase, but more funding is needed to meet the incredible needs within our communities.
  • Increase the Commonwealth’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit. MACDC recently testified in support of legislation filed by Rep. Kevin Honan that would do this by $15 million over four years to help preserve some of the 5,000 “13A projects,” whose affordability restrictions are set to expire in the next few years. MACDC is also working with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) to stretch those tax credit dollars even further by adding a new Donation Tax Credit (DTC) modelled after programs in Illinois and Missouri. The DTC that will allow us to leverage significant federal tax savings by structuring transactions as donations to nonprofit organizations rather than sales.
  • Increase the Commonwealth’s so-called “Volume Cap” that is allocated to Multi Family Rental Housing because this allows developers to take advantage of tax exempt bond financing and the 4% federal tax credits that can help subsidize both preservation and some production projects. In the past, these 4% credits have not been a constrained resource, but going forward there will likely be insufficient credits to meet all the demand. The affordable housing field could lose millions of dollars of subsidized tax credit equity unless we can restore some of this “volume cap” to rental housing.
  • Secure new funding for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund. This Fund has run out of money and it is a vital tool for putting contaminated land to use for housing and job creation. MACDC is seeking at least $15 million in new funding to ensure that this program remains viable.
  • Allocate a reasonable proportion of the state’s capital budget to affordable housing. Last year, the Governor allocated $94.7 million to privately-owned affordable housing (in addition to $90 million for public housing), but this is not enough. We will continue to push to see this number increased next year.
  • Fund the Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund, a relatively new program created in 2013 that provides housing for extremely low-income households and those who need supportive services. CDCs and other nonprofits are particularly focused on serving these populations and this year we secured $11.5 million for the program – overcoming a veto from Governor Baker who sought to reduce the line item to $10 million. We need to ensure that this program is consistently funded each year.
  • Grow the City of Boston’s Housing Resources from $31 million to $51 million per year per Mayor Marty Walsh’s housing plan. We won a major victory toward this goal when Mayor Walsh increased the City’s Inclusionary Development Program’s fees. MACDC is also advocating for an increase in the City’s linkage fees. Finally, and most importantly, MACDC is working with a broad coalition of community groups to explore whether to pursue the Community Preservation Act in Boston in 2016 – a program that could generate nearly $20 million per year in new funding for community housing, historic preservation, open space preservation, and outdoor recreation.

To be sure, this is an extensive set of goals, but the needs within our communities are significant. Many families pay 30% or more of their income for housing.  Massachusetts currently spends less than 2 percent of its combined operating and capital budget on housing. This simply is not getting the job done. And given the growing evidence that quality, affordable housing leads to significantly better health and education outcomes, investing in housing is money well spent.

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CDCs provided 4,591 One (Soft-Second) Mortgage Recipients with Pre-Purchase Education between 2004 - 2015

January 21st, 2016 by John Fitterer

Over the past 11 years, CDCs across the Commonwealth have provided critical training and educational services to future homebuyers.  Pre-purchase education for prospective homebuyers is a vital resource that helps people not only prepare to purchase a home, but also helps qualify them for the One Mortgage, formally Soft Second Loan, program.

Check out the table below to see the number of individuals who not only graduated from a pre-purchase homebuyer course offered by a CDC, but also used the One Mortgage or Soft Second program to buy their home. (Source: MHP)

One MORTage (soft second) HOMEBuyers who received

PRE-PURCHASE education from CDCs

Oak Hill CDC 540
Neighborworks of Southern Mass  504
HAP Housing 485
Allston-Brighton CDC 432
Lawrence CommunityWorks 413
Urban Edge 324
NOAH 292
Valley CDC 267
Housing Assistance Corporation 260
Community Teamwork, Inc. 229
Worcester Comm Housing Resources  162
Arlington Community Trabajando 131
SMOC 116
Nuestra Communidad    66
Springfield NHS 50
Asian CDC 49
Worcester East Side Comm Dev 49
NewVue Communities 47
Somerville Community Corp 44
Viet-AID 41
Hilltown CDC 32
TOTAL 4,591


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CDCs Lead & Set in Motion Baker Administration’s Urban Agenda Program

January 20th, 2016 by David Bryant

Last week, Governor Baker and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash unveiled the first round of Urban Agenda Grant winners at a series of meetings in Boston and Framingham. The inaugural awards from this new program – a total of $3 million awarded to fund 16 separate economic development, planning and housing initiatives from New Bedford to North Adams – will entrust municipal officials and community organizations to forge collaborative partnerships and craft unique, specific solutions to meet locally-identified needs that satisfy a range of economic development and housing opportunities.

MACDC is proud to have several member organizations lead and partner in 7 of the 16 program initiatives that received more than half ($ 1.6 million) of the grant funds in this first round. All told, the grant program made awards in three categories of community development: economic development implementation, economic development planning, and housing development. State agency officials received 54 applications, requesting a total of $12.7 million in funding, from communities across the Commonealth. With this level of interest, a successful program launch can build greater support to fund successful community-driven projects through Urban Agenda grants in the years to come.

Complete list of grant award winners and project briefs

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Tips for Hiring a Lawyer

January 20th, 2016 by Felicity Hardee

Nonprofits on a budget sometimes struggle about how and when to hire an attorney.  Getting legal help can be intimidating and expensive so being strategic about bringing a lawyer on board makes good sense.  Here are some tips to consider before making the call.

When do you need a lawyer?

 “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Community development corporations sometimes believe that lawyers are only needed for closings and lawsuits.  However, there are many situations when some good legal advice at the outset of a difficult situation can save the agency time and money in the long run.  If a nonprofit is entering into a significant contract or has a tricky employment decision to make, up front legal review can save a lot of headaches later on.  On the other hand, there are many situations where the nonprofit can take on tasks that were formerly left to the lawyers—these include incorporating an entity with the secretary of state and annual corporate filings.  The bottom line is this:  if the stakes are high, or the issues are murky or unusual, think about reaching out for some support.  A lawyer may be able to offer helpful advice at the right time.

The right person for the work.

It is critically important that the lawyer you hire has the relevant experience to assist your organization.  This is especially true for public housing authorities and other public and quasi-public entities regulated by HUD or DHCD. Hiring a lawyer who is not familiar with procurement rules or open meeting law can be a recipe for trouble. Finding a lawyer with relevant experience can be handled through networking with other agencies and advocacy organizations. CHAPA also has a consultant page that identifies lawyers with relevant experience.

Talking about fees.

Any lawyer you hire should be willing to discuss fees openly and you should not feel uncomfortable asking about how much the services may cost.  There are some situations where it may be difficult or impossible for the lawyer to provide a reliable estimate of how much the services required will cost. Complex litigation with a self-represented individual falls into this category. However, there are other engagements where it is reasonable to ask the attorney to provide at least a range of the expected cost.  If you are retaining a lawyer for a closing, ask if the lawyer will provide a “not to exceed” price for the services. A lawyer’s tasks are similar from one closing to another and lenders typically pay their attorneys on a fixed fee basis.  Therefore, you may want to ask whether the attorney would be willing to give you a fixed price for the transaction. Doing so provides both your organization and the lawyer some certainty. Other situations that lend themselves to a fixed fee may include contract review and preparation of simple contracts and releases.

Title insurance (for extra credit!)

Massachusetts is a “negotiated rate” state for title insurance policies over a certain amount. If your attorney is issuing a title insurance policy on a housing project under development and the acquisition price or loan amount is greater than $2 million, you should ask him or her to negotiate with the title insurance company the rate you will pay for your policy premium. For owner coverage (as contrasted with coverage for the lender), the savings can be significant.  While a standard rate may be $3.65/$1000 of coverage for smaller policies, some title insurance companies are willing to reduce the premium on a large policy for a nonprofit to as little as $1.25. On a $5 million policy with coverage for your agency as the owner, that is a savings of $12,000.

Your relationship with your attorney is a key ingredient to the success of your organization. Call when you need to and seek out an experienced lawyer who will work with you to keep your legal expenses in check while advancing the mission of your organization.

Felicity Hardee is an attorney who helps nonprofits and affordable housing developers with their community development needs. She assists clients with closings involving multiple financing sources, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and provides compliance assistance, litigation services and general legal advice to CDCs throughout Massachusetts. Find her at, on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @felicity_hardee.

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The Foreclosure Crisis in Massachusetts is Not History

January 15th, 2016 by Don Bianchi

The foreclosure crisis has receded from the headlines.  But any notion that foreclosure is not a serious problem anymore would be news to nonprofit foreclosure prevention counselors on the front lines.

At a gathering on September 28, convened by MACDC and CHAPA, counselors from 13 nonprofit organizations immersed in foreclosure prevention spoke about the issues they encounter, the changing nature of the foreclosure crisis, and challenges going forward.  They spoke about lenders being aggressive in setting auction dates yet unresponsive to borrower requests for loan modifications. They noted that the funding that has sustained foreclosure prevention counseling is drying up.  They fear the impact on their neighborhoods of lenders initiating foreclosure while neglecting to maintain those properties once the foreclosure process has been initiated.

The data on foreclosures underscore the persistent nature of the problem.  A September article by The Warren Group, publishers of Banker & Tradesman, noted that foreclosure petitions in the Bay State rose in July, increasing 49 percent compared with July 2014.  This marked the 17th consecutive month of increases in petition filings. In the first seven months of the year, there were 6,360 petitions filed in Massachusetts, a 60 percent increase from last year's mark through July. Petitions are the first step in the foreclosure process, when banks petition the state courts for the right to foreclose.

Too often, loan servicers are taking steps that tend to exacerbate problems rather than remedy them.  Some are not complying with required standards when borrowers apply for loan modifications.  Many are reluctant to negotiate forgiveness of past due amounts, or to consider principal reductions, when borrowers encounter hardships.  Some are ignoring borrower authorizations of foreclosure counselors to negotiate on their behalf.

Counseling agencies are struggling to serve their clients with diminishing resources to fund their work.  Many continue to rely on annual grants from the MA Division of Banks through a program, authorized by legislation from 2007 that permits the Division to collect fees from licensed mortgage originators, retain up to $5 million of these fees, and use up to $2 million of the retained revenue to make grants for foreclosure prevention counseling and homebuyer education.  Earlier this year, through the State budget, the Legislature authorized the Division to retain $2.35 million from these fees, and the Division in 2015 made $1.3 million available in grants. The Request for Proposals for 2016 grants has recently been issued by the Division.

MACDC advocated for this program because we knew that a long-term, stable source of dedicated revenue would be necessary to address the foreclosure crisis.  Eight years later, with the number of foreclosures stubbornly high, the wisdom of the Legislature’s decision is evident. According to a 2015 report issued by the Division of Banks, in calendar year 2014, the 21 agencies who received awards served almost 5,300 clients.  Unfortunately, other funds that have historically supported this work have been reduced or eliminated, including funds from the Community Based Home Corps Program (funded by the MA Attorney General’s Office from prior legal settlements), HUD Counseling grants, and NeighborWorks America’s National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program.

An article by journalist Loren Berlin, published in the November 10 issue of Shelterforce Weekly, addressed the dearth of funding nationwide for foreclosure prevention counseling. She notes, “Across the United States, hundreds of housing counseling agencies are struggling to regroup as elected officials declare the foreclosure crisis resolved and public funds to support mortgage default counseling services evaporate. The NFMC received $180 million in Congressional appropriations in 2007; it got roughly $50 million this year. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget for housing counseling services, which funds a variety of counseling services, including foreclosure prevention,  was just $47 million this year, down from $87.5 million in 2010. Additionally, many states have reduced or ended their support for default counseling, and the majority of funds from the 2012 national mortgage settlement have been depleted. This loss of government support is compounded by a similar decrease in funds from national foundations and large financial institutions.”

In Massachusetts, MACDC is working with CHAPA to identify and advocate for resources to fill this growing void. At the same time, we need to continue to support the work of the nonprofit counseling agencies involved in homebuyer education and financial literacy, so we don’t see a repeat cycle of foreclosures in the future.

Research has demonstrated the link between pre-purchase homebuyer education and more sustainable homeownership.  An analysis commissioned by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in 2014 affirmed the benefits of pre-purchase counseling: in addition to improving homebuyers’ financial creditworthiness as they prepared to qualify for a home mortgage, individuals who received one-on-one counseling achieved better outcomes after purchase in terms of credit score, total debt, and payment delinquency than those who did not receive such counseling.

A working paper commissioned by national mortgage lender Freddie Mac in 2013 concluded that pre-purchase homeownership counseling reduced 90-day delinquency rates by 29% for first-time homebuyers taking out fixed-rate loans in owner-occupied one-unit properties under Freddie Mac’s affordable lending programs.

MACDC believes the path forward is clear.  The Massachusetts state legislature can take a major step forward by providing funding for foreclosure prevention counseling and for first-time homebuyer education to replace what has been lost; one way would be authorize the MA Division of Banks to retain a higher amount of revenue from licensing fees so the Division can increase its awards.  With this one step, we can help homeowners stay in their homes, protect neighborhoods from the negative impacts of foreclosure, and help today’s homebuyers to become tomorrow’s successful homeowners.

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With Community Investment Tax Credit, MHIC Dramatically Increases Support to CDCs

January 5th, 2016 by John Fitterer

In 2015, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC) reached a new high in supporting community- and neighborhood-based organizations by donating over $400,000 to 31 CDCs, Boston LISC and MACDC with two-year contributions.  This level of support was only made possible by MHIC’s commitment to use the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC).  MHIC, as a nonprofit investment and lending organization that focuses on the critical shortage of affordable housing across the Commonwealth, has financially supported CDCs since its founding in 1990.  Now, through the CITC program, MHIC is also able to help CDCs grow their operations through this valuable financial tool.

“The Community Investment Tax Credit enables MHIC to provide further support to our partners on the ground in communities of greatest need across Massachusetts,” commented Joe Flatley, MHIC’s President and CEO.  “We’re thrilled to be a leading investor in CDCs through the CITC program in 2015.  It’s an additional resource for us to use that ensures CDCs continue to provide critical services in the neighborhoods and towns in which they work.  We strongly encourage more businesses, individuals, and foundations to use the CITC program to power their donations to CDCs.”

“MHIC’s support of our field has been phenomenal from the start.  It doesn’t surprise me that Joe and the team at MHIC would use the CITC program to further support what CDCs are doing. This is an organization that knows how to invest wisely and help revitalize our most distressed communities.  And that’s what the CITC program is all about,” concluded Joe Kriesberg, MACDC’s President.

The CITC program continues again in 2016 with an additional $6 million of credits to be allocated by the Commonwealth’s Department of Housing and Community Development.  To learn more about the program, go to

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Family-owned MBE Firm Gets the Job Done at Madison Park Village III

January 4th, 2016 by Angel Babbitt-Harris

Leroy and Janice Cumberbatch are no strangers to hard work.  The husband and wife team own and operate International Construction and Development (ICD), a local MBE general contracting firm hired to work on the interior construction of Madison Park Village III.

Leroy Cumberbatch began working in carpentry as a  high school student in his native country of Barbados.  After moving to the United States in 1988 and becoming an electrical tradesman, he launched ICD as a general contractor in 1994.  Janice manages the bookkeeping and cashflow for ICD, and as Leroy proudly boasts, "Janice helps out a lot, and often is even willing to strap a toolbelt on and work alongside me to get the job done."

The interior construction of Madison Park Village III is ICD's largest project to date, and one that Leroy is hopeful will lead to more substantial opportunities for his minority-owned business.  MPDC has also hired ICD on past jobs, including Dudley Greenville apartments, and plans to work with the firm again on future projects.

Keeping the business in the family is important to Leroy and Janice who are optimistic that their daughter will assume more responsiblity at ICD once she completes her degree in computer engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

It has been a pleasure working with ICD, and we wish them an abundance of success in the future.

Click here to learn more about our commitment to hiring minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Photo by Madison Park Development Corporation

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