Look in the Mirror

July 29th, 2016 by Jason Silva

To me, it’s actually pretty simple. People deserve a safe place to live and call home. Let’s do this.

When you hear the words affordable housing what comes to mind? Think about it for a second. What does it look like? Who lives there? Where is it located? Here’s what comes to mind for me.

A family with a single mother of 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls. Unfortunately, this family had financial difficulties and was evicted from their apartment. Thankfully, they had a network of family to take them in and had enough space to allow them to stay for a few years. Without this, this family would have been homeless. After waiting 3 years, they were granted an apartment in a public housing development. Believe it or not, it was a great place to raise a family – tons of kids and families, a basketball court, huge playing fields and, most importantly, a roof over the family’s collective head.

This apartment, along with support from friends and their extended family, allowed this family to get back on track. Eventually, they were able to move out of public housing and into a home which they owned. All of this made the dream of owning a home a reality, one that just 10 years before seemed impossible.

I’m going to now focus on the oldest of the kids, one of the 3 boys. He was a shy, quiet, short and skinny kid. He was a decent student and heavily influenced by not only his mom, but by his grandparents too, who helped raise all the kids in the family. He was addicted to basketball. He played every day. It occupied all of his free time. He learned a lot from basketball – hard work, team work, communication, relationship building. All of which he needed to learn.

He received support from an extended family of friends and also from a network of amazing people in the community. As he moved through school he met his high school sweetheart, who he ultimately married. Her support was critical to his success in high school and college.

Upon graduation, influenced by his experience growing up, he decided he wanted to go into public service. He interned in Washington DC, worked on political campaigns, and for an advocacy group, local and state government and a non-profit. He also decided to run for office locally, with the intent to give back to the community that gave him and his family so much. He’s now serving his 3rd term on the City Council.

Personally, he just celebrated his 12th wedding anniversary, owns a home and has 3 young boys he loves very much.

So, you’ve probably guessed by now that this story is my own. I share it because it tells a story of what a safe, affordable home can mean to a family and an individual. It is also a great example of the importance of a community – an extended network of support – that cares about those that need help.

People and families who need housing – affordable, workforce, low-income housing – aren’t scary or dangerous or faceless. Look in the mirror. They’re people like you and me. People, who if given a chance, can reach success and happiness. They’re our friends and neighbors. Their kids attend the same schools, are in the same classes and play in the same parks. They want the same things.

Remember too, affordable housing should be offered in everyone’s neighborhood. It should be built well, should look attractive and be of high-quality.

About Jason:

Jason Silva is currently serving his third term on the Beverly City Council. Silva has extensive experience as a public servant having worked for local and state governments, in the non-profit sector and for an advocacy organization. He has also worked at all levels in the political arena.  He is a graduate of Salem State University and is currently attending Suffolk University.

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A Central Component of Our Work

July 27th, 2016 by Van Hardy

Community organizing changes lives, as individuals and for communities. It gives voice to those that have been marginalized. Like many of our members, my first encounter with Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) staff was as a client desperately seeking help.

Following a medical crisis, I lost my income and began preparing myself to become homeless. I had lost all purpose in life beyond survival. My life had gone from coping to crisis. I spent a considerable amount of energy trying to contain the panic that threatens to overwhelm. Depression was a luxury I could not afford.

Yet, alone I felt helpless, small and vulnerable. I could flail about shouting about injustice giving voice to my anger, but this made me feel insignificant. I felt incapable of addressing the issues holding me victim. Embarrassed by my own impotence, I minimized contact with others, isolating myself.

Cynicism became a coping mechanism, rationalized as the “smart” choice. I internalized the self-anger that comes with injustice. I ask myself, “What did I do wrong?” Confronting the realization that my life had amounted to nothing, I had no purpose. 

Addressing Problems Together

From the point I walked through SCC’s doors, my life began to change. A decade later, my life has stability and purpose. But first, I had to let go of my pride, listen to others and trust. 

When staff suggested I participate in a Financial Literacy class, I thought it was a bad joke. I didn’t have any finances or a future. I did it anyway. During an exercise, I told the members of the class where, despite present circumstances, I would like to be in six months – teaching. The following class a woman handed me a phone number that lead to a part-time teaching job. Her action made me realize the importance of being part of a group. 

This happens everyday when people walk through the doors at SCC. Together, we can solve our problems. 

This is why community organizing is vital to the mission of SCC.

SCC didn’t just put me “back on my feet.” SCC has provided the means to address the problem. As I began to feel secure and regain confidence, like many at SCC, my gratitude found expression in action. I felt less a victim, more the activist.

At first, it was all I could do to show up. Eventually, I could speak up – in meetings, then in public. Through the Leadership Development Institute, I learned about the political terrain in Somerville and what we could do to influence decisions made by city hall and the state. We discussed the systemic injustice affecting our lives and futures. In a society that has institutionalized the victimization of the many for the benefit of the few, individuals feel atomized, deprived of meaningful ties to others, which leaves you weak, vulnerable and easily disempowered.

From Hopelessness to Hope to Action

SCC’s community organizing program provides an understanding of people’s shared interest in systemic change. Organizers bring people together to identify their problems and craft solutions. Whether it’s through the trainings, or the committees, organizers provide the skills and tools needed to turn ideas into action.

Hopelessness and inaction are transformed into hope and action. Cynicism and atomization and give way to constructive social engagement. Together we have the power to change the systemic injustices that once held us victim. As we change our communities, we change ourselves.

I’m proud to be an active member of an organization that has succeeded in increasing affordable housing and providing jobs for local people, and addresses the issues confronting Somerville residents. And, I’m honored to be the president of SCC’s Board of Directors.

SCC’s community organizing is more than theoretical to me. It has been a lifesaving personal experience.

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Just-A-Start Resident Wins NEAHMA Poster Contest!

July 26th, 2016 by Nancy Porcaro & Lynn Sanders

We are very happy to announce that Tahsin Razzak, a resident of JAS's 402 Rindge apartment building, is the first place winner of this year's New England Affordable Housing Management Association (NEAHMA) Poster/Calendar Contest (grades 7-9). This year's theme was "Words that Heal - Stop Bullying, Spread Kindness." Bullying is intentional physical, verbal, or psychological tormenting. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors through social media. Tahsin's poster brilliantly presents a vision of words of inspiration and hope to fight this kind of harmful behavior. NEAHMA'S Board of Directors judged and voted on over 250 posters that were submitted regionally. 

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State House Report: Legislature Moving Key Bills and Hurtling to Finish Line!

July 18th, 2016 by David Bryant

With little more than two weeks remaining in the 2015 – 16 legislative session, Governor Baker and House and Senate leaders are trying to put the wraps on a half-dozen major initiatives.  The most important legislation for MACDC and its members will be completion of a comprehensive economic development bill.  The House and Senate have passed separate bills and must reconcile the differences that remain before July 31st.  MACDC has been active, working with representatives and senators to advance several important policy priorities in each bill, and we will be working with friends and allies to achieve the best possible outcome from the House/Senate conference committee

Highlights:  Both versions of the economic development bill (H.4483, S.2423) contain definitive language to advance three core MACDC priorities: (1) to improve the administration of the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program, (2) to provide $45 million capital authorization for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, and (3) precise language to provide $6 Million capital for the Massachusetts Food Trust.  These three items will not be subject to negotiations in the conference committee. 

The House adopted an amendment to authorize $1 Million in new capital funding for the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) to support a matching grant program for CDFIs and CDCs.  The Senate bill does not include this measure.

The Senate bill includes an increase in the state EITC from 23% to 28%, a Donation Tax Credit (DTC) proposal to allow existing State Low Income Housing Credits to support more housing preservation, and Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) provisions – enabling collaborative public-private-nonprofit partnerships to implement local initiatives and to enhance community revitalization.  The House did not include these provisions.

Here is a brief comparison of key economic development priorities contained in the bills and that MACDC and its allies will work to achieve in the final weeks.




CITC – revised “95% rule” 3 yrs prior allocation of credits

Technical correction adopted Technical correction adopted  

Massachusetts Food Trust program

$6 Million capital authorization $6 Million capital authorization  

Brownfields Redevelopment Fund

$45 Million capital authorization $45 Million capital authorization  

Transformative Development Initiative

$45 Million capital authorization $45 Million capital authorization  

MassWorks Infrastructure Program

$500 Million capital authorization $330 Million capital authorization Support House provision

Smart Growth Trust Fund (Chapter 40R)

$15 Million capital authorization $7.5 Million capital authorization Support House provision

CDFI / CDC small business lending grant program

$1 Million   Support House provision

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  Increased State EITC from 23% to 28% Support Senate provision
Donation Tax Credit   Amendment adopted Support Senate provision
Community Benefit Districts (CBDs)   Amendment adopted Support Senate provision


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