Climate Conversations: Homeowners Rehab’s Sustainable Affordable Housing

March 28th, 2022 by Neha Chinwalla

Finch Cambridge (New Ecology Photo)


Boasting spacious open floor plans, large (and triple-glazed) windows and closets, community rooms, and a rooftop terrace, Homeowners Rehab’s Finch Cambridge is a beautiful, and affordable, place to live. Beyond the physical features of the 98-unit apartment building at Fresh Pond, Finch is the first Passive House certified affordable, multifamily housing development in Massachusetts, equipped with high-efficiency heating and cooling, sustainable finishes, a 105kW Solar PV system, and Energy Star appliances in every unit.  

Finch Cambridge, located between the Alewife and Cambridge Highlands neighborhoods, is a model project for sustainable design, community-building, and high-quality affordable housing. HRI is committed to the development of more sustainable, affordable housing. “HRI, for over 25 years, has been trying to incorporate sustainability and energy conservation efforts into our development any time we can, in terms of new construction and occupied or major rehab,” said Director of Development Jane Carbone.  

Many of HRI’s projects are LEED Platinum certified and all are Enterprise Green Communities certified, two commonly used standards for energy-efficient, healthy design. In doing so, HRI is aligned with the City of Cambridge’s efforts to decarbonize. They work closely with the City throughout their development process. “We’re pretty mindful of what the City of Cambridge’s goals are for the reduction of carbon emissions,” Carbone said.  

Cambridge’s efforts are part of a broader movement to electrify buildings and improve energy efficiency. HRI has recently signed on to the U.S Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, pledging to reduce their portfolio-wide scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% within 10 years. Part of the emissions reductions are incorporating renewable energy in their buildings and assessing where solar PV placement is optimal.   

One of HRI’s other projects is a damaged three-story apartment building. “The triple-decker that we are working on had a fire in November 2020,” Project Manager Eleni Macrakis said. “We are looking to do a gut renovation. The fire damage wasn’t too much, but the water damage from the fire department was expensive [to address].”   

To renovate the triple-decker, HRI stripped it down to the studs and is rebuilding it even better with all-electric systems, upgraded kitchens and baths, sustainable finishes, and solar. “The outside cladding was intact, so we are creating a thicker envelope on the inside so that we’re building out a stud wall and insulating the wall. The goal is to get to as close to net-zero [as possible],” Carbone said.  

To those that are hesitant to support new developments, HRI points to their successful track record to earn the community’s trust. While development of affordable housing often faces opposition as a result of NIMBYism, residents in Cambridge have been more supportive of HRI’s developments because of the sustainability aspects. “People who don’t like development generally were supportive of Finch,” said Will Monson, Senior Project Manager. “They knew it was Passive House and knew what we were trying to do.”  

“People have seen the impact in their own community of flooding and heat events. Those events are so close to home that people not only support but require us to achieve those levels [in response]. I think it helps our projects if we’re doing all of the climate measures,” Carbone said. Beyond assessing the buildings’ energy use and sustainable features, HRI also develops resident programs that promote healthy living for the community.  

With the measures they are taking to design climate-resilient, energy-efficient buildings, HRI is paving the way for the future of affordable housing. “With climate change and these measures, a lot of it is data collection,” Carbone said. “It’s important that we show folks that this can be done and there’s a way to collect the data to show it can be done. Then we share that knowledge so other people can learn from our experiences. That’s very important to move this agenda along.”   

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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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Climate Conversations: NOAH & Climate Resiliency ~ An Opportunity to Revamp for the Future

March 7th, 2022 by Neha Chinwalla

Photo from NOAH


Environmental justice and resiliency are hot topics today in the climate action conversation, but they haven’t always been. Around 25 years ago in East Boston, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Inc. (NOAH) planted the seeds for integrating the values of environmental justice into the urban environmental issues they were fighting for.  

“The term of environmental justice began to be a term of substance that was applied to urban areas, as opposed to just ‘save the polar bears.’ When that began to catch on in the bureaucracies, federal and then the state, we were quick to embrace it,” Philip Giffee, Executive Director of NOAH, said. “East Boston is a neighborhood that is a peninsula and cheek by jowl with Logan International Airport. That has been a challenging relationship.” 

East Boston’s residents’ battle with Logan International Airport has been longstanding. The development of the airport took parks and housing away from East Boston. Asthma rates also skyrocketed, as combustion has an especially negative impact on air quality during the take-off and landing of aircraft. A grant from the City of Boston is supporting NOAH’s efforts to assess the impact of the airport on the environmental health of the neighborhood. Through the grant, NOAH is using sensors to identify the air quality of 40 businesses, schools, residential homes, and nonprofits are affected by the airport. The work is done hand-in-hand with East Boston residents. 

“We never do anything on our own. We work with the people who work here,” Latifa Ziyad, East Boston Resiliency Planning Coordinator for NOAH, said. With the community’s needs always at the forefront, NOAH has become more involved in climate resiliency work. 

“The environmental justice piece began to motivate a lot of people in the neighborhood,” Giffee said. “We began to move into climate work when superstorm sandy hit New York. Sandy could have hit Boston. We saw the damage it could have caused.”  

As part of its resiliency work, NOAH hosted summits to create a larger platform to talk about solutions to the pressing issues in East Boston: the airport, storm surge, and sea level rise. Ziyad also sits on an advisory committee on heat. She emphasized that heat kills, especially vulnerable populations such as children, older people, and more often than not, people of color.  

What centers NOAH’s resiliency work is building a stronger community, one that will provide residents the services to bounce back better from disturbances. “We know climate work dovetails poverty. It wouldn’t be as much a threat if people had the mechanisms to cope with it. We focus on building social cohesion, and climate is an aspect of it but it’s not an exclusive focus,” Ziyad said.  

“We look at what preventions we can put in place, and then how we react in the midst of the event, and after the event, how do we recover, not to the point of where we were before the storm or stressor hit, but actually use it as a chaotic moment to launch ahead,” Ziyad said. "We know a lot of the systems we were involved in before were already broken anyway. It becomes an opportunity to not only heal, but revamp for the future.”  

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Launch of Neighborhood Stabilization Program Brings Vision to Fruition

March 7th, 2022 by

On March 4th, MassHousing announced the launch of the DHCD/MassHousing Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), with $6.4 million available in the first funding round. The funding is available to municipalities, CDCs, and other nonprofit organizations that are working to address disinvestment and blighted conditions in their communities.  

This announcement is a culmination of the vision that MACDC and MassINC had in the fall of 2018, when we brought together stakeholders across the Commonwealth to address the persistent disinvestment in areas with weak real estate markets, in Gateway Cities and in small towns. These initial convenings resulted in the release, in January 2019, of a Report, Building Communities of Promise and Possibility State and Local Blueprints for Comprehensive Neighborhood Stabilization. 

 The Massachusetts Legislature responded by provided $750,000 in funding, in the FY2020 State Budget- and in two subsequent years- for technical assistance to aid municipalities grappling with distressed and abandoned properties, leading to the formation of the Neighborhood Hub, a multi-agency partnership to support neighborhood revitalization.  Under MassHousing’s capable stewardship, with the guidance of an advisory group comprised of public agencies and nonprofit organizations- among them MACDC and MassINC- the Neighborhood Hub is providing intensive technical assistance in five Gateway Cities. These locally-designed and implemented strategies to address distressed properties rely on an innovative partnership, among municipal government, community-based organizations, and MassHousing. 

With this week’s launch of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, funding will now be available for the rehabilitation of distressed properties in weak market areas across the Commonwealth, in urban areas and in small towns. NSP grant funds will be awarded up to $250,000 per unit, and $2 million per project.  

 MassHousing has scheduled three Neighborhood Stabilization Program information sessions for interested applicants.  Anyone interested can register by clicking one of the dates below: 

Questions can be directed to MassHousing at

This is a good example of how thoughtful and inclusive engagement, good research, collective advocacy, and a responsive government can directly impact the lives of families and communities.  Of course, the work is just getting started, and arguably the most challenging work- house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood- is just beginning. MACDC looks forward to being actively engaged in this work, so look forward to periodic updates.  

The NSP launch complements our effort to establish the MA Healthy Homes Initiative, with $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, currently under consideration in the State Legislature. This investment of federal funds would make homes, and neighborhoods, healthier and safer. For more information on MHHI, you can reach out to Elana Brochin at or Don Bianchi at 

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