Housing Quality and Health Equity Initiative

November 13th, 2023 by Elana Brochin

On October 26th, MACDC hosted a Statewide Kickoff event for our Housing Quality and Health Equity Initiative (“The Equity Initiative”). Close to 100 participants joined us at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation of Massachusetts to learn about the Equity Initiative and to strategize together about future directions. The Kickoff event centered around a report that we recently published in partnership with the Green and Healthy Initiative (GHHI) which explores housing quality and health challenges and opportunities throughout Massachusetts with a focus on Gateway Cities. 


The Equity Initiative is a five-year project funded by the Massachusetts Community Health and Healthy Aging Fund and, in addition to the research component the Equity Initiative centers around:  

  • Community Engagement: MACDC is currently working with community members, municipal officials, and grassroots organizations in three Gateway Cities (Brockton, Holyoke and Springfield) to identify local problems and developing solutions that will work on the local level.  
  • Policy Advocacy: Through the Equity Initiative, MACDC is conducting ongoing policy advocacy, for programs, resources and policies to improve housing quality and the resultant health outcomes of community residents. These efforts are currently focused on advancing the Massachusetts Healthy Homes Program (MHHP) legislation, which will build on current programs and create a whole-homes approach to improve housing quality, and thereby improve resident health. 
  • Addressing Racial Inequities: Poor housing quality and the associated health outcomes disproportionately impact individuals, families, and communities of color throughout Massachusetts. It is for this reason that a racial equity lens guides the Equity Initiative, focusing on Gateway Cities, where people of color are more likely to live, and these households suffer disproportionately from the health consequences of substandard housing. 


At the Statewide Kickoff, State Representative Shirley Arriaga of Chicopee spoke passionately about the need to pass MHHP, and GHHI CEO Ruth Ann Norton spoke persuasively about the national imperative to confront the devastating impact that lead paint, poor indoor air quality, and other housing quality problems have on our communities. A panel of Springfield leaders, consisting of a Revitalize CDC Board member, the City’s Housing Director, and a local resident who focuses on the health of seniors, described their local efforts. We continued with an interactive discussion among the event participants, and concluded with a networking lunch. 


The Equity Initiative is guided by MACDC’s Housing Quality and Health Task Force, a group of experienced practitioners consisting of advocates in the health equity, housing, elder and disability fields, healthcare providers, and data professionals. 


The Equity Initiative is staffed by MACDC’s Program Director for Health Equity Elana Brochin, MACDC’s Director of Housing Don Bianchi, and MACDC’s Health Equity Intern Meisui Liu. Contact us if you want more information or would like to join our effort! 

Commenting Closed

Breaking Ground - Two Verses with a Common Refrain

November 6th, 2023 by Don Bianchi

A groundbreaking on adaptive reuse for a vacant, boarded up former school in Fitchburg- 68 apartments near downtown in this Gateway CityAnother groundbreaking for a new construction project in Pelham, a Rural Town in Western MA with 1,300 residents- for a project half the size of the Fitchburg projectWhat do these two CDC events have in commonMore than one might think- in a word (or two)- patience and partnership! 


On a brisk early November morning, with a bright sun in a cloudless sky taking the bite out of the 30-something temperature, a large group gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking at the site of the former B.F. Brown School. NewVue Communities acquired the school in 2018, but as NewVue Executive Director Marc Dohan and other speakers noted, it’s taken more than 10 years to get to this point. 


It’s also taken many hands. NewVue and the site’s neighbor, the Fitchburg Arts Museum, started talking about this in January 2013. The Mayor’s office has pushed this project forward- initially with former Mayor Lisa Wong, and now with Mayor Stephen DiNatale. Numerous public funders and policymakers were present to celebrate: Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) Secretary Ed Augustus, senior officials from MassDevelopment, MassHousing, CEDAC, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC) and NeighborWorks America were among the speakers. Marc also thanked the Health Foundation of Central MA, and UMASS Memorial Health. The big sign with the list of supporters needed small lettering to include all of the organizations who made this happen. 


Two things noted by speakers stood out for me. First, Marc Dohan thanked MHIC for working with the CDC to diversify the construction workforce, which will have 15% of the hard (construction) costs paid to Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), and 25% of the construction jobs will go to workers of color. Second, Dan Rivera, CEO of MassDevelopment, said “CDCs are the most important letters in the development alphabet.” 


That afternoon, Home City Development, based in Springfield, broke ground on Amethyst Brook Apartments in Pelham, a small town just east of Amherst. The crowd was a bit smaller than in Fitchburg, but no less happy to share this milestone.  After an enthusiastic welcome from Home City’s Board Chair, Loleta Collins, Executive Director Tom Kegelman described the importance of this project. Tom noted that a recent count showed that there are 224 homeless individuals in Hampshire County, and another 6,000 households who encounter rents so high that they need to cut back on life’s other necessities, such as food. The project, consisting of 34 units in two buildings, will be built to Passive House standards, and will contain charging stations for electric vehicles and roof-mounted solar panels. 


As in Fitchburg, the breadth, and depth, of the partnership is impressive. The Town’s Select Board and Zoning Board of Appeals fully supported the project. Tilman Lukas, who chairs the Town’s Housing Committee, provided a history of the site, noting the challenges of finding sites for housing, as a recent study found that only 8% of the land in Pelham is buildable. The Town provided $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funding, and at Town Meeting the vote in favor was overwhelming, with only a handful of residents voting no. On the State level, EOHLC and CEDAC provided critical funding. Bill Brauner from CEDAC noted that he received a call about this project from Tom Kegelman in 2019- so this project has taken more than 4 years to get to construction. MHIC CEO Moddie Turay said that this is the sixth Home City project MHIC has supported, evidence of the high regard they hold for Home City Development. 


Patience and partnership were the themes of these two groundbreakings. I’m looking forward to the ribbon-cuttings, when these projects are completed! 








Commenting Closed
Subscribe to News