July 22, 2014

Voke Lofts Completed in Worcester

84-unit, mixed-income rental community is another piece of downtown Worcester's revitalization

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

WORCESTER – The revitalization of downtown Worcester took another major step with the recent opening of the 84-unit Voke Lofts apartment community.

Developed by WinnDevelopment of Boston, Voke Lofts involved the adaptive reuse and historical preservation of the former Worcester Vocational Technical School located at 34 Grove St.

MassHousing provided $20 million in financing for the development, including $2 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing manages on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

"Voke Lofts has transformed a historic, vacant former school into vibrant, workforce housing and is another important milestone in the city of Worcester's ongoing effort to revitalize the Northern Main Street area," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "We are very pleased to have been a partner in this project with the city and WinnDevelopment, which has resulted in an important housing resource that will serve the city and its residents for many years into the future."


Voke Lofts, Before...


Voke Lofts, After...

WinnDevelopment purchased the property from the Worcester Development Corp. The school was built in 1910 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The development team incorporated many of the building's historic features into the new building, including large windows, exposed brick and ceiling beams. The development is comprised of 50 one-bedroom units, 31 two-bedroom units, and three three-bedroom units.

"This is a great day for Winn and the city of Worcester, said Gilbert Winn, Managing Principal of WinnCompanies. "The school is an important part of Worcester's past and we're honored to preserve the character of the building in its latest incarnation, which brings much needed, quality housing to the city."

U.S. Rep. James McGovern said housing is a major component of revitalizing the city's downtown.

"A successful downtown will mean having more people living downtown," he said. "I can't wait to see all these units filled with happy tenants who will be welcomed into this vibrant neighborhood with open arms, who will eat in the restaurants and shop at the stores on Main Street."

The sale of Massachusetts Historic Tax Credits, Massachusetts Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal Historic Tax Credits and 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credits generated $25.4 million in equity for the project, which also received $1.3 million in financing from DHCD and $1.3 million from the city of Worcester.

"This is just a tremendous milestone in the road to revitalization of the city of Worcester," said DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein. "That renovation and revitalization of this building is going to spur increased economic activity around the entire neighborhood, which is going to be a tremendous boost to the small businesses."

Voke Lofts contains a number of energy-efficient features and Energy Star appliances, making the building LEED certifiable. Most the apartments have already been rented and the project created 100 construction jobs.

The contractor was Dellbrook Construction and the architect was The Architectural Team, Inc. The management agent is Winn Managed Properties, LLC.

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July 08, 2014

Old Colony Redevelopment Completes Another Milestone

129 new apartments completed in second phase of project with 40 more under construction

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing


SOUTH BOSTON – The redevelopment of the Old Colony public housing community in South Boston has reach another milestone with 129 new apartments completed during the second phase of the project with 40 additional units now under construction.

The Boston Housing Authority, in partnership with Beacon Communities LLC of Boston, is completely redeveloping the 840-unit Old Colony, which was originally constructed in 1940 and is one of the oldest federal public housing developments in the country and also the most distressed property in the BHA's federal portfolio.

Old Colony is being redeveloped in multiple phases. The first phase of the Old Colony project replaced seven distressed and blighted apartment buildings with 116 new apartments for low-income families in one mid-rise building and four clusters of town homes. Phase One also included the construction of a new 10,000-square-foot community center, which is operated by the BHA.

Phase Two involved the demolition of 223 original Old Colony units and the new construction of 169 new apartments in 6 townhouse-style buildings, two elevator buildings and a walk-up building. A ceremony was held last month to celebrate the completion of the 129 new units and the start of construction of the remaining 40 units in Phase Two.


The new construction at Old Colony involves numerous energy-efficient technologies and the project meets the Enterprise Green Community Criteria, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Building and Neighborhood Development Certification, and Energy Star Homes certification.

"New green and affordable housing and job creation make this a win-win for the city and its residents," Mayor Martin Walsh said.

MassHousing provided $33.4 million in construction financing for Phase Two with an additional $3 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing manages on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

MassHousing provided $26.7 million in construction financing for Phase One with an additional $1 million from the AHTF.

"It is not often that you can redevelop and completely transform a neighborhood but that is being done at Old Colony," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason. "We are very pleased to be a funding partner with the BHA and Beacon Communities."

The Old Colony project has received more than $44 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in HOPE VI funding. The project has also received extensive funding from DHCD, and the city of Boston. U.S. Bank committed nearly $51 million of state and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity through its community investment subsidiary U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC).

"The finished product is absolutely beautiful," said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle. "This has changed the face of the entire South Boston community."

"It's an amazing transformation of an entire neighborhood," agreed DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein.

Pam Goodman, president of Beacon Communities Development said efforts are underway to pursue financing to redevelop the remaining 453 original units at Old Colony.

"Beacon is proud of our team's work at Old Colony," she said. "We are committed to work with the city, BHA, residents and the state to develop a program that will enable us to complete the redevelopment of Old Colony."

Phyllis Corbitt, president Old Colony's resident association, praised the city and the development team for what has been accomplished so far. "Our motto around here is let's keep unity in our community," she said. "What has been accomplished here is truly amazing for the residents of Old Colony."

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MassHousing Announces Loan Closing of $3.2 Million to Renovate the Mary Colbert Apartments for Low-Income Seniors in Charlestown

Residents will see major property improvements

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing


Low-income senior citizens living at the 30-unit Mary Colbert Apartments in Charlestown will see major improvements to the property as a result of a $3.2 million MassHousing construction and permanent loan.

The nonprofit Charlestown Economic Development Corporation owns the Mary Colbert Apartments, located at 20 Devens St. in Charlestown. The building was constructed in the 1870s and operated as a school until the 1970s. It was converted to senior housing in 1982 as a HUD Section 202 assisted development and all 30 units are subsidized by a HUD Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Contract that runs through 2032.

Among the renovations planned for the property are the repair of exterior brick walls, replacement of the original slate roof and windows, installation of new electrical breaker panels and ADA improvements to a common kitchen and laundry area.

"The Mary Colbert Apartments are generally in good condition but the property does need some significant renovations," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "With long-term affordability already in place, these improvements will restore the property to a top-quality affordable housing community for the senior citizens who live there."

Construction is expected to be completed over the next 12 months. The contractor is Consigli Construction. The architect is Arthur Vogt of Spencer and Vogt Group and the management agent is Barkan Management Company.

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June 30, 2014

For the 24th year, MassHousing Employees Serve as Mentors in a Boston Elementary School

STARR_600MassHousing's Patricia Weems, left, and King Elementary School Principal Khita Pottinger with a S.T.A.R.R. student

MassHousing recently held its annual Year-End Awards Ceremony for fourth-grade students involved in the S.T.A.R.R. Mentor Program.

For the past 24 years, The Striving Toward Academic Recognition and Respect Mentor Program has involved MassHousing staff mentoring students at the Martin Luther King K-8 School in Dorchester.

Some mentors volunteer in the classroom with the students once a week providing academic support while other mentors donate time on weekends to take the students on educational field trips and other community-centered activities.

A program of MassHousing's Compliance and Diversity Department, 20 MLK students received academic and leadership awards this year at the year-end ceremony hosted at MassHousing.

The program's keynote speaker was MLK Principal Khita Pottinger, who thanked MassHousing's mentors for their commitment to the students and urged the students to strive to be their best inside and outside of the classroom.

MassHousing's S.T.A.R.R. mentors this year were Norman Brown, Stephanie Burns, Charlene Hollins, Mike Kilgannon, Caroleen Lewis-Herbert, Kathy Moore, Richard Nicks, George Ovins, Jennifer Rajala, Hellina Watson, John Zimini, Craig Aronson, Kamar Calixte, Colleen Doyle, James Fortune, Tom Johnston, Monte Stanford and Carl Richardson.

"None of this happens without the commitment and passion of mentors," said Patricia Weems, MassHousing's Diversity Officer, who coordinates the program. She told students, "We work as a collective group of mentors with your teachers and parents to encourage each of you to achieve your fullest potential."

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June 27, 2014

Lender-paid mortgage insurance opens new doors for would-be homebuyers

By Peter Milewski
Director of Home Ownership Lending, MassHousing

While Patriot's Day for most Bay State residents commemorates "The shot heard around the world," Patriots Day 2014 marked the introduction of a new MassHousing mortgage product that may revolutionize the way high loan-to-value (LTV) loans are done here in Massachusetts.

MassHousing has customarily purchased loans above 80% LTV with traditional mortgage insurance. While MassHousing had its own Mortgage Insurance Fund, our product was not distinguishable from other conventional loans that offered traditional MI. In 2004 MassHousing created MIPlus™, which combined traditional mortgage insurance with mortgage payment protection for borrowers. This provided a financial benefit for consumers who lost their jobs and set apart MassHousing's conventional products from those insured with traditional MI. MIPlus was supported by reinsurance from conventional mortgage insurers, which significantly expanded MassHousing's insurance capacity. Adoption of the mortgage securitization platform in partnership with Fannie Mae together with MIPlus kept MassHousing in the market when other Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) were out of business during the early years of the mortgage crisis.

As the mortgage crisis developed, the problems facing traditional mortgage insurers reduced the value of their reinsurance. In response MassHousing worked with Fannie Mae on the development of a risk-share agreement that eliminated the need altogether for MI. Advantageous pricing from Fannie Mae and the elimination of the consumer cost of MI created a white hot product that catapulted MassHousing homeownership lending to record levels during fiscal year 2013.

Fannie Mae began modifying the No MI product in the middle of 2013. They tightened credit, increased the guaranty fee and shifted additional risk and reserve requirements to HFAs. Concerned over these changes, MassHousing negotiated new reinsurance agreements that reinstated the Agency's insurance capacity. MassHousing used that increase in insurance capacity to create an insured mortgage product that could compete with the No MI loan and reduce the Agency's reliance on it.

Through the Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI) program, the cost of mortgage insurance is paid for up-front by the lender, with a single premium rather than spreading it out in monthly payments over the life of the loan. In much the same way as the No-MI loan was structured, the borrower then pays a slightly higher interest rate. The monthly payment of a loan with LPMI is measurably lower than either the No MI loan or a loan with traditional mortgage insurance.

Upon launching the LPMI product on Patriots Day MassHousing realized an immediate increase in loan registrations from an average of $12 million per week in the six months prior to the introduction of LPMI to more than $20 million per week for the eight weeks following. Whereas previously MassHousing's Home Ownership lending production was approximately 80% no MI, it subsequently became 65% LPMI.

The benefits of the new product are an increase in lending, a shift from the somewhat higher risk No MI loan, lower monthly payments for homebuyers, and the return of the availability of MIPlus mortgage payment protection.

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MassHousing Rental Management Completes Listening Tour

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing's Rental Management Department recently completed its second round of statewide "Listening Tours" at which the Agency asked for and received feedback from its management company partners.

Rental Management staff initiated the first round of Listening Tours in November and December 2013 in Springfield, Worcester, Fairhaven, Lynn and Boston where more than 85 business partners representing more than 30 companies came to give staff feedback on its processes, policies and inspections. As a result, MassHousing has taken a number of steps to incorporate suggested changes going forward.

A second round of Listening Tours was held in May and June of this year at the same five locations. MassHousing staff separated the feedback received during the first Listening Tour into "Main Themes" and then identified its current internal "Action Steps" being taken to address much of that feedback.

"We know that the Listening Tours were a success because during the second round we hosted 146 business partners, an increase of more than 70% over the first round, from more than 40 management companies," said MassHousing's Manager of Porfolio Management Anne Marie MacPherson.

"I applaud MassHousing on the recent implementation of the listening tour. The listening tour is an open exchange of ideas which provides business entities with two way communication on the present services offered as well as the opportunity to provide direct feedback regarding programs and services which are planned for the future," said Kevin Bynoe, Regional Manager at United Housing Management of Boston.

"My questions were addressed in a very honest and professional manner with much clarification. Walking out of the Listening Tour, I felt that MassHousing is looking to partner with management companies to help better our affordable housing communities,” said Kristin Pine, Director of Education and Training at Peabody Properties of Braintree.

Among some of the changes implemented as a result of the Listening Tour were: Making MassHousing staff more consistent in dealings with business partners; streamlining annual and budget reviews to make the process less cumbersome and effective; offer more training for MassHousing staff and business partners; and create a more usable and dynamic rental portal on the Agency's website and offer training so business partners can better utilize it.

"These Listening Tours held away from the Agency were a great way to get back in touch with our management company partners and ask them for the honest feedback about how Rental Management was doing from their perspective," said MacPherson. "I asked for 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' with respect to all that we do that affects them and their work and I am happy to report that I received it. I am touched by the honesty and openness from our management colleagues and their strong willingness to work with Rental Management staff as partners. I look forward to future Listening Tours, which Rental Management has committed to conducting twice a year."

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MassHousing recognized by National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing was recently presented with an Outstanding Member Award by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) for the Agency's innovative efforts to help provide housing and social services to Massachusetts veterans.

In making the award, the Washington, D.C-based organization recognized MassHousing for its "outstanding leadership and its exemplary commitment to ending veteran homelessness in the United States." The group specifically noted MassHousing’s programs that assist in helping to prevent veteran homelessness, including the Agency's Center for Community Recovery Innovations, Inc. (CCRI); the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP); and the Home for the Brave mortgage loan program for veterans.

"Our veterans give selflessly of themselves yet they experience high levels of homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "To be recognized for our efforts by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is humbling and will continue to inspire us to do our part to help end homelessness."

CCRI is a nonprofit subsidiary corporation of MassHousing created to deal with issues of addiction to alcohol and drugs in housing communities. CCRI has awarded more than $7.6 million in grants to more than 70 nonprofit agencies for 1,663 units of substance-free housing in 40 cities and towns across Massachusetts. These awards have provided housing and services for more than 6,500 men, women, families, veterans, homeless persons, ex-offenders reentering the community, and other underserved populations.

MassHousing’s TPP is a homeless prevention program that works with people with disabilities facing eviction as a result of behavior related to a disability such as mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and aging-related impairments. TPP functions as a neutral party to the landlord and the tenant and in consultation with the Massachusetts Housing Court Department. Recognized recently by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, TPP has preserved hundreds of tenancies of those most at risk. Collaboration with local agencies serving veterans is the focus of a new statewide homeless prevention initiative.

The Home for the Brave program was created by MassHousing and offers affordable, low downpayment mortgage financing for veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.

In addition, The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans noted that Tom Lyons, the manager of MassHousing's Community Services Department, represents MassHousing and Governor Deval Patrick on multiple committees including the Governor’s Veterans Advisory Committee and the U.S. Veterans Administration’s Advisory Committee for Homeless Veterans.

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$18.1 million loan will keep units affordable for seniors at the 181-unit Leisure Tower in Lynn

Lesiure Tower Lynn

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

An $18.1 million MassHousing loan will ensure the long-term affordability of the rents for low-income senior citizens living at the 181-unit Leisure Tower in Lynn. The loan will also help to finance improvements to the property.

Leisure Tower was built at 10 Farrar St. in Lynn in 1972. The property is being refinanced through MassHousing's Section 8 Proactive Preservation Program, which seeks to extend affordability at developments where Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts are due to expire.

As a condition of the loan, the property owner, Silver Street Development Corp., will seek to extend for 20 years the HAP contract when the current HAP contract expires in 2018.

"Leisure Tower is an important affordable housing resource for senior citizens in Lynn and this financing will ensure that all the apartments remain so for the long term," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason.

As part of the refinancing, a number of improvements will be made to the property, including the installation of high-efficiency boilers and an energy-efficient cogeneration system, as well as apartment and common area floor replacement and painting and elevator upgrades.

"Leisure Tower is a centerpiece of the Silver Street portfolio in terms of our company mission for long term preservation of affordable housing and our continual effort to move the bar higher in the quality of our management, physical maintenance, and commitment to improved energy efficiency for our properties," said Chris Poulin, a founding principal at Silver Street Development. "Leisure Tower was on the cutting edge of Section 236 preservation in 1998 when we first partnered with MassHousing to preserve this housing opportunity for the residents of Lynn and this recent loan closing has strengthened the long term commitment between our two organizations. The Section 8 Proactive Preservation Program was a perfect platform to reach our goals together. The staff at MassHousing could not have been more accommodating in making this a reality and our hats are off to them for their dedication and support."

MassHousing's Section 8 Proactive Preservation Program targets a group of affordable rental developments that were originally financed by MassHousing and are eligible to convert to market rates when those mortgages mature. Each of these developments receives a subsidy from HUD that is used to help pay the tenants' rents each month. However, if the mortgage is paid off, there are no more affordability restrictions or any incentives from HUD to keep the properties affordable unless the owner agrees to renew the Section 8 contract. Through this program, MassHousing now provides those incentives.

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MassHousing Awards $200,000 for Affordable Sober Housing

Funding will help create or preserve 28 units of sober housing in Fitchburg and Quincy for individuals and veterans and their families

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing has awarded $200,000 to support affordable sober housing programs for men in Fitchburg and veterans and their families in Quincy.

The MassHousing grants will come from the Center for Community Recovery Innovations, Inc. (CCRI), a nonprofit subsidiary corporation of MassHousing that supports non-profits that create or preserve affordable sober housing in Massachusetts for recovering substance abusers. CCRI to date has awarded more than $7.8 million in grants for approximately 1,700 units of substance-free housing in nearly 40 communities for men, women, families, veterans, the homeless and ex-offenders.

"These CCRI grants will help individuals and veterans with families overcome their struggles with substance abuse," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "Having an affordable place to live in a sober setting is a key part of a successful outcome for people in recovery."

Receiving grants in the latest round of CCRI funding are:

  • Twin Cities Community Development Corporation, Fitchburg, $75,000 to help construct three new one-bedroom apartments and rehabilitate 13 existing one-bedroom apartments for men in recovery. Funding partners include the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the City of Fitchburg.
  • NeighborWorks of Southern Massachusetts, Quincy, $125,000 to help create 12 affordable sober two-bedroom apartments for veterans and their families. Funding partners include DHCD and the City of Quincy.

"We are grateful to Masshousing and the Center for Community Recovery Innovations for their support of this important project in Fitchburg that provides safe housing for homeless individuals in recovery," said Marc Dohan, Executive Director of Twin Cities Community Development Corporation.

The Center For Community Recovery Innovations, Inc., issues an annual Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit projects for funding. The proposals that are selected need to meet CCRI's current priorities and eligibility categories. The grants are typically used as one-time gap funding for capital projects that increase or improve the stock of affordable sober housing in Massachusetts. Other proposals that provide services for residents in MassHousing-financed rental housing, specifically those that address alcohol and/or drug abuse or addiction, are also considered for funding. CCRI grant recipients must be 501c3 non-profit organizations and matching funds must be provided. All proposals and applicant qualifications are stringently reviewed and vetted by MassHousing.

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MassHousing reaches out to prospective Spanish-speaking homebuyers via Telemundo's "La Línea de Ayuda"

MassHousing staff and representatives from partner lenders and nonprofits fielded calls from 70 Spanish-speaking homebuyers as part of La Línea de Ayuda, June 19 on the Spanish language TV station Telemundo.

La Línea de Ayuda, or Help Line, is a two-hour call-in event that allows Spanish-speaking homebuyers to speak one-on-one with a mortgage expert. The event was held during evening programming, and was promoted with numerous cut-ins during popular programming.

Participating in La Línea de Ayuda were Aida Franquiz of Boston Private Bank; Marilyn Garcia and Leisla Ortiz of Chelsea Restoration; Elbert Baquero of Leader Bank; Amy Wortzman of NE Moves Mortgage; Andrea Perez and Carolina Suarez of NOAH; and Martin Yau of Sage Bank

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