April 15, 2015

MassHousing, Other Quasi-Public Agencies Join Together in Pursuit of Energy Efficiency in Subsidized Rental Housing

By Eric Gedstad
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing, DHCD and three other Massachusetts quasi-public agencies have come together to advocate for changes in the way that certain energy efficiency program funds are allocated to subsidized rental developments. The hope is to provide a more reliable and predictable source of funds to make affordable apartments more energy efficient.

The chief executives of MassHousing, MassDevelopment, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and CEDAC all signed a letter, along with DHCD Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, written to the Chair of the state's Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC). The EEAC was created by the Green Communities Act of 2008, a comprehensive energy reform law. EEAC members guide the development of energy efficiency plans by gas and electric utilities and energy providers.

"The existing method of allocating energy efficiency assistance funds works well for small-scale multifamily sites that want to do a retrofit mid-life-cycle, and we do not want to imply, in any way that the current low-income program does not well serve a vital segment of the affordable housing spectrum" said Deborah Goddard, MassHousing's Managing Director for Policy and Program Development. "However, it is not well-suited to larger, commercial multifamily properties, particularly those that want to coordinate the incentives with refinancing and rehabilitation. We hope to change that for the better."

The letter seeks to influence the Energy Efficiency Investment Plan for the years 2016-2018 and to streamline the process whereby multifamily housing owners access utility ratepayer funding programs. The focus of the recommendations is an initiative for the commercial multifamily housing industry within the commercial and industrial segment of the program that serves a moderate and middle income tier.

The five agencies agree that there should be a uniform definition of "low- and moderate-income;" that financial incentives should be available at the point of recapitalization and refinancing; that capital work related to the incentives should be incorporated into the scope of work by the owner’s contractor; and that the funding should be integrated into the subsidy allocation process in partnership with the Commonwealth's affordable housing agencies.

You can read the entire letter here.

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Recent Loans from Affordable Housing Trust Fund will Support 670 Units in Six Communities

During the three-month period between December 11, 2014 and March 12, 2015 MassHousing and the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) closed 11 Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) loans for $13 million.

The AHTF financing will help create or substantially rehabilitate and preserve the affordability of 670 rental apartments in six communities.

"The new wave of financing provided by the AHTF delivers a multi-faceted, multi-generational development approach that will facilitate revitalization in a wide range of communities for years to come," said Chrystal Kornegay, Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development.

The AHTF provides funds to create or preserve affordable rental, homeownership and mixed-use housing developments throughout the state. MassHousing and DHCD jointly administer the AHTF.

"The Trust has been one of the most successful state housing programs, providing $416 million in financing over 14 years to support nearly 500 developments and 25,000 units of housing," noted MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason.

For most of these developments, DHCD has also allocated Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the sale of which has generated equity toward the cost of completing the housing.

The recent AHTF loan closings were

 

  • $1.9 million for the 145-unit RTH-Riverview development in Boston's Longwood Medical Area. Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH) is building 60 units of affordable rental housing for families and 85 homeownership condominiums, 43 of which will be affordable. The building will also include a 9,000-square-foot day care center on the first floor. DHCD is also providing $5 million from its housing finance programs.

  RTH Riverway_Entrance Angle

A rendering of RTH-Riverview

  • $1 million for the 40-unit Highland Woods in Williamstown. Berkshire Fund, Inc. is building the units for seniors on land leased from Williams College. DHCD is also providing $1.6 million from its housing finance programs.
  • $1.7 million for the 102-unit Harrison Tower in Roxbury. Trinity Financial, Inc. is refinancing and substantially rehabilitating the 40-year-old, 12-story building which is under long term lease from the Boston Public Health Commission. The property is proximate to Boston Medical Center and provides housing for low- and moderate-income adults. DHCD is also providing $1.7 million from its housing finance programs.
  • $800,000 for the 77-unit Boott Mills West in Lowell. WinnDevelopment and Rees-Larkin Development have completed the adaptive re-use of the last undeveloped portion of the historic Boott Cotton Mills complex. DHCD made an $800,000 loan to the project through its Housing Stabilization Fund program.
  • $1.3 million for the 61-unit Cable Mills in Williamstown. Mitchell Properties is redeveloping a vacant mill building on the Green River, with 13 affordable units. The project is within walking distance of Williams College.
  • $2 million for the 118-unit Outing Park Apartments 2 in Springfield. First Resource Development Company LLC is renovating six existing buildings and constructing one new 20-unit building near downtown Springfield. DHCD loaned $550,000 in HOME funds and $1 million through the Housing Stabilization Fund program.
  • $1 million for the 80-unit Hunter Place Apartments in Springfield. Valley Management Inc. is renovating an existing building for residents age 55 and over, including the installation of an additional elevator. MassHousing provided $5 million in permanent financing and DHCD provided $250,000 in HOME funds to the project.
Hunter Place
Hunter Place
  • $1 million for the 24-unit Patriot Homes in South Boston. The joint venture between Caritas Communities, Inc. and South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation as South Boston Veterans Housing, LLC is adapting the site of the former D Street police station and constructing a new building that will include 11 studio, three one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units of housing that will be rented with a preference for veterans. DHCD and the City of Boston are also providing financing. All of the units will be affordable.
  • $600,000 for the 12-unit Winter Street School Apartments in Haverhill. The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Inc. is redeveloping a former school building originally constructed in 1856 in the Lower Acre neighborhood of Haverhill. DHCD is also providing $568,403 in financing. All of the units will be affordable.
  • $1.7 million for the 11-unit Notantico Woods in the Woods Hole area of Falmouth. The Falmouth Housing Corporation will provide four one-bedroom units and seven two-bedroom units from an existing structure in addition to new construction. All of the units will be affordable. This will be the first affordable housing development in Woods Hole.

Notantico Woods

Notantico Woods

 

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Easthampton Housing Community for Seniors and Families Adopting Children from Foster Care is Completed

Award-winning Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow is first of its kind in Massachusetts

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

A socially innovative, 13-year process to build mixed-income housing for senior citizens and families with foster or pre-adoptive children has been completed and fully occupied. Not only do the homes and apartments of Easthampton Meadow in Easthampton house a unique, multi-generational blend of populations, but the buildings also employ some of the most innovative energy-saving technology available.

Easthampton Meadow is a master-planned community developed by Beacon Communities of Boston and the Treehouse Foundation in collaboration with the City of Easthampton beginning in 2002. This 46-acre village with 17 acres of shared, permanently deed-restricted open space combines three interconnected neighborhoods and housing options.

Permitted in part under Chapter 40B, Easthampton Meadow consists of Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow, The Homes at Easthampton Meadow and seven single-family lots that were sold to buyers to build custom homes.

The community addresses local goals and integrates many sustainable development principles, including, deeded open space, higher density development than zoning allowed, a walking/pedestrian system, wetland replication, and Energy Star rated homes.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and MassHousing provided approximately $16 million in financing and other direct financial support though federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. MassHousing specifically provided approximately $5.2 million in loans for Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow and The Homes at Easthampton Meadow.

Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow

Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow is the brainchild of Judy Cockerton, Founder/Executive Director of the Treehouse Foundation. A teacher and businesswoman turned community developer, Ms. Cockerton based the idea for the Treehouse community on Hope Meadows, a similarly planned neighborhood in central Illinois. The mission of the Treehouse Foundation is to "inspire a re-envisioning of foster care in America," with a vision of "every child rooted in family and community."

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has recognized Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow as a new community-based permanency model.

Occupied since 2006, Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow has matured into a stable mixed-income rental community. Treehouse was designed to help move children out of foster care into permanent loving families, provide enhanced post-adoption support to their families, and ensure that elders have the opportunity to live connected, engaged and purposeful lives. Over the past nine years more than 100 people, ranging in age from newborn to 96, have invested in one another’s health and well-being.

Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow offers 60 apartment homes, comprised of 48 one-bedroom cottages for people ages 55 and older, and 12 multi-bedroom townhouses for families. Of the 12 family townhomes, six are affordable and six are rented at market rates. All of the one-bedroom apartments are affordable.

A vibrant Community Center serves as the heart of the development, providing space for neighborhood gatherings, social, educational and community-building activities and support services. It includes a library/computer center, commercial kitchen, multipurpose activity room, and office space for Beacon Residential Management, Treehouse Foundation and the Berkshire Center for Families and Children (BCFC) staff.

BCFC is a licensed child welfare agency that provides daily on-site support to children and families as well as the elders who support them. There are also two playgrounds and a community garden.

The Treehouse community received broad support from the City of Easthampton, the Department of Children and Families, and the Commonwealth's affordable housing agencies. The state agencies recognized the innovative and cost-effective approach to providing housing as well as programs and services for seniors, families, and children in the public foster care system.

Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow and Ms. Cockerton have received numerous awards as well as local and national media coverage. The development has been honored by the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, the National Apartment Association and the Massachusetts Rental Housing Association.

"We are profoundly grateful to Beacon Communities, the Department of Children and Families and MassHousing and DHCD for believing in the value of the Treehouse community mission and vision. Their investment in the development of a multigenerational Treehouse community model helps move children out of foster care into permanent loving families and communities that invest in their lives, their dreams and their futures. Children living at Treehouse have access to the same opportunities that their peers who have not been placed in foster care are offered. Treehouse is changing life trajectories," Ms. Cockerton said.

The Homes at Easthampton Meadow

In 2010, Beacon Communities approached Transformations, Inc. to develop energy-efficient single-family housing at Easthampton Meadow and to make the homes capable of attaining Net Zero energy consumption.

Between January 2011 and February 2015, 33 homes were built and sold, including nine designated as affordable for first-time buyers. The homes were built utilizing a high-tech building envelope, designed and proven by Transformations to help minimize not only the heating and cooling loads but the loss of heat by using advanced insulation specifications. Homes were all outfitted with Energy Star compliant fixtures and appliances as well as Water Sense plumbing fixtures. The heating and air conditioning systems were optimized for both efficiency and comfort.

Homebuyers of 11 of the 33 homes also opted to install solar panels on their dwellings. The homes are designed to generate as much electricity as they consume when a PV system is installed. The project provided the benefit of highly energy efficient homes to buyers at a range of income levels and price points. All of the homes have achieved Home Energy Rating Service (HERS) indexes in the 0 to low 40s. A home built in a community adhering to the stretch code standard must be HERS 70 or below in comparison.

The Life Initiative, a community development fund created by the Legislature with support of the life insurance industry, provided both the initial predevelopment acquisition loan for the land and the construction financing for the ownership homes. DHCD and MassHousing provided ongoing financial support to facilitate the development of the homes, which included nine homes for first-time homebuyers at affordable prices.

"Although it took us longer to complete this project than we anticipated, this is a project that was well worth doing and we are very proud of what we have accomplished. This community has and will continue to have a profound impact on the lives of many, many people," according to Pam Goodman, CEO of Beacon Communities.

"The completion of this multi-phased community is a remarkable accomplishment on many different levels," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason. "Beacon Communities and its development team created top-quality, highly energy efficient housing for senior citizens and families, particularly for those who have selflessly taken mentoring, fostering and adoption roles in the lives of foster children who are among the most vulnerable members of our society."

Information provided by Beacon Communities was used in this story.

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MassHousing Launches Panel Series on Greening Affordable Multifamily Housing

By Deborah Goddard
Managing Director of Policy and Programs, MassHousing

Dgoddard
Deborah Goddard

Taking another step toward developing an environmental sustainability agenda for itself and its customers, MassHousing has launched a series of panel discussions on the opportunities and challenges of "greening" affordable multifamily housing.

Understanding utility usage and costs is the first step towards identifying green strategies that will reduce consumption, save money and improve resident satisfaction. With that in mind, MassHousing held the first Environmental Sustainability panel discussion on March 13 under the heading Utility Benchmarking – Why It Makes Sense.

The panelists were Martha Abrams-Bell of The Abrams Management Company; Ed Connolly of New Ecology, Inc.; Beverly Craig of Homeowners' Rehab, Inc. (HRI); Marty Davy of New Ecology, Inc.; and Sarah Allen of WegoWise. The discussion provided a general overview of the nature and purpose of utility benchmarking. There was also a demonstration of the WegoWise benchmarking product.

Ms. Craig told how HRI used benchmarking to plan the company's conservation strategies.  She also spoke of the value of tracking utility consumption as a means of identifying simple but costly problems such as water leaks. She pointed to the clear cost benefits to the HRI portfolio that have resulted from being aware of utility consumption norms and outliers.

Ms. Abrams-Bell moved the panel discussion beyond the tracking of energy usage and outcomes, heralding the benefits WegoWise can provide in developing tenant utility allowances.  Ms. Abrams-Bell noted that she and her staff had initially dreaded calculating utility allowances because it meant they spent lots of time on utility company interface (difficult) and data entry (tedious). Abrams Management now uses the WegoWise benchmarking product to calculate the utility allowances based on tenant consumption data downloaded directly from the utility companies, multiplied by the current utility rates, and submits the product to MassHousing.

MassHousing staff underscored their belief that benchmarking simply makes sense and that the Agency is encouraging owners and operators to employ benchmarking tools.  MassHousing also offered that it can provide technical assistance to owners and operators, as needed, to support efforts to successfully deploy benchmarking.

Stay tuned for information on the second of the MassHousing Greening Affordable Multifamily Housing Panel Series, The New Normal and The Outer Limits, to be held in June.

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Lending for Rental Housing has Already Surpassed Last Fiscal Year's Level

By Eric Gedstad
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Mstanford
Monte Stanford

With three months left to go in fiscal year 2015, MassHousing's lending for rental housing has already surpassed the amount lent for all of the previous year.

As of March 31, MassHousing has closed 22 loans for $212.6 million, eclipsing the 16 loans for $174.5 million that were closed in fiscal year 2014.

"We are especially pleased that our lending so far this year is supporting a large number of units, almost 4,500 of them," noted Monte Stanford, MassHousing's Director of Rental Lending.

Prominent among the transactions are two new construction projects—the 84-unit Voke Lofts ($17.1 million), developed by WinnDevelopment, and the Worcester Loomworks ($6.8 million for phase 1 and $10.3 million for phase 2), developed by The Community Builders. Both are in Worcester.

To date there have been 19 transactions that are financing the preservation and rehabilitation of existing affordable housing communities. Notable among them is a $66 million conduit loan to renovate and preserve affordability of the 640-unit Quincy Point Apartments in Quincy.

"We are also delighted to have closed our first loan under our new GNMA/MAP (Multifamily Accelerated Processing) program, which was an $11 million deal for Bedford Towers in New Bedford," Mr. Stanford said. There are several more transactions in the pipeline that will also be done through the GNMA/MAP program.

"Our developer partners are calling for more types of loan structures and executions to meet their needs. This is one more tool in our toolkit to meet those needs," added Executive Director Tom Gleason.

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Lending for Homeownership Remains Strong

Pmilewski
Peter Milewski

With three quarters of the 2015 fiscal year complete, MassHousing—through our more than 150 partner lenders—has provided more than half a billion dollars in affordable loans for homebuyers and homeowners in Massachusetts.

As of March 31, MassHousing had closed $548.6 million in first mortgage loans to help 2,318 families buy a home or refinance an existing mortgage. In addition, the Agency closed 71 second mortgage loans for $1.6 million to help homeowners remove lead paint, make needed repairs and upgrade a failing septic system.

"Homebuyers and homeowners continue to seek out our affordable mortgage products," said Peter Milewski, MassHousing’s Director of Homeownership Lending. "And with spring finally here, we expect a strong close to the fiscal year."

Consumers have shown a strong preference for the MassHousing Mortgage with Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI), which has accounted for half of the lending total so far.

Learn more about MassHousing's affordable mortgage products for homebuyers and home owners.

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A Celebration in Chelsea as New Supportive Housing for Veterans Comes on Line

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

North Bellingham Veterans Home Ribbon Cutting

Ten formerly homeless veterans will have permanent homes thanks to new housing recently completed in Chelsea by the local non-profit developer, The Neighborhood Developers, Inc. (TND).

MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason joined state and local officials at the ribbon cutting ceremony for The North Bellingham Veterans Home, which received $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is administered by MassHousing on behalf of DHCD.

Appropriately, the new property is located in what was once American Legion Post 34, the first American Legion Post to be built in the Commonwealth. TND is partnering with the Pine Street Inn to combine job training and live-in support from Pine Street Housing staff.

North Bellingham Veterans Home

"I am fortunate to call this place my own home and have my own kitchen and bathroom," said new resident and Marine Corps veteran Bob Delorey. "Living here has changed my life and I am incredibly thankful."

"I can't be more proud of what we see here today,'' said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, who previously was Chelsea's City Manager. "It's great to see this building, which was a significant part of our community, become a significant part of our community again."

In addition to funding from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, other financing sources included DHCD, CEDAC, Boston Private Bank and Trust, North Suburban Consortium (HOME), city of Chelsea and state Historic Tax Credits. There were also grants and donations from TD Charitable Foundation, Eastern Bank and Charlesbank Homes.

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$275,000 will Support 66 Units of Affordable Sober Housing in Brockton, Shrewsbury and Worcester

MassHousing has awarded $275,000 to support affordable sober housing programs for men, women and veterans in Brockton, Shrewsbury and Worcester.

Father Bill's and Mainspring, Inc. in Brockton received $125,000 to help construct 21 new units of affordable sober housing for homeless veterans, chronically homeless individuals and families in Brockton. Financing partners include the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Federal Home Loan Bank and multiple banks and foundations.

Veterans Inc. in Shrewsbury received $75,000 to install a fire suppression system in a 35-unit affordable sober housing facility for homeless veterans in Shrewsbury. Financing partners include DHCD and the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Opening Heaven's Door Ministries in Worcester received $75,000 in down payment funding for 10 units of affordable sober housing for men in Worcester. Financing partners include a community bank and private donors.

The funds are allocated by 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 $8 million in grants for approximately 1,700 units of substance-free housing in more than 40 communities.

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MassHousing's Home Mortgage Delinquencies Remain below State Average

MassHousing loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers continue to perform slightly better than Massachusetts prime fixed-rate loans and significantly better than FHA loans, according to home mortgage delinquency data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association in February.

"It's always gratifying when we come in lower than these benchmarks," said Executive Director Tom Gleason. "Some people assume that our loans, which tend to be low-downpayment loans made to people with modest incomes, are high risk, but our borrowers continue to defy the conventional wisdom."

The MBA data is for the fourth quarter of 2014, and shows that the delinquency rate for prime fixed rate mortgages in Massachusetts was 3.76%. By comparison, MassHousing's mortgage loan portfolio had a delinquency ratio of 3.25%, or 51 basis points lower. MassHousing loans compared far more favorably to FHA loans, which for Q4 had a delinquency rate of 11.73%.

"We are very pleased with how favorably we compare not only to FHA loans, which are associated with lower-income borrowers, but also to the very best loans in Massachusetts," said Kevin Mello, MassHousing's Director of Home Ownership Servicing and Operations. "Our loan servicing staff works very hard with borrowers when they have late payments, and this high-touch service has proven to be successful in keeping people in their homes."

"Properly underwriting loans and lending to well-educated consumers has been key to our loan performance," said Peter Milewski, MassHousing's Director of Home Ownership Lending. "We specialize in making loans that people can afford for the long term; it's what we're known for and I think that will continue."

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Listening Tours for Property Management Staff Resume after Weather-Related Postponements

After being postponed due to record-breaking snowfall in February and March, MassHousing's Rental Management Division is preparing to embark on its third round of statewide "Listening Tours." The events provide an opportunity for MassHousing staff to hear directly from property management personnel who work at apartment communities financed or overseen by MassHousing.

"We look forward to hearing from property managers about their concerns and how MassHousing can continue to work cooperatively with them," said MassHousing's Manager of Portfolio Management Anne Marie MacPherson. "We will also be sharing comments from a recent survey, describing the asset management training program we participated in and updating our partners on what we have accomplished and what we are working to accomplish."

Listening tour stops will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at these locations:

  • King's Lynne in Lynn on April 15
  • New Academy Estates in Roxbury on April 22
  • Eastbrook Apartments in Springfield on April 28
  • Coe's Pond Village in Worcester on April 29
  • Melville Towers in New Bedford on May 5

More than 200 people attended the first two rounds of Listening Tours in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014.

MassHousing made several changes in policies and procedures as a result of the tours, including a departmental reorganization; a new replacement reserve process; a more efficient asset management review process that uses mobile technology; and improved consistency in dealing with different business partners.

Please RSVP to ListeningTour@masshousing.com at your earliest convenience stating which session you would like to attend and the name and title of your staff who will attend. If you have a specific question, please call Gina Micchelli at 617-854-1145. All are invited and welcome!

Anne Marie MacPherson can be reached at amacpherson@masshousing.com or 617-854-1130.

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