September 19, 2014

MassHousing and Metro Credit Announce 'At Home in Lawrence' Mortgage Program

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing


From left, Metro Cedit Union Mortgage Originator Francisco Espaillat; Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera; Metro Credit Union CEO Robert Cashman: MassHousing Chief Administrative Officer Phil Hillman; MassHousing Home Ownership Relationship Manager Mounzer Aylouche.

LAWRENCE – MassHousing and Metro Credit Union, in partnership with the City of Lawrence, have announced the 'At Home in Lawrence' mortgage loan program for the low- and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners who want to purchase or refinance their properties and include the cost of repairs and property upgrades into the financing.

Insured by MassHousing and financed by Metro Credit Union, the program offers expanded loan to values and less restrictive reserve and credit requirements for low- and moderate-income borrowers.

The Lawrence Community Development Department will oversee the management of At Home in Lawrence. In addition to providing financing for home purchases, Lawrence residents will be able to obtain financing to cover the costs of alterations, renovations, additions, accessibility improvements and repairs to their homes. This will help revitalize properties within the city.

"The At Home in Lawrence Program creates an appealing option for potential homebuyers within and outside of Lawrence," said Mayor Daniel Rivera. "We continue with our promise of finding ways to create cheaper mortgages and help improve the livability, safety or utility of our existing home properties. This is not only in the best interests of the city, but also for existing homeowners who take pride in being part of the Lawrence community."

MassHousing's Mortgage Insurance Fund will provide mortgage insurance for loans provided by Metro Credit Union, including MassHousing's MIPlus product that will pay a borrower's principal and interest payment for up to six months in the event they become unemployed.

"Providing more homeownership opportunities to residents of Lawrence takes a cooperative effort between the city and public, private and non-profit partners, and that is what has been established with the creation of At Home in Lawrence. Lower and moderate-income borrowers now have one combined resource for city programs, homebuyer education and mortgage financing to help qualified homebuyers purchase homes and help homeowners renovate their homes and revitalize their neighborhoods," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason.

Metro Credit Union President and CEO Robert Cashman said MCU is making a concerted effort with MassHousing to increase homeownership opportunities in Lawrence.

"Our relationship with MassHousing shares many common goals. One of the strongest is to give affordable lending options to residents in our communities and help them achieve their own financial goals,” said Cashman. "The At Home in Lawrence Program further enables Metro to expand efforts regarding property revitalization and home ownership growth in the City of Lawrence."

Metro Credit Union is the largest state-charted credit union in Massachusetts and has 15 branches in Massachusetts.

Bookmark and Share

September 04, 2014

'MassHousing Minute' Back on WBZ

A new series of 'MassHousing Minute' promotions is now airing on WBZ radio, 1030 AM.

This is the second set of MassHousing Minutes to air on WBZ. The one-minute spots cover various homebuying topics, promote responsible homebuying and sustainable homeownership, and raise awareness of MassHousing’s affordable homeownership programs. In each 60-second spot, MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason is joined by a homeownership business partner; the latest series features Peter Ruffini from the Massachusetts Assosiation of Realtors; Normand Grenier of NeighborWorks of Southern Massachusetts; and Jim Purtell of Mortgage Financial, Inc.

Listen to the new and previous installments of the MassHousing Minute.

Bookmark and Share

August 25, 2014

MassHousing Staff Notes, August 2014

Steve Vickery has joined MassHousing as Comptroller and will be responsible for all accounting functions and services as well as the Agency's financial controls. Steve has many years of experience in the financial services and commercial lending industries, most recently as the Chief Accounting Officer of CW Financial Services. Previously, Steve worked for Potomac Realty Capital, Deutsche Bank Berkshire Mortgage, and The Berkshire Group.

Ron Marlow has joined MassHousing as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion and assumes responsibility for the Agency's diversity and inclusion programs including those stemming from the construction and ongoing management of the affordable rental developments in MassHousing's portfolio. Ron previously served as the Assistant Secretary for Access and Opportunity at the Executive Office for Administration. Ron has also previously held positions with the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation and the Boston Housing Authority.

David Keene, MassHousing's Chief Preservation Officer for rental housing has been elected Vice President of the National Leased Housing Association's (NHLA) Board of Directors. The NLHA was formed in 1972 to represent the interests of both public and private sector organizations involved in federally assisted rental housing programs. NLHA's current focus includes preservation of the Section 8 inventory; reinforcing the essential role of PHAs in administering the voucher program; promoting the vital role of assisted housing managers; expanding development using the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit; and supporting other current development programs including the Project-Based Voucher program.

Thaddeus Miles, MassHousing's Director of Public Safety, was honored as one of five "Visonary Leaders" by the Tenants' Development Corporation, a property management and development organization in Boston's Historic South End.  TDC works to increase the number of affordable housing units available for low to moderate income individuals and families and to provide programs, events and services offered to the TDC residents, neighbors and the community.

"We honor Thaddeus Miles, who represents the future of housing and services for residents, especially our young residents," said Arnesse Brown, Corporate Relations Manager for TDC. "He works tirelessly to make sure that our kids have the tools and resources they need to succeed in today's world and ensuring that they live in a safe and vibrant community."

Bookmark and Share

Top loan originators talk about responsible lending, the benefits of a MassHousing loan and their advice to first-time homebuyers

By Eric Gedstad
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing recently honored its two top-producing loan originators of first mortgages. In 2013 Lisa Mish of Hampden Bank originated 42 MassHousing loans for $6 million in financing, while Penny Hamel from Salem Five Mortgage originated 41 MassHousing loans for $7.8 million.

"We are fortunate to have so many lending professionals as our partners," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "But Lisa and Penny really stood out last year from all the rest for their dedication to helping their customers obtain a loan they could truly afford for the long-term."

We asked both Lisa and Penny how long they had been loan originators and how long they have been originating MassHousing loans. We also queried them about why they like their jobs and asked them to pass along their most valuable insight to someone who is preparing to purchase their first home.


Lisa Mish with MassHousing's Tom Gleason

Lisa Mish of Hampden Bank—which has branches in Agawam, Indian Orchard, Longmeadow, Springfield, West Springfield and Wilbraham—has been a loan officer since 2003 and started offering MassHousing loans when she went to work for Hampden Bank in 2009.

"I recommend MassHousing because closing costs are lower and MassHousing allows for a low down payment as well as the low PMI premium and the protection that their PMI offers," said Lisa. "The affordable rates are an added plus, as is the fact that the loan is serviced by MassHousing and not sold to other lenders."

Lisa exudes enthusiasm for her job and speaks of the empowerment that comes from owning a home. "I love my job, I love seeing people excited to buy their first home," she said. "I especially enjoy helping single parents achieve homeownership, and I love seeing the pride that people who used to live in subsidized rental housing have when they buy their own home."

Lisa's advice to homebuyers is to make sure you shop for the right mortgage. "Don't believe everything a friend may tell you about how they obtained their loan, because all scenarios are different," she said. "Buying a home may be a stressful process but it is a rewarding one," Lisa added. "Don't ever lose hope that you will someday own a home if you work at it."


Penny Hamel with MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason

Penny Hamel of Salem Five—which has branches in numerous locations north and west of Boston—has been a loan officer providing MassHousing loans since 2002.

Penny says there are several reasons she recommends MassHousing loans to qualified customers. "I like that there are no adjustors to rate for property type and credit score," Penny said. "I also think the insurance that comes with the PMI if they get laid off or are out of work for a temporary medical issue is a great feature for buyers. It provides security that conventional and FHA loans don't offer."

Penny enjoys her job because it allows her to help families put down roots and reinforces a sense of place. "I like helping people find the stability that comes from having a home for their family," she said. "It makes a huge difference to their kids to be able to grow up in a house that they can call their own and to not have to worry about changing schools because their landlord decided to sell the house they lived in."

Penny's advice to first-time homebuyers today? "Take the first-time home buyer class before you even start to look at homes and be realistic," she said. "Don't try to purchase the absolute max you can afford. It's ok to live in a smaller home and be comfortable with the payment and move up later. I tell everyone that what's most important is not the amount they can get pre-approved for, rather the important thing is that they are comfortable with the payment each month."

Bookmark and Share

Multifamily owners to benefit from competitive MassHousing refinance loan product

Approval as Ginnie Mae seller/servicer; partnership with CBRE and Rockport Mortgage will help to preserve developments with expiring mortgages

By Eric Gedstad
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing is pleased to announce that it is now offering developers and owners of multifamily rental properties a new, more competitive loan product.

"We are pleased that we can now offer the industry's most competitive refinance product—HUD's 223f mortgage," said MassHousing's Deputy Director Tim Sullivan. "We have recently obtained approval as a Ginnie Mae seller-servicer which, when combined with the MAP or Multifamily Accelerated Processing program from HUD, yields the lowest rates possible."

The new program should be attractive to owners of hundreds of privately-owned, subsidized apartment communities in Massachusetts who have mortgages that are nearing the end of their term. "The ability to offer the lower rates—along with the Ginnie Mae 'wrap' which assures the timely payment of principal and interest with a U.S. Government guarantee—will help MassHousing to offer incentives that will result in owners continuing to offer long-term affordable rents to low-income residents," said Sergio Ferreira, MassHousing's Director of Rental Operations and a key architect of the new lending platform.

In order to provide the best customer service for borrowers, MassHousing has partnered with two private lenders who have a long track record of success in MAP/Ginnie Mae multifamily lending: CBRE and Rockport Mortgage. These two well-known companies will serve as the MAP underwriter, allowing the program to ramp up quickly. As transactions are assigned, CBRE and Rockport Mortgage will process each MAP loan through to HUD commitment and then assign it to MassHousing at the closing. MassHousing will continue to be the mortgagee-of-record and loan servicer. This will also ensure that affordability is preserved at these affordable developments.

CBRE is not only the largest GSE lender in the country but also one of the largest in FHA lending as well. "CBRE is delighted to be working with MassHousing on the preservation of affordable housing in Massachusetts," said John Kelly, First Vice President for CBRE. "Our local expertise within the multifamily market combined with our national FHA lending platform is a big benefit to our clients. We have been successful in growing our FHA business in New England through efficiently processing transactions as a MAP approved FHA Lender on behalf of our clients," Kelley added.

In Rockport Mortgage, MassHousing has access to a premier FHA platform. FHA lending is the sole focus of the company and they are particularly strong in New England, accounting for almost two-thirds of the FHA Production each year in HUD's Boston HUB. "My fellow Managing Partners, Dan Lyons, Eric Lubershane and I, are very pleased that MassHousing has chosen Rockport Mortgage as one of the two MAP Underwriters to process their portfolio loans for refinancing under the HUD 223 F program," said Joe Mueller, Managing Partner of Rockport Mortgage. "We too believe this is a win–win situation for all project owners involved," he added.

"We are enthusiastic to be able to offer a more competitive product," said Tom Gleason, MassHousing's Executive Director. "We have been listening to developers and owners and are responding to what they say they need to continue to provide and preserve affordable rental housing."

Owners and developers seeking more information can contact MassHousing's Director of Rental Lending Monte Stanford at 617-854-1364 or Chief Underwriter & Acting Director of Rental Operations Sergio Ferreira at 617-854-1111.

Bookmark and Share

Abrams Development Company to use $9.2 Million from MassHousing to renovate and preserve affordability at Lionhead Apartments in Dorchester

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing


The long-term affordability of the low-income units at the 71-unit Lionhead Apartments in Dorchester will be preserved and substantial improvements will be made to the property with the closing of $9.2 million in MassHousing loans to The Abrams Development Company LLC.

Originally built in the late 19th Century as apartment hotels, The Lionhead Apartments were first converted to affordable rental housing in 1971, also using a loan from MassHousing.  The development consists of two separate buildings at 713 Dudley St. and 3 Monadnock St. in Dorchester.

"Fully amortizing the original MassHousing first mortgage was an exciting milestone and we are pleased to continue our relationship with the Agency for another 40 years," said Martha Abrams-Bell, a principal of The Abrams Development Company. "We enjoyed a productive working relationship with MassHousing throughout the development process and the staff did a great job of meeting our joint closing deadline."

MassHousing provided a $7.125 million construction and permanent loan and a $2.199 million bridge loan.

As a condition of the financing, the owner has executed a 20-year extension to the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract. Overall, affordability has been extended for 30 years as a condition of the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the sale of which generated nearly $6 million in equity for the acquisition and renovation of the property.

"The Lionhead Apartments have been a good source of affordable housing for the residents who live there and they will continue to be with these loan closings," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "The property is also in need of some renovations and the owner will be able to do that as well."

The Lionhead Apartments include 22 one-bedroom apartments and 49 two-bedroom apartments. Planned improvements include repointing of masonry, replacing of roof membranes and skylights, flooring replacement in apartments and common areas, water and waste pipe replacement, HVAC repairs and energy improvements, fire suppression upgrades to the apartments and replacement of appliances in the apartments. In addition, there will be asbestos abatement and upgrades to bring common areas into compliance with current accessibility standards.

Bookmark and Share

Quality, Quality, Quality

By Peter Milewski
Director of Home Ownership Lending, MassHousing

Recently, MassHousing successfully completed its second annual Fannie Mae Mortgage Origination Risk Assessment (MORA) audit. The successful audit was the result of hard work by everyone involved in originating, underwriting, closing and delivering loans to MassHousing.

A lesson learned from this process is that our industry has changed significantly. Those of us who learned to underwrite mortgages based on the "Four C's" of character capacity, collateral and credit—and the decision-making philosophy of "Can they pay? Will they pay? And Can you make them pay?"—are dinosaurs. There is preciseness to the "science" of loan underwriting that now requires a totally new mental approach and skill set. No detail is too small. No document can be disregarded. Calculations of income and debt ratios must be checked and rechecked and evidence supporting the numbers must be present. There can be no inconsistencies between data entry in DU/DO, the 1003, the 1008 and the support documentation.

The days of accepting appraisals without a strenuous review of the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report are over. Lenders are now responsible for the quality of our appraisers work and we need to take steps to insure completeness, accuracy and consistency. If the appraiser gets lazy, takes shortcuts and doesn't check the integrity of their data, it is on us. We also again must make sure that data entered into DU/DO, UCDP, the 1004, and the legal descriptions of the property in closing documents are totally in line.

In my heart I would like to believe that one day the pendulum will swing back and there will be a restoration of old-school lending philosophies. However, intellectually I know that is unlikely.

Thanks to all our lenders who have worked with us through this challenging transition period for the industry. We promise you that we will be a source of valuable consulting service on risk management, regulatory compliance and quality control. It is amazing to look back and see how far we have come. It is also important to remember that there will always be a need to improve. Yet, working together, we can continue to serve low- and moderate-income families wishing to achieve and maintain the dream of homeownership.

Bookmark and Share

August 22, 2014

Ground Broken for Worcester Loomworks

MassHousing Financing Helping to Create 94 New Affordable Apartments

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

WORCESTER – Construction is underway at the Worcester Loomworks where a vacant, blighted factory building is being converted into 94 new affordable apartments for families in Worcester's Main South neighborhood.

The Worcester Loomworks is being developed in two phases by The Community Builders (TCB) of Boston with a total development cost of $27 million.

MassHousing is providing approximately $17 million in financing for the project. The Agency recently closed on a $5.5 million tax-exempt bridge loan and a $1.3 million tax-exempt construction-permanent loan for Phase I, which involves the construction of 39 new apartments. Phase I also received $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing administers on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

MassHousing also closed on a $9.3 million taxable bridge loan and a $1.1 million taxable construction-permanent loan for Phase II, which involves the construction of 55 new apartments.


A rendering of Worcester Loomworks

Located on a 1.7-acre site at 93 Grand St. in the Main South neighborhood near Clark University, TCB purchased the five-building property from the Main South Community Development Corporation and will demolish three unusable portions of the mill and redevelop the property in a 94-unit apartment community.

"The Worcester Loomworks is an important project for the Main South neighborhood of the city," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "A once blighted and abandoned mill is going to be transformed into a vibrant housing community for low-income residents and some families with special needs."

The 39 apartments in Phase I will consist of 19 one-bedroom apartments, 17 two-bedroom apartments and 3 three-bedroom apartments. Four of the apartments will be set aside for households with special needs.

The 55 apartments in Phase II will consist of 32 one-bedroom apartments and 23 two-bedroom apartments. Four of the apartments will be set aside for households with special needs.

"The Community Builders is proud to deepen our long-time commitment to the City of Worcester with the redevelopment of the Loomworks site," said Bart Mitchell, TCB president and CEO. "Worcester Loomworks will provide quality affordable housing for dozens of families and bring good construction jobs to the area."

Site construction is already underway and is expected to employ 175 to 200 area workers in a variety of construction trades. The development will be constructed to LEED® green building standards and will provide vital access to transportation and jobs.

The project is also receiving financing from the sale of state and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, DHCD and the city of Worcester.

"There is a critical need for affordable housing in the region. This collaborative effort not only helps to address this need but also redevelops a vacant brick mill building, spurring the local economy in the process," said U.S. Representative Jim McGovern. "I am extremely happy that the federal government could be a partner in this important project."

"We are proud to fund this important development that will rehabilitate a vacant building providing the residents of Worcester with more affordable housing options," said DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein. "This Loomworks project plays an important role in the Administration's efforts to revitalize Worcester's neighborhoods."

The Worcester Loomworks development rehabilitates a long-vacant historic building constructed in 1905 as the Main Office Building of the Crompton and Knowles Loom Works, one of the largest manufacturers of heavy textile machinery in the country during the early-to-mid 20th century and is particularly significant as it is representative of the company's 20th century growth and expansion. The historic rehabilitation is slated for completion in the summer of 2015.

"This project will put a vacant building to its best use in a neighborhood ripe for revitalization," said Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus. "I want to thank The Community Builders, who continue to be a tremendous partner for the city of Worcester."

The contractor is Dellbrook Construction and the architect is The Architectural Team. The management agent will be TCB.

(Some information for this story was provided by TCB.)

Bookmark and Share

Fiscal year 2014 was MassHousing's second-best ever

Fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, 2014 was the second-best ever in terms of the amount of financial resources provided by MassHousing. The Agency provided a total of $985.2 million for affordable home ownership mortgage loans and loans to create or preserve affordable rental housing.

Highlights of the year included:

"Were it not for an extraordinary year last year when we provided over a billion dollars, fiscal year 2014 would have been our best ever by a fairly wide margin," said Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "Demand for our affordable home mortgage loans remained strong, but a major difference between this past year and the year before was a lower demand by homeowners for refinancing loans."

Gleason noted the collaborative nature of MassHousing’s work. "I'd like to thank the MassHousing Board for their strong support, and also our partner lenders on the home ownership side as well as the developers, owners and property managers on the rental lending side," he said. "In addition there are a host of contractors, subcontractors, attorneys, non-profits, architects, bond underwriters, investors and others too numerous to mention, without whom we could not deliver on our public mission to finance affordable housing in the Commonwealth."

Bookmark and Share

July 24, 2014

MassHousing Helping to Promote Homeownership in New Bedford

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

NEW BEDFORD – The before and after photos of 217 Cottage Street are striking.

Before the formerly vacant home was reclaimed and renovated, it was overgrown with vegetation and its clapboard siding and roof were in serious disrepair. The inside of the four-bedroom dwelling was even worse, with trash strewn about and the walls and floors seriously decayed.


Before and after photos of 217 Cottage Street in New Bedford

But what was once an eyesore on the Cottage Street neighborhood is now a gleaming, completely refurbished new home for a first-time homebuyer as a result of a partnership between the city of New Bedford, the Massachusetts Attorney General, MassHousing, the New Bedford/Fall River Housing Partnership, and the non-profit The Resource Inc. (TRI).

"This house has been abandoned for more than four years and if you have seen the before and after pictures you know there has been a little bit of a miracle that has taken place," said Attorney General Martha Coakley. "Some lucky family is going to be able to move into this home and what's wonderful about that is not just for that family but for this neighborhood."

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Massachusetts
Attorney General Martha Coakley

When the elderly woman who last owned the home passed away with no will and no apparent heirs, the property soon fell into disrepair and became abandoned. It was reclaimed through the Attorney General's Receivership Program and the city's Office of Housing and Community Development.

The home was purchased and rehabbed by the non-profit TRI and TRI is now accepting applications from first-time buyers who will be entered into a lottery with the winner getting the chance to buy the home at the discounted price of $167,500.

Renovations included new roofing and siding, insulation, energy efficient windows, a new kitchen and two new bathrooms with energy efficient appliances and fixtures and a new energy efficient heating system.

The potential buyers are being pre-approved by local lenders through MassHousing and the New Bedford/Fall River Housing Partnership's Buy New Bedford Program. To date, the Attorney General's Receivership Program has been involved in nearly 50 abandoned or distressed properties in New Bedford with eight having a receiver appointed to rehabilitate the property and in many other cases the AG's involvement has spurred banks or owners to make necessary repairs.

"Getting foreclosed and abandoned properties back in shape for new homebuyers is critical for neighborhoods across Massachusetts,' said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "It takes a collaborative effort like you see here with 217 Cottage St. We're very pleased to be able to provide mortgage financing for these new homebuyers. By partnering with the Attorney General, the city of New Bedford, the New Bedford/Fall River Housing Partnership and TRI, we can restore these properties and revitalize neighborhoods."


MassHousing Home Ownership Business Development Officers Goretti Joaquim and Angelo Nuby

The rehabilitation of 217 Cottage St. was particularly satisfying for New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who lives in the neighborhood and drove by the blighted home every day.

"It has been eyesore for a long time," he said. "Somebody will be the lucky owner of this place. More than anything else the Receivership Program is a response to the foreclosure crisis we had in 2008 all across America that played out in neighborhoods like this one where abandonment and foreclosure have had enormous ripple effects. This is a very cost effective use of public funds, both city and state, and private funds, that will allow this neighborhood to rejuvenate."

Bookmark and Share