April 09, 2014

Affordable Housing Preserved for Senior Citizens in East Boston

All 87 apartments will remain affordable for low-income seniors as a result of $8.3 million MassHousing loan closing

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing


BOSTON – Affordability has been preserved and extended for low-income senior citizens living at the 87-unit Victory Gardens in East Boston as a result of an $8.3 million MassHousing loan closing.

Victory Gardens is owned by Victory Gardens Associates, an affiliate of Peabody Properties, Inc. As a condition of the financing, the owner will seek to extend the federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract and the affordability on all 87 apartments when the current HAP contract expires in July 2019.

Victory Gardens was refinanced through MassHousing's Section 8 Proactive Preservation Program, which seeks to extend affordability at MassHousing-financed developments where MassHousing mortgages are due to mature and Section 8 HAP contracts are due to expire. The original MassHousing loan to Victory Gardens will mature in July 2019.

"Affordable housing is a major concern for our senior citizens and this loan closing will extend affordability at Victory Gardens for many years to come," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "Peabody Properties has done a very good job maintaining and managing Victory Gardens for its residents and we are pleased to be partnering with them on this transaction."

Of the 87 apartments, 83 are one-bedroom units and four are two-bedroom units located in a four-story building built in 1979 at 54 Orleans St. in East Boston.

As part of the new financing, a number of renovations are planned for the property including 504/ADA upgrades to common areas, refurbishment of common areas, boiler and emergency generator upgrades and roof and window replacement.

"The refinancing of Victory Gardens was achieved through the collaborative efforts of all parties involved," said Peabody Properties Chief Financial Officer Guy Corricelli. "We extend our appreciation to MassHousing and their commitment and cooperation will ensure the preservation of this important affordable housing community for years to come."

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April 03, 2014

Experts on Hoarding Offer Insight and Strategies to More Than 500 Conference Attendees

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MARLBOROUGH – A host of national experts on the serious disorder of hoarding drew more than 500 attendees to the daylong MassHousing Community Services Department’s annual conference on April 2.

The conference, titled “Using a Team approach to Address Hoarding,” was held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Marlborough and was attended by housing professionals, public health and public safety officials, social workers and mental health professionals, and legal professionals.

The attendees heard presentations from national experts on hoarding including Dr. Michael Tompkins from the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy, Dr. Christiana Bratiotis from the University of Nebraska Omaha, Dr. Gail Steketee, Dean of the Boston University School of Social Work, Dr. Randy O. Frost, Professor of Psychology at Smith College, Lee J. Shuer, Director of Mutual Support Services at ServiceNet, Jesse Edsell-Vetter, Hoarding Intervention Coordinator at the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, and Dr. Jordana Muroff from the BU School of Social Work.

"The fact that this conference drew an overflowing number of attendees speaks to the seriousness of hoarding and the severe impact it can have not only on people who hoard, but their families, neighbors and owners and managers of rental housing," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "By listening to the experts it is quite clear that hoarding has multiple layers of causes and mental health issues and needs a multifaceted, community-based response to treat people who hoard."


From left, Dr. Randy Frost, Dr. Michael Thompkins and MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason

Dr. Tompkins gave the keynote address on how to engage with people who hoard using a "Harm Reduction model of intervention."

"The conference was outstanding in every way," said Tompkins. "The East Coast, and Massachusetts in particular, is fortunate to have so many of the leaders in the field, such as Randy Frost, Gail Steketee, Jordana Muroff, and Christiana Bratiotis. It was wonderful to participate in such a rich mix of researcher, clinician, and other professionals all dedicated to better understanding the nature of hoarding and to devise novel and effective interventions to reach and help more people who suffer with this devastating condition. The attendees in the conference arrived eager to learn and more eager to translate that learning into direct service to their clients. It is inspiring."

Tompkins said Massachusetts is leading the way in addressing the issue of hoarding and how to treat it.

"MassHousing and Massachusetts are national leaders in the effort to reach and respond in novel ways to the broad and pressing needs of people whom hoard," said Tompkins. "The attendees had a far greater understanding of hoarding than attendees at other similar conferences in the United States and this is a testament to the extraordinary work MassHousing has done in the field."

Shuer addressed the conference with his own personal struggle with hoarding that jeopardized his marriage until he sought treatment. He then became Director of Mutual Support Services at ServiceNet, Inc., in Northampton and since 2000 has strived to integrate clinical and peer services to treat people who hoard.

"The conference felt incredibly warm, positive, and energized," he said. "The attendees gave me a lot of feedback that my story gives them strength and hope for themselves and others who struggle with clutter. I felt that the public got to interact with some of the best minds in the field. I think they felt that our approach of Harm Reduction and objective protocols for safety and security are coming from a good place. People seemed excited to go back into the community with renewed optimism and skills."

Dr. Gail Steketee conducts a workshop on Engaging People Who Hoard

The other speakers moderated workshops that focused on community based practices to address hoarding, emergent findings on the hoarding disorder, the role of families in providing help to a hoarder, how to motivate and engage people who hoard and hoarding and in rental housing.

"There was fantastic attendance of 500 people. It clearly shows the need for continuing education about hoarding,” said panelist Thomas A. Stokes, Vice President of Resident Services for Beacon Communities and a longtime member of MassHousing’s Community Services Advisory Committee. "MassHousing is a leader in the country for addressing hoarding in a comprehensive way and has provided more resources than any other state."

"I really enjoyed attending and presenting at the conference," said Dr. Steketee. "The mix of people from every profession was terrifically energizing for all of us and the more than 500 attendees says it all; hoarding is an important problem of great concern to many communities. Massachusetts is ahead of the curve with many communities having effective task forces or communication strategies. MassHousing has done a fabulous job of educating us all."

MassHousing hosted a groundbreaking conference on hoarding in 2007 that led to the formation of the Massachusetts Statewide Steering Committee on Hoarding, which educates statewide stakeholders to the problems of hoarding; engages these stakeholders to work collaboratively to implement practical solutions to hoarding issues, and; supports the efforts of local Hoarding Task Forces throughout the state.

Dr. Bratiotis, who was involved in the 2007 conference, said Massachusetts has implemented many resources to address hoarding and said the attendance at this year’s conference reflected the seriousness of the problem and the great interest by stakeholders in learning how to address it.

"The 2014 conference was an extraordinary success,” she said. "The attendees represented the full range of professional disciplines needed to respond to various aspects of hoarding behavior in the community."

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April 01, 2014

Hoarding Conference Profile: Lee Shuer

MassHousing is hosting a major conference on hoarding tomorrow in Marlborough that will feature a number of nationally renowned experts who will discuss their strategies to better understand and respond effectively to the complex issues related to hoarding in housing.

Lee Shuer
Lee Shuer

Among those experts is Lee Shuer, Director of Mutual Support Services at ServiceNet, Inc., in Northampton. He  is a Certified Peer Specialist, and an Advanced Level WRAP facilitator. He partnered with Dr. Randy Frost to create The Facilitator’s Manual for the Buried in Treasures Workshop. He created WRAP® for Clutter based on Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan®. He authored The Mutual Support Workbook, for training mental health workers.

Shuer has learned to live successfully with his own mental health challenges, and since 2000, has strived to integrate clinical and peer services. He has been featured on ABCNews.com, NBCNews.com, Seoul Broadcasting System, Scientific American, The New York Times, Le Monde de I'ltelligence, Canadian Public Radio, WFCR, P.E.E.R.S. Network Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and through speaking and training engagements across the United States.

Shuer received citations from the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives for developing meaningful employment opportunities for people living with mental health challenges in 2010, and was awarded the Outstanding Advocate award from the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, for raising awareness about peer support and developing self-help groups for people who collect and clutter, in 2013.

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March 31, 2014

Proposed Congressional Reform Bills Have Housing Industry on Alert

By Thomas R. Gleason
Executive Director, MassHousing

Tom Gleason
Tom Gleason

One reform bill proposed in Congress would eliminate two bedrock components of housing finance —private activity bonds and 4% low-income housing tax credits—thereby severely disrupting or even halting affordable housing production and preservation in Massachusetts.

That bill, the Camp Tax Reform (named for House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-MI) is one of three major housing reform proposals that MassHousing is monitoring, with the aid of the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA). The others are the Corker-Warner bill (named for Senators Bob Corker R-TN and Mark Warner D-VA); and the Johnson-Crapo bill (named for Senators Tim Johnson, D-SD and Mike Crapo, R-ID). All three bills propose changes to the so-called GSEs (i.e., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and would affect other affordable housing efforts as well.

The Camp Tax Reform Act, a wide-ranging and voluminous bill that would alter the entire tax structure, was released in February by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. Housing advocates and HFAs like MassHousing are deeply troubled by the bill’s elimination of tax-exempt private activity bonds and the 4% low income tax credit. MassHousing has successfully used both of these tools to finance the preservation of thousands of units of housing throughout the state. The Commonwealth receives approximately $685 million in funds from private activity bonds annually (used for housing, student loans and economic development).

The Corker-Warner bill would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within five years and both this bill and Johnson-Crapo would transfer these functions to a new government "utility" known as the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC). FMIC would be modeled in part after the FDIC. To varying degrees both would provide catastrophic reinsurance behind 10 percent first-loss, private capital.

Johnson-Crapo ensures that community banks and credit unions would have direct access to the secondary market and equitable pricing with larger originators. At the same time, it requires strong underwriting standards that mirror the new, stricter Qualified Mortgage criteria that went into effect this year, with a downpayment requirement of 5% (3.5% for first-time buyers). In a recent edition of its US Public Finance Weekly, Moody's Investors Service found many aspects of Johnson-Crapo would be positive for Housing Finance Agencies.

Based on statements made by Congressional leaders, it seems unlikely that there will be any action during this session on tax reform in general or the Camp bill specifically. Nevertheless, the affordable housing industry and interest groups are in a heightened state of alert. We will continue to monitor all of these proposals closely.   We are also providing the Massachusetts Congressional delegation with information that illustrates the dramatic impact these bills could have on our efforts to produce and preserve affordable housing here in Massachusetts.

While housing reform is important, especially in light of the mortgage and foreclosure crises of the last five years, other well-established programs such as private activity bonds and tax credits have a long history of producing high-quality affordable housing in a very cost effective way.

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MassHousing Announces Two Appointments to its Senior Staff

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing recently announced two appointments to the Agency's senior staff.

Philip Hillman

Philip Hillman has assumed the role of Chief Administrative Officer and oversees MassHousing's Human Resources, Information Technology, Administrative Services and Compliance & Diversity departments as well as vendor management and facilities management responsibilities.

He also oversees the Home Ownership Lending and Mortgage Servicing and Operations business lines.

Deborah Goddard

Deborah Goddard is the Agency's new Managing Director for Policy and Program Development and will focus on housing policy and program development. She will also oversee MassHousing's Chapter 40B team.

"Phil and Deborah bring extensive experience in state government, non-profit operations and housing management and development," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason. "They will play important roles in helping us achieve the goals and objectives of our new strategic plan."

Mr. Hillman is the former Director of the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. Prior to that he worked as the Chief Operating Officer of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, where he has also been a longtime member of its Board of Directors and served as Board Chair. Before that, he worked for many years in the private sector, serving as the Division Vice President for Health, Safety and Environment for the Polaroid Corporation. He has a BS in Chemistry from Roosevelt University and an MBA from Boston University.

Ms. Goddard was General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for nearly seven years. She has previously served as the Director of Community Development Planning for Urban Edge in Boston and Director of Real Estate Development and Director of Design and Development for the Boston Housing Authority. She also held positions at Boston's Public Facilities Department (now the Department of Neighborhood Development) and the Archdiocese of Boston's Planning Office for Urban Affairs (POUA). Goddard received a BA from Wheaton College, where she majored in Urban Government and minored in Urban Economics. She obtained her J.D. from Boston College Law School.

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MassHousing Mortgage Insurance Fund Enters into Reinsurance Agreement

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

MassHousing's Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF) has entered into an agreement with an internationally recognized reinsurance brokerage firm that will increase by ten fold the MIF's capacity to insure non-MassHousing loans for community banks in Massachusetts.

MassHousing is partnering with Willis Re of New York, which will serve as the master servicer for two property and casualty insurance companies—Partners Re and Everest Re—which will serve as co-reinsurers.

As part of the 90/10 quota share of the reinsurance agreement, MassHousing will retain 10% of the risk and gross insurance premium and cede 90% of the risk and gross insurance premium to the co-reinsurers.

This agreement will allow MassHousing to offer new insured loan programs in addition to providing for all of the mortgage insurance needs of MassHousing for the foreseeable future.

"During the mortgage crisis MassHousing was able to help many homebuyers and homeowners secure safe and affordable home financing because the Agency had its own insurance fund. These new reinsurance agreements will enable MassHousing to not only meet but expand our insurance activity in the months and years ahead. This will be of critical value to Massachusetts homebuyers and mortgage lenders during what is seen as an uncertain time for mortgage lending, housing and affordable homeownership," said Peter Milewski, Director of Homeownership Lending and the Mortgage Insurance Fund.

MassHousing's MIF was created in 1987 and since its inception the MIF has insured more than 23,000 mortgages totaling $3.95 billion in insured loan amounts. The MIF currently has insurance in force on 8,500 mortgages and $1.55 billion in current insurance in force.

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Minority, Women Businesses Success

Minority- and women-owned businesses have been awarded nearly $84 million in contracts at MassHousing rental housing developments thus far in FY 2014, thanks to the Agency’s longstanding commitment to providing equal access to the economic opportunities created by the housing we finance and oversee.

MassHousing works with rental housing developers, owners and managers to set and achieve goals for minority and women business utilization. It is because of the shared commitment of MassHousing and our rental business partners that we’ve been able to achieve such strong results.

There are currently 11 active construction projects that received a total of $279.3 million in MassHousing financing. Of this, $40.8 million (14.6%) was awarded to minority-owned businesses and $16.3 million (5.8%) to women-owned businesses. Existing MassHousing rental communities awarded a total of $97.5 million in contracts for goods and services; $18.5 million (19%) was awarded to minority businesses and $8.3 million (8.5%) to women businesses.

Thanks to our rental business partners for their efforts in working with minority- and women-owned businesses.

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HomeOwnership Portfolio Continues to Grow

By Deepak Karamcheti
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

As of January 2014 MassHousing’s HomeOwnership portfolio stood at 21,330 loans with a balance of $3.51 billion, the 23rd consecutive month in which the portfolio has achieved a record high. The January figures represent a monthly increase of 139 loans and $29 million, and a year-to-date increase of 1,376 loans and $345 million.

Unlike many lenders, who sell the loan servicing rights of their loans, MassHousing services all of its mortgage loans in-house. The efforts of our HomeOwnership Asset Management group allow us to identify problems early and work with borrowers on a resolution. MassHousing's delinquency and foreclosure rates are consistently below market averages. Our January delinquency ratio was at an eight-month low, and our December 2013 foreclosure ratio was less than half of what it was a year earlier.

Our HomeOwnership Asset Management performance is a point of pride for MassHousing, and is an often overlooked but vital component of our success.

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Hoarding Conference Profile: Dr. Randy Frost

MassHousing is hosting a major conference on hoarding on Wednesday, April 2, in Marlborough, that will feature a number of nationally renowned experts who will discuss their strategies to better understand and respond effectively to the complex issues related to hoarding in housing.

Randy Frost

Among those experts is Dr. Randy O. Frost, who is currently the Harold and Elsa Siipola Israel Professor of Psychology at Smith College.

Dr. Frost is an internationally recognized expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding disorder and has published more than 160 scientific articles, books, and book chapters on these topics. Dr. Frost serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the International OCD Foundation, and with Dr. Gail Steketee, co-edits the Hoarding Center on the IOCDF website.

He has co-authored several books on hoarding including Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding (with Drs. David Tolin and Gail Steketee and published by Oxford University Press). Buried in Treasures received a Self-Help Book of Merit Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy in 2010.

He has also published the Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring Therapist Guide and client Workbook, also through Oxford University Press. Second editions of all three of these books were published in 2013. His best-selling book, Stuff: Compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things (with Gail Steketee), was published by Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt in 2010 and was a finalist for the 2010 Books for a Better Life Award. Stuff was also a New York Times Bestseller and named a Must Read Book for 2011 by Massachusetts Book Awards. Stuff has been translated into four languages.

His newest work, The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring, was published in December of 2013. His work has been funded by the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Frost is one of the original members of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium and has served as consultant to numerous communities in setting up task forces to deal with the problem of hoarding. In 2012 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in innovation, treatment, and research in the field of hoarding and cluttering by the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. In 2013 he received a Career Achievement Award from the International OCD Foundation for his work on hoarding. He has given hundreds of talks on hoarding and numerous workshops for clinicians, public health, housing, and aging professionals, and people suffering from hoarding problems.

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MassHousing's David Keene to Serve on Institute for Responsible Housing Preservation Board of Directors

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

David Keene MassHousing
David Keene

David Keene, MassHousing's Chief Preservation Officer has been named to the Board of Directors for the Institute for Responsible Housing Preservation (IRHP). Keene will provide the IRHP with expertise in the financing and preservation of HUD-assisted housing.

The IRHP is a national affordable housing trade association that represents the interests of owners and managers of HUD-insured and assisted projects. Since 1989, IRHP "has been a leading advocate of affordable housing preservation issues, including Section 8 project-based assistance, enhanced vouchers, mark to market restructuring and over time has expanded its mission to include educational seminars on multifamily housing preservation issues," said IRHP Executive Director Linda D. Kirk.

Kirk noted that Keene is the first IRHP board member to come from a governmental agency.

"David brings a unique and welcome perspective to our board," said Kirk. "Your long term involvement and that of MassHousing, in the financing of affordable housing properties and your priority to preserve the aging HUD portfolio is valuable to our membership."

Keene has been at MassHousing for 28 years. During that time, he has overseen more than $1 billion in refinancing for rental housing, tax credit recapitalizations and other loan transactions, as well as more than $500 million in annual Section 8 subsidies. He has developed several national award-winning programs, including those for Section 8 Proactive Preservation, Section 202 refinancing, Preservation Vouchers for state-assisted housing, Section 8 restructurings, and Expiring Use Friendly Prepayments.

"David is a nationally recognized expert in state and federal programs involving subsidized rental housing and the financing of affordable housing," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "The IRHP has made an excellent choice in inviting David to its Board of Directors and his expertise and experience will benefit thousands of people across the country who rely on low and moderate-income housing."

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