June 24, 2015

Three area developers make case for "greening" affordable housing

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Panelists discuss green affordable housing

With environmental sustainability and green building techniques gaining in importance, three developers shared their success stories at the second in a series of MassHousing-led panel discussions.

"Case Studies in Energy and Water Conservation: The New Normal to the Outer Limits" was held on June 11 at MassHousing.  Ed Connelly of New Ecology, Inc. moderated the discussion among Beverly Craig of Homeowner's Rehab, Hank Keating of Trinity Financial and Courtney Koslow of Beacon Communities.

The panelists all agreed that two things—operating savings that are realized in "green" projects and requirements imposed by funders—are critical in pushing a sustainability agenda. They also acknowledged some tension between funder requirements and cost caps, but agreed with Hank Keating's assertion that the incremental costs associated with sustainability measures are not steep.

Moreover, operating cost savings can be significant. Beverly Craig noted that in HRI's Pine Street gut rehab project, which meets LEED for Homes Platinum standards, HRI has achieved a 69% reduction in natural gas usage. Likewise, Courtney Koslow noted that gas usage at Beacon's Old Colony redevelopment in Boston has been cut by 75%.

Trinity's Fairfax Gardens development in Taunton, a HOPE VI redevelopment, strove to meet passive house standards and while not quite reaching them, has achieved energy savings that significantly exceed the norms for LEED Gold developments.

Much more information from the discussion can be found in the PowerPoint presentations here.

MassHousing's next Green Corner panel discussion in September will cover "lessons learned."

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Former convent now provides sober living for 25 men

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A recent commitment of $75,000 from MassHousing has helped to transform a former convent and orphanage into a sober living community for men in the western Massachusetts city of Holyoke.

The Providence Ministries and Sisters of Providence recently celebrated the opening of McCleary Manor for men trying to overcome alcohol and drug addiction. McCleary Manor was built in 1907 as a convent and later became the Brightside Orphanage.

The funding is 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 has awarded more than $7.8 million for approximately 1,700 units of substance-free housing in more than 40 communities for men, women, families, veterans, the homeless and ex-offenders.

Read local newspaper coverage or view local TV coverage.

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MassHousing, City of Boston team up for Father's Day walk in Boston

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Despite heavy rain, approximately 100 people turned out for the inaugural Father's Day Walk for Families in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston on Sunday June 21. MassHousing was pleased to partner with the City of Boston and the Boston Police Department (BPD) to sponsor the two-mile walk that traversed Seaver Street and Humboldt Avenue.

Much like the successful annual Mother's Day Walk, the Father's Day Walk will be an annual event.

Thaddeus Miles, MassHousing's Director of Public Safety worked closely with the BPD special events team along with the Mayor's office of special events to organize the walk.

"As part of the City of Boston's My Brother's Keeper Advisory Board and public safety committee I've come to believe it's extremely important to acknowledge the uplifting work men in Boston are doing every day," said Miles.

"We have set out to change the narrative and image of men or color," Miles noted.  "While sitting with Boston Police Commissioner Evans we discussed having a Father's Day walk and the impact it would have in the community. He asked if MassHousing would consider joining the planning and implementation of the event. Of course I said yes."

You can read the Boston Globe story about the walk and view the story that aired on New England Cable News (NECN).

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Celebrating 25 Years of mentoring elementary school students

MassHousing recently held its 25th Year-End Awards Ceremony for fifth-grade students involved in the S.T.A.R.R. Mentor Program.

The Striving Toward Academic Recognition and Respect Mentor (STARR) Program involves MassHousing staff mentoring students at the Martin Luther King K-8 School in Dorchester.

Some mentors work in the classroom with the students once a week to help develop mathematics and reading skills, while others donate time on weekends to take the students on educational field trips and other fun-filled activities.

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STARR Mentor Program graduates

Thirteen MLK School students received academic and leadership awards at this year’s ceremony. Special guests included S.T.A.R.R. alumni students graduating from MLK's eighth grade this year, Principal Khita Pottinger and other MLK staff.

The program's keynote speaker was Jason Cross, an educator, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. Cross captivated students and adults with his speech entitled, "Positioned for Greatness."

STARR Mentor Speaker Jason CrossGuest speaker Jason Cross advised students how to be "positioned for greatness"

MassHousing-STARR-MentorsMassHousing staff who serve as STARR Mentors

MassHousing’s S.T.A.R.R. mentors this year were Carmen Beato, Norman Brown, Charlene Hollins, Mike Kilgannon, Katrina Holman, Kathy Moore, Mildred Mukasa, Richard Nicks, George Ovins, Jennifer Rajala, Kamar Calixte, Colleen Doyle, James Fortune, Tom Johnston, Monte Stanford and Carl Richardson.

"The long-standing success of this program is the result of the unwavering commitment of the mentors" said Patricia Weems, MassHousing’s Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Programs, who coordinates the program.

"We work as a dedicated group of mentors because we share the belief that each student has the potential to achieve your best," Weems told the students.

 



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New guidance for management companies opening previously closed waitlists

MassHousing recently modified its Tenant Selection Plan to ensure fair and open access to waiting lists for affordable housing units that are in particularly high demand.

Project-based Section 8 units and other units with deep subsidies are often in the highest demand and generate the longest waiting lists. When demand is very high, property managers may close the waiting list once they have so many applicants that the wait "excessive" (typically a year or more).

When those waiting lists are re-opened to new applicants, they are typically opened on a first-come, first-served basis. Such a process can disfavor disabled applicants. The impact is magnified by short application periods and requirements that applications must be picked up and/or dropped off in person at the management office during business hours. These practices may violate federal fair housing requirements.

MassHousing's new Tenant Selection Plan provides for the following practices when opening closed waiting lists:

  • A public notice announcing the reopening of the list, the application deadline and the selection process must be placed in area publications and as otherwise required in the development's Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan.
  • Applications must be available at wheelchair-accessible, public locations, including at least one that has night hours (such as a public library).
  • Applicants may not be required to appear in person to receive or submit applications.
  • Applications must be available online if practicable, and by mail, fax or email upon request.
  • An extended application period is required.
  • A lottery or other random selection process must be used to order applicants on waiting lists.

These practices are consistent with DHCD guidelines, and with a recent HUD notice clarifying the consistency of these equitable procedures with the occupancy handbook applicable to HUD-financed and HUD-subsidized multifamily developments.

The MassHousing notice sent to multifamily owners and management agents on June 1, 2015 includes a Modification to Tenant Selection Plan form that must be completed by owners and/or managers of existing developments financed by MassHousing. Other multifamily developments receiving project-based section 8 rental subsidy are also encouraged to implement similar changes.

MassHousing will offer a meeting and presentation later this summer to provide more information. Property managers should contact their MassHousing Asset Manager with any questions about the new Tenant Selection Plan or the process for re-opening a waiting list.

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MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason receives Leadership Award from Lawyers Clearinghouse

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Larry Curtis of WinnDevelopment presents the Leadership Award to Tom Gleason

Earlier this month Lawyers Clearinghouse, a non-profit that provides pro-bono legal services, presented its annual Leadership Award to MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason in recognition of his many years of service in affordable housing.

Gleason, who has been MassHousing's Executive Director since 2001, was honored during the organization's 27th annual meeting.

"Tom's commitment to affordable housing in the Commonwealth has changed lives and has helped make Massachusetts a leader in the creation and preservation of affordable housing in the country," said Lawyers Clearinghouse Executive Director Maribeth Perry.

Gleason is a career housing professional with more than 37 years of experience in mortgage lending, community development and bond finance. He sits on a number of housing boards and is currently the President of the Board of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

"Thank you for giving me this honor; I am humbled to be included among the terrific group of past honorees," said Gleason. "I have learned the affordable housing business from some of you, practiced the trade of affordable housing with all of you, and I hope I have been a mentor to a few of you."

Tom Gleason Lawyers Clearinghouse Speech 1Tom Gleason speaks at the 27th Annual Meeting of Lawyers Clearinghouse
(Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Guarracino, Boston Bar Association)

Rep. Kevin G. Honan, the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing was the keynote speaker. "The impact that Tom Gleason has on housing and development in our Commonwealth is extraordinary,'' Honan said. "Tom has committed his life's work to making sure that working men and women have affordable places to live. Even in hard economic times, and in the face of major obstacles like reduced federal funding and reduced access to credit for minority communities, Tom and his team have moved our Commonwealth forward.''

The Lawyers Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness was founded in 1988 by the Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Bar Association. It grew out of a common belief that through an organized broad based program, the pro bono resources of the private bar could be used to fight homelessness.

MassHousing attorneys Karen Kelleher, Tom Perry, Beth Elliott and Jill Lavacchia have volunteered their time to help people in need of free legal services through the Lawyers Clearinghouse.

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$6.9 Million from MassHousing spurs improvements, extends affordability for 82-unit Power Town Apartments in Montague

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

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The Village of Turners Falls in the town of Montague was once known as "Power Town" for its hydropower generated by harnessing the rapids of the Connecticut River. The similarly-named 82-unit family and elderly apartment community reflects that heritage.

Now, thanks to an infusion not of hydropower but of $6.9 million of low-cost financing from MassHousing the Power Town Apartments will be renovated and low-income renters will continue to have affordable rents.

Power Turner Falls Limited Partnership, the property owner and an affiliate of Silver Street Development Corp., has acquired the property and assumed the existing Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract which extends the affordability.

"Preserving existing affordable housing is as important as building new housing, but these transactions are complex," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "However, MassHousing has the expertise and the commitment to its borrowers to get the job done, and in the end it is the residents and the community that benefit the most."

The 10 buildings that make up the development were originally built between the 1890s and 1920s and were renovated into affordable housing in 1983. Of the 81 resident apartments, 34 are designated for elderly residents and 47 are not restricted as to tenancy.

Property improvements will include accessibility upgrades, maintenance or repair of historic features, window replacement as well as installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers, new fire alarm controls and kitchen and bathroom upgrades.

Chris Poulin, a founding principal at Silver Street Development had this to say about the transaction:   "Power Town Apartments is yet another successful example of our strong partnerships with top tier partners like MassHousing and Boston Financial, the low-income housing tax credit investor. Such collaborations allow us to transform good places into better ones and preserve communities for low income residents. To many on the outside these are unseen relationships that create housing opportunities for residents.  Our many thanks to the dedicated staff at MassHousing and Boston Financial for quickly and efficiently closing on this complex financing structure that will have long lasting benefit for the 82 households who call this property home."

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June 23, 2015

MassHousing & CEDAC-sponsored study: Chapter 40T Has Preserved More than 11,000 Affordable Housing Units

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The panel discussing Chapter 40T

The Chapter 40T law, passed in 2009, has been directly or indirectly responsible for preserving more than 11,000 units of affordable housing in Massachusetts, according to a recently-released study funded by MassHousing and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC).

The report’s findings were presented June 3 at an event sponsored by CEDAC and the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) and hosted by MassHousing. The forum featured a panel discussion with Massachusetts Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay, Madison Park Development Corporation CEO Jeanne Pinado, and Massachusetts Senior Action Council Executive Director Carolyn Villers.

"Preserving affordable housing is a critical part of a housing strategy across Massachusetts given the rising costs and the dwindling stock," said Kornegay. "We are looking forward to building on the success of the Chapter 40T law to help strengthen communities around the Commonwealth."

The study was conducted by Emily Achtenberg, a housing policy and development consultant.

"Chapter 40T has achieved significant benefits in preserving units and protecting tenants in properties that are subject to its jurisdiction," said Achtenberg. "Not a single property with remaining restrictions that has been offered for sale under 40T has been lost as affordable housing. Overall, fewer than 100 net affordable units (less than 1% of all units sold subject to 40T) have been or are slated to be lost through the 40T preservation sales process."

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Chapman Arms in Cambridge was preserved using Chapter 40T

"The process to enact Chapter 40T took a long time and included active participation of many stakeholders. The final law has produced successful outcomes in preserving affordable housing units for low income families," said Roger Herzog, CEDAC's Executive Director. "As the study notes, it has provided two different pathways for sellers of multifamily properties, including properties in strong markets, to sell to affordable housing preservation buyers. Because of this landmark model law, thousands of units that were eligible to convert to market-rate housing have been maintained. But there are still thousands of additional units that are at risk."

The report notes that challenges remain to preserving affordable housing units in Massachusetts. The study estimates that some affordable units in subsidized mortgage properties have been lost through owner conversions to market-rate housing as mortgage and use restrictions expire. CEDAC data show more than 20,000 affordable apartments to be at risk by the end of the decade, including more than 5,000 maturing mortgage units at high risk.

Read the full report.

(Some information for this post was contributed by CHAPA.)

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Multifamily Owners: HUD issues revised Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Notice

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published new guidance to help private landlords of multi-family housing developments and public housing authorities that want to participate in HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program. The notice provides clarifications since the program launch.  The notice also incorporates changes made by Congress. You can read the notice and also HUD's Press Release dated June 15. You can also read the special edition of HUD’s RAD newsletter about the new Notice. HUD is accepting public comments for 30 days. The public comment period commenced June 15.

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June 01, 2015

Governor Baker, Boston's Mayor Walsh, Congressman Lynch headline groundbreaking for expanded veterans' facility

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

NECHV-1Congressman Stephen Lynch and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (center front) were among those celebrating the start of renovations

BOSTON – Federal, state and city officials recently gathered to break ground on the $31 million renovation of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans (NECHV) in Boston that will add more housing units and expand space for vocational training and support services for veterans.

MassHousing provided $2.3 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing manages on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

Fifty nine Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units will be upgraded; one new SRO unit and 37 new efficiency units will be built. The shelter bed space will be expanded to include 190 beds and the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety system systems will be upgraded.

"There can be no bigger tribute, that we as a group, that we as a community, can bring to those who served, than to do the hard, imaginative, creative, and persistent work that's required to end homelessness for veterans in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Governor Charlie Baker. "I look forward to working with this team and others to see that accomplished over the next couple of years. It's a worthwhile and it's a doable task that we owe to those who served and wore the uniform."

All of the units are restricted to veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Seven of the new units will be dedicated to women veterans.

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"I am honored to be here today because I know what the Center does for people," said Mayor Marty Walsh. "I know the services that are provided. This is a home for a lot of our veterans who don't have a place to go. I want to thank the veterans who are here today. We want to give a little back to you for all that you have given us."

The Center serves about 350 veterans every night; and every year serves roughly 130,000 meals; provides vocational training to approximately 1,000 veterans and helps some 400 veterans find permanent housing.

"When you think about the fact that over a million Americans have served this country just in Iraq and Afghanistan; when you think about the fact that more than 30,000 sons and daughters from Massachusetts have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003; that is a tidal wave of need," said Congressman Stephen Lynch. "When young men and women serve in that environment, again, and again, and again, there are stressors that are unseen today but they will emerge in future years. And it will be our duty to respond to that need with a facility like the one that we break ground on today."

Other sources of financing come from Citigroup, the Life Initiative, developer cash equity, Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity, state and federal Historic Tax Credit equity, DHCD, the City of Boston, and the Federal Home Loan Bank.

"MassHousing is pleased to be part of a far-ranging partnership of public and private entities working together to help provide quality housing, vocational training and support services for our veterans all under one roof," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason. "The New England Center for Homeless Veterans is a critical resource for many Boston-area veterans and these improvements and the additional housing will help better serve them in the years ahead."

The renovations will me made using sustainable and green construction methods and the building will be upgraded to LEED Silver Certified. The contractor is Consigli and the property manager is the NECHV.

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