October 10, 2014

City of Fall River and MassHousing Announce Buy Fall River Now

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

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MassHousing and the city of Fall River recently announced Buy Fall River Now, a new loan program for homebuyers and homeowners in the city. From left, Peter Milewski, MassHousing's Director of Homeownership Lending; State Representatives Alan Silvia and Paul Schmid; Mayor William Flanagan; and Earl Gaudette from the Maplewood Neighborhood Association.

FALL RIVER – MassHousing and the city of Fall River have partnered to launch Buy Fall River Now, which will provide affordable home loans to low and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners who want to renovate their homes.

Flanked by local stakeholders in a vacant home on Lawton Street purchased by the city and being rehabilitated for sale to a first-time homebuyer, Mayor Will Flanagan said the new program is aimed at strengthening the middle class and providing incentives for those who choose to purchase a home in Fall River.

"Buy Fall River Now will allow those who may be looking to purchase a home in our region to give serious consideration to Fall River, recognizing our many attributes and providing financing options that are far more affordable than anywhere else," said the Mayor.

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This vacant home on Lawton Street has been purchased by the city and will be renovated and sold to a first-time homebuyer through the Buy Fall River Now program.

The program features homebuyer assistance with acquisition, down payment and closing costs, as well as mortgage payment protection for up to six months if they become unemployed.

Participating lenders—BankFive, BayCoast Bank, Mechanics Cooperative Bank, Bristol County Savings Bank, St. Anne's Credit Union and First Citizens Federal Credit Union—are offering innovative loan products, first time homebuyer incentives, and financing solutions for low- and moderate-income homebuyers. The lenders are also offering MassHousing's Home for the Brave loans which are designed specifically for veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, active-duty service members, and spouses of service members killed while on active duty.

Existing homeowners can also obtain financing through Buy Fall River now to renovate and upgrade their homes.

"We applaud the City of Fall River for their commitment to affordable home ownership," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "By increasing home ownership opportunities for low and moderate income homebuyers and providing financing for homeowners to rehabilitate their homes, we can help to revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen the community. We are glad to be a partner in the Buy Fall River Now initiative."

Michael Dion, Executive Director of the city's Community Development Agency, oversaw the development of the program and worked with the local lenders and MassHousing to implement it.

"Buy Fall River Now will have a direct impact on our neighborhoods and in the process provide economic opportunities for realtors, contractors, local lenders, as well as industry related local companies that work in the field," stated Dion. "Individually, we have all done our best to promote Fall River; through the hard work and efforts of the men and women here today.  This program now affords us the opportunity to better market our programs, and provide one stop shopping for anyone looking to purchase or rehabilitate a home in Fall River."

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Buy Fall River Now is a partnership between MassHousing, the city, and local lenders,
Realtors and non-profit agencies

Home loans will feature MassHousing's MI Plus mortgage insurance which comes with a job loss benefit at no additional cost to the consumer. If a borrower loses their job MI Plus will cover their monthly mortgage principal and interest payments for up to six months until they become reemployed.

"The City of Fall River has always been fortunate to have local banks that are part of our community, reinvesting in our neighborhoods, and doing great things to improve our quality of life. Buy Fall River Now is another example of this," said Mayor Flanagan. "BankFive, BayCoast Bank, Mechanics Cooperative Bank, Bristol County Savings Bank, St. Anne's Credit Union and First Citizens Federal Credit Union exemplify what it means to be a community partner, and have consistently reinforced their commitment to our community."

For More Information visit BuyFallRiverNow.com or contact the Community Development Agency at (508)-679-0131.

Material provided by the city of Fall River was used in this story.

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October 08, 2014

Clean Energy and Sustainable Affordable Housing Symposium, November 3

By Deborah Goddard
Managing Director, Policy & Program Development, MassHousing

MassHousing is excited to participate in an upcoming Clean Energy and Sustainable Affordable Housing Symposium, November 3 in Boston.

Over the coming year, MassHousing will be launching an effort, in collaboration with our customers, to “raise the bar” on how we incorporate a full range of sustainability principles—clean energy, water conservation, resiliency—into our work.

This event will be a start to these conversations and we hope that the management companies with which we do business will join us in a venue where affordable housing developers, owners, managers and professionals can share ideas, get questions answered and learn the latest information about such topics as energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy and water conservation. The agenda includes sessions on energy and water in multifamily buildings; energy and water management; and a networking and technology expo.

The free event is being sponsored by MassHousing, the City of Boston, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and is being held in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, New Ecology, Inc., WegoWise, and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.

Learn more and register today.

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Partnership makes affordable units available to disabled residents at Georgetowne Homes

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

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New residents of Georgetowne Homes, keys in hand!

Providing housing for residents with physical and intellectual disabilities is an important yet challenging goal of any affordable housing initiative. So it is valuable to spotlight a success story such as the one that occurred at Georgetowne Homes, an affordable rental development with nearly 1,000 units in Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood.

In 2013 MassHousing closed $171.2 million in loans to help Beacon Communities acquire, renovate and preserve the affordability of the 967-unit development. 

As a condition of the financing, Beacon Communities extended two federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment contracts covering 681 apartments, extending their affordability to low-income families. The remaining 286 units remained affordable as a result of the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

In addition, pursuant to an agreement with MassHousing, Beacon also set aside a number of units for clients of the Massachusetts Departments of Developmental Services (DDS)  and Mental Health (DMH). Some of the set-aside units were also designed to meet federal accessibility guidelines.

Thanks to cooperation between Kevin Donovan, a Beacon construction manager, and staff at DDS and United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Boston (UCP)—which provides resident services—Beacon Communities was able to underwrite minor additional physical modifications to three apartments at Georgetowne Homes in order to accommodate individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities. Housing and services funding for these individuals are supported by a contract between DDS and UCP.

Beacon Communities CEO Pam Goodman and Kathleen Catano, Area Director for the Metro Boston DDS, see this collaboration as a model for providing community-based housing to people with intensive service needs and extremely low incomes without the use of project-based rental assistance.

"We understand that finding accessible, community based housing is a huge challenge for people with physical and developmental disabilities, so we are pleased that working with others we were able to make this happen," said Goodman.

With the modest additions to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards accessible units, residents who rely on programs from DDS service providers are able to live successfully in an integrated housing development and meet the tax credit rents for their housing through the DDS contract.

Stephen Rogers from the DDS Boston Area Office added, "These are people that have known each other for many years and while their needs have changed as they have aged, it's wonderful that they'll be able to live in close proximity and maintain relationships, while continuing to be as independent as possible in their own apartment."

Rogers went on to say that "UCP does an outstanding job providing supports for them day to day and staff from UCP are as excited for each of them as they are for themselves."

Speaking about the collaborative effort, he added that Kevin Donovan and the entire Beacon Communities team have been outstanding to work with, and that with UCP, Beacon addressed all of the wheelchair-related and reasonable accommodation issues successfully. Rogers said they went "above and beyond" and added that their early questions about what features or accommodations the people needed and their commitment to see it through really drove the process forward.

Shawn Ricketts, Director of Residential Services at UCP recalled that on moving day Jack, one of the residents, said, "This is so great, I've been waiting for this for a long time." Jack added that he "was really nervous about this move, but now that it's here, I'm so glad to have our own apartment."

"We are very happy that these tenants have been able to move into Georgetowne Homes as a result of the innovative collaboration between Beacon Communities, DDS and United Cerebral Palsy," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "Stories like this really illuminate the importance of creating and preserving affordable housing for residents of Massachusetts, especially for those residents of Boston who have disabilities and want to live in an integrated urban environment."

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September 26, 2014

10 years after launch, data shows MassHousing’s MIPlus Mortgage Insurance to be highly effective

By Tom Farmer and Peter Milewski, MassHousing

MIPlus™, MassHousing's innovative mortgage insurance that provides borrowers up to six months of unemployment protection, reached the 10th anniversary of its launch in June. An analysis of the program shows it has successfully kept hundreds of homeowners in their homes through difficult times.

Mortgage insurance is often required of homebuyers making a downpayment of less than 20% of a property’s purchase price. Traditionally, it is paid for by the borrower but only benefits the bank in case the loan cannot be repaid. For most borrowers, it was a necessary evil, allowing them to purchase a home with a low downpayment, but providing little in return.

MIPlus protects the lender like traditional mortgage insurance, but it also offers the borrower unique protection. If the borrower loses their job, MassHousing will make principal and interest payments of up to $2,000 per month for up to six months until they become employed again.

Over the past 10 years MassHousing has paid out $3,935,900 in benefits to 826 borrowers in the form of 4,127 individual monthly benefit checks. The average length of unemployment benefits was five months and the average MassHousing benefit was $953 per month. Of the 826 borrowers who were unemployed and received MIPlus benefits, 700 are still in their homes.

"The success of MIPlus over its first 10 years has exceeded even our optimistic expectations based on the fact that we have kept seven out of every eight borrowers who used MIPlus in their homes after a job loss," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "Before MIPlus, the only one who benefited from mortgage insurance was the lender and there was no benefit for the consumer. When we created MIPlus we wanted to continue to protect ourselves as a lender but we wanted to give a benefit to the borrower at no additional cost that could really help them in the event they became unemployed."

Being able to offer MIPlus with no additional cost to the borrower was made possible under a premise that every foreclosure and mortgage insurance claim prevented would fund benefits for approximately 12 borrowers who would be unemployed for five months.

While it is difficult to say how many of the 700 borrowers still in their homes would have been at risk of losing them had they not enjoyed the benefits of MIPlus, preventing just 100 from losing their homes offset the cost of providing unemployment benefit protection. Actuaries have calculated that during the height of the recession and mortgage crises, as many as half of those 700 borrowers would have been at high risk of losing their homes.

There are ranges of estimates from recognized experts that the economic impact of a single foreclosure can be anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000. This is based on the original cost/value of the property, values of neighboring homes and the population density in the area immediately surrounding the foreclosed property.

The costs include a combination of direct financial losses suffered by the homebuyer and mortgage holder; declining property values of neighboring properties; and the increased financial burdens on local government caused by reduced tax revenue and increased municipal expenditures linked to higher crime, arson and municipal work in these distressed neighborhoods.

Based on these numbers, MIPlus may theoretically have provided a positive economic impact of more than $200 million to individuals, financial institutions and state and local governments.

"Keeping borrowers in their homes is the ultimate goal and MIPlus has been very effective in helping us do that," said Gleason.

MassHousing created its own Mortgage Insurance Fund in 1988  and to date has insured 24,000 loans for $4.1 billion and currently has $1.6  billion in insurance in force.

As a result of a re-insurance agreement, the capacity of MassHousing's MIF has increased, and some lenders are now utilizing the fund to insure non-MassHousing loans that meet certain affordability criteria.

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Final renovations underway at the 145-unit Mashpee Village thanks to $12.1 million in MassHousing loans

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Mashpee Village, the largest affordable housing community on Cape Cod, is undergoing a final phase of renovations with the closing of $12.1 million in MassHousing loans.

Mashpee Village is owned by The Community Builders (TCB) of Boston. TCB is using the MassHousing financing to complete a second and final phase of renovations to the property, which include the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant to replace the original septic systems that were installed nearly 40 years ago and had begun to fail.

"Mashpee Village is the largest affordable housing community on the Cape and this financing is going to restore the property to prime conditions for the families that live there," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "We're pleased to be a partner with The Community Builders in renovating this very valuable affordable housing resource on Cape Cod."

Mashpee Village was built in 1974 and is comprised of 35 single-family apartment homes and 110 apartments in 14 garden-style, wood-frame buildings located on Wampanoag Drive in Mashpee.

In 2009, TCB completed renovations to the 35 single-family units and the exteriors of the multi-family buildings.

The recent MassHousing loan closings will finance the final phase of renovations to the 14 multi-family buildings containing the 110 apartments and for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. Planned renovations include replacement of kitchens and bathrooms; unit accessibility upgrades; installation of new roofs and sprinkler systems; enhanced landscaping and walkways, including walkway accessibility upgrades; and street and parking lot repaving.

MassHousing’s financing includes a $4.1 million construction and permanent loan, a $5.5 million tax-exempt bridge loan, a $1 million Priority Development Fund Loan and a $500,000 subordinate loan. The financing also includes $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing administers on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The contractor is Delphi Construction. The architect is Winslow Architects, Inc. and the management agent is The Community Builders.

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$9.1 MIllion in MassHousing Loans will Extend Affordability, Help Renovate Wareham Apartment Community

The 100 apartments at the Woods at Wareham will remain affordable for low-income families for at least 15 years and residents will see property improvements

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Residents at the 100-unit Woods at Wareham will see affordability extended and substantial improvements made as a result of $9.1 million in MassHousing loans.

The Woods at Wareham is owned by Riverview Village Associates in partnership with HallKeen Management, which has extended for 20 years the HUD Section 8 Housing Assistant Payment (HAP) contract on 78 of the apartments. Additionally, the state Department of Housing and Community Development has approved a new 15-year HAP contract for the remaining 22 apartments under the Moving to Work Initiative.

"We are happy for the residents at the Woods at Wareham that the ownership team is committed to keeping these apartments affordable for the long term," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "While the property is generally in good condition, the residents will also see some significant improvements as well."

The Woods at Wareham is comprised of 16 one-bedroom apartments, 71 two-bedroom apartments and 13 three-bedroom apartments contained in 17 two-story buildings built in 1972.

Among the improvements planned for the property are new siding, windows, doors and roofs and porch and stair repairs. There will also be electrical and fire alarm upgrades and boiler replacement as needed.

"The financing we were able to arrange with MassHousing will give new life to Woods at Wareham and enable us to provide much-needed affordable housing to its residents for many years to come,” said David Carlen, president of Norwich Corporation and representative of the River View Associates general partner.

"We were pleased to work with MassHousing on this loan," said Andy Burnes, president of HallKeen Management and co-general partner.

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MassHousing Working to Better Engage Rental Partners

By Deepak Karamcheti
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

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A graph from a recent survey of MassHousing rental partners showed high
overall satisfaction with the Agency.

Feedback from rental housing developers, property owners and managers has helped MassHousing better understand where the Agency is succeeding and how we can better serve our multifamily business partners.

Over the past year, MassHousing has increased its focus on engaging the developers, property owners and managers we work with in our rental housing business. Feedback gathering, greater accessibility and heightened communications with our partners are common themes that run throughout our Strategic Plan.

Among the efforts were two statewide 'Listening Tours', where MassHousing staff traveled to five locations to hear from management company staff. Attendance at the Listening Tours increased nearly 30% from the first to the second round. Rental Management has committed to hosting two Listening Tours each year.

In April 2014, MassHousing launched a survey of management company staff, something we had committed to do as a result of the Listening Tours. Responses were received from 354 individuals representing 120 management companies, and showed high (74%) overall satisfaction with the Agency. The survey showed that MassHousing was viewed as helpful and supportive (75%), consistent (69%) and helped property managers improve their properties (56%).

More recently, MassHousing launched the first in what will be an ongoing effort to gather feedback from those involved in closing multifamily financing with the Agency. The results are still coming in, but these and our other efforts to be more communicative, open and accessible will help shape our programs, processes and priorities moving forward.

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September 25, 2014

Spanish language homebuyer education now available online

By Deepak Karamcheti
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Spanish-speaking homebuyers can now access valuable information and tools via an online homebuyer education course dubbed, "Camino a Casa," or "The Road Home".

MassHousing has long believed that homebuyer education is a vital part of the homebuying process, and requires it of first-time homebuyers obtaining a MassHousing loan. The Agency has partnered with nonprofit organizations across the Commonwealth to make available MassHousing-approved homebuyer education courses.

In 2010, recognizing that attending an in-person course over multiple days or evenings was a hardship for many homebuyers, we launched a pilot version of online homebuyer education. The course was continuously updated with feedback from CHAPA and the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative, who approved the course in December 2013. The Road Home is now offered by 33 nonprofit organizations and has been completed by more than 4,500 homebuyers.

Both The Road Home and Camino a Casa consist of seven interactive modules that cover all aspects of the homebuying process, as well as successful homeownership. The courses take approximately five hours to complete, include worksheets, forms and quizzes, and end with a final assessment.

MassHousing offers the online homebuyer counseling courses to approved agencies at no cost. Agencies charge homebuyers a fee for access to the online course (there is also a fee for in-person homebuyer education). Once they complete the course, homebuyers are required to attend an exit interview with the counseling agency to ensure their understanding of the content. The counselor clarifies any areas where the homebuyer is unclear, and then issues a completion certificate, which is required to close a MassHousing loan.

View a list of organizations offering online homebuyer counseling.

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$16.6 Million in MassHousing Loans Will Preserve Affordability at Beacon House on Beacon Hill

Acquisition of the property by Rogerson Communities and covenants with the city of Boston will extend affordability in perpetuity

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By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Affordability for senior citizens living at the 135-unit Beacon House on Beacon Hill has been extended in perpetuity by the new ownership as a result of $16.6 million in MassHousing financing.

An affiliate of Rogerson Communities used the MassHousing loans to acquire Beacon House and, in agreement with the city of Boston, extend the affordability for the residents there for the life of the property. Without the MassHousing transaction and Rogerson Communities creating a new general partner entity, the affordability at Beacon House was at risk.

"Beacon House is an important source of affordable housing for senior citizens living on Beacon Hill and now that affordability will be extended in perpetuity," said MassHousing Executive Director Thomas R. Gleason. "The property is in very good condition and Rogerson Communities has made a major commitment to providing quality affordable housing to the elderly residents who live there by working with the city of Boston to ensure the affordability there for the life of the property."

MassHousing provided a $14 million permanent loan and a $2.6 million subordinate loan for Beacon House, which was originally financed by MassHousing in 1983 and whose loan matured in October 2013. The owner has also renewed the 20-year Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment contract for 85 apartments occupied by low-income seniors; 32 apartments are regulated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and rented to individuals with low and moderate incomes. The remaining 18 apartments are subject to a long-term lease with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for use by out-of-town patients and visitors.

Beacon House is located at 19 Myrtle St. and is comprised of 126 studio apartments and nine one-bedroom units in two semi-attached, eight-story brick and stone buildings. The property has five ground-floor commercial spaces. Common facilities include an atrium, roof deck, community room, library and computer lab with professional classes for residents. The owner provides free office space to Beacon Hill Village, a service provider that assists seniors with living independently. MGH operates a community-based health promotion program and Kit Clark Senior Services runs a meals program out of the property for the Beacon Hill community.

"Beacon House is a unique and critical source of affordable housing for senior citizens living on Beacon Hill. The neighborhood and city shared our vision and urgency of preserving in perpetuity this magnificent resource for the residents living there now and for the residents who will live there many years into the future," said Rogerson Communites Principal James F. Seagle, Jr.

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Three MassHousing Developments Nominated for Timmy Awards

By Tom Farmer
Corporate Communications, MassHousing

Three MassHousing-financed rental communities have been named finalists for the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association's (NHRA) annual Timmy Awards.

Ames Shovel Works in Easton, Linwood Mill in Northbridge, and the Cambridge YMCA are finalists in multiple categories of the awards, which honor "outstanding real estate projects that involve the rehabilitation of older, historic buildings primarily using federal or state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits."

Developed by Beacon Communities of Boston, Ames Shovel Works is a finalist in the Best Historic Rehab Utilizing LIHTCs large category for developments with a total development cost above $10 million, and for Judges' Awards in the Best Historic Mill or Factory Rehabilitation, Most Adaptive Reuse, Achievement in Sustainability, and Most Advanced Financial Structure categories.

MassHousing provided $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) for the Ames Shovel Works. The former Oliver Ames & Sons Shovel Company factory complex was converted into 113 residences and 1.5 acres of open space.

Linwood Mill, which was developed by EA Fish development of Braintree, is also a finalist in the Best Historic Rehab Utilizing LIHTCs large category, and a finalist for Judges' Awards in the Best Historic Mill or Factory Rehabilitation and Most Adaptive Reuse categories.

MassHousing committed $1 million in taxable permanent financing, $1 million in Priority Development Fund financing and $1 million from the AHTF for Linwood Mill, a formerly vacant, 18th century mill building that was converted into 75 units of affordable housing for seniors and approximately 22,000 square feet of retail space. The MassHousing financing is also helping to leverage approximately $14 million in historic and Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Cambridge YMCA, which was developed by the Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development of Boston, is a finalist in the Best Market-Rate or Mixed-Income Residential category and a finalist in the Judges' Award Most Advanced Financial Structure category.

MassHousing committed $1 million from the AHTF for the Cambridge YMCA, which involves the substantial upgrade of 103 single room occupancy units in two buildings in Central Square in Cambridge for women challenged with poverty and a range of human service needs.

The winners will be announced Oct. 7 in Boston at the NHRA's Fall Developers Forum at the Boston College Club. Congratulations to Beacon Communities, EA Fish and the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development.

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