Mill Cities Community Investments helps rid homes of dangerous lead paint through the Get the Lead Out loan program for homeowners and investors
Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI) is an organization on a mission.
When it comes to providing loans to rid homes of lead paint through MassHousing’s Get The Lead Out (GTLO) program, MCCI is far and away MassHousing’s largest lead paint lender.
Offered in partnership with the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Housing & Community Development, GTLO provides zero-interest loans to help eligible homeowners and nonprofit organizations remove lead paint. Financing is available to investor/owners at 3% interest rates. There are no application fees associated with the loans, and no closing costs for owner-occupants.
Of the nearly 60 GTLO loans closed since the program made significant changes last October, MCCI has originated 42 of them. Overall MCCI, a Community Development Financial Institution or CDFI, has completed 98 loans involving $2.6 million in financing.
"As a CDFI, our mission is to make investment in areas where we have seen disinvestment," Frank Carvalho, MCCI Executive Director said. "We found a need where kids were getting sick from lead paint and there was money available to do something about it. We thought it was a good opportunity for MCCI."
Funding for Get the Lead Out is provided by the Commonwealth and the program has been administered by MassHousing since 1997. Loans are initiated by Licensed Rehabilitation Agencies (LRAs) in conjunction with participating lenders like MCCI. Since its inception, Get the Lead Out has helped to delead more than 4,200 homes across Massachusetts.
MassHousing rolled out several enhancements to the program in October to help homeowners and landlords remove hazardous lead paint from their properties. Program changes have allowed more lenders and local LRAs to participate, thus making Get the Lead Out available to more Massachusetts residents. Easier approvals, faster processing and greater flexibility will help more property owners take advantage of the program.
CDFIs are specialized community-based financial institutions with a primary mission to promote economic development. They provide financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low-income areas.
MCCI originally become connected to the GTLO program through the city of Lawrence, which reached out to MassHousing about its lead paint problem. MassHousing in turn contacted Carvalho about originating loans. A former banker, Carvalho dove into the process of making lead paint loans and ultimately ridding homes of the dangerous substance.
For several years, Carvalho was a “one man operation” and word of his ability to underwrite and complete GTLO loans quickly spread from LRA to LRA. Before long he was doing loans in Lowell, Haverhill and other communities in Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, Norfolk and Plymouth counties. With the volume of loans MCCI was producing, it soon hired Steve Maguire, another former banker, to keep the financing flowing for lead paint removal.
"More of the LRAs were talking to each other and by word of mouth they started bringing loans to us," said Carvalho. "This loan pool is helping us with our mission and allows us to revolve our funds—which are limited—and help these families. It’s somewhat costly to do these loans because it takes manpower. Steve has the expertise needed to do this."
"Frank was a one-man operation," said Maguire. "Every loan that comes through here is important to us. But there is some expertise needed to do this."
Part of MCCI’s mission is to help small businesses and Carvalho is also no stranger to that. He owns Espresso Pizza, a popular restaurant in downtown Lowell. Between his business and work with MCCI he is a busy man but the lead paint issue remains a top priority.
"We don’t go home before we return all our calls and emails," Carvalho said. "The changes [to GTLO] have made doing the loans a lot easier. We’re committed to taking the bull by the horns and doing them so we can remove the lead paint and make homes safer for the kids."
MassHousing partners with more than 50 Local Rehabilitation Agencies across Massachusetts who work with 21 MassHousing-approved lenders to originate Get the Lead Out loans. Longtime Agency partner Chelsea Restoration Corporation recently became the latest LRA in the GTLO program.