State announces $22.8 million for affordable housing in the Port

State Representative Mike Connolly is pleased to report that MassHousing has closed on $22.8 million in affordable housing financing for the construction of 23 new apartments and the renovation and preservation of 65 existing apartments via the non-profit Just-A-Start Corporation.

Just-A-Start (JAS) is combining the 45-unit Linwood Court and 20-unit Squirrel Brand affordable housing communities and will construct 23 new affordable units on a portion of its Linwood Court property, which is located near the corner of Columbia Street and Broadway in the Port neighborhood of Cambridge. The new, 88-unit housing community will be named Squirrelwood and will be available to households earning a range of incomes, including 10 units of workforce housing for middle-income families.

MassHousing provided Just-A-Start with an $8.2 million permanent loan, a $13.6 million bridge loan, and $1 million in financing from the Workforce Housing Initiative, which supports the creation of rental housing that is affordable for households whose incomes are too high for subsidized housing but are priced out of market rents.

"I was pleased to join with city and state officials for the groundbreaking of the Squirrelwood project earlier this year, and I am excited by the news that MassHousing is moving forward with financing arrangements to support this project," Rep. Connolly said. "It is especially gratifying to see firsthand how the Housing Bond Bill that we passed last year is now helping to deliver these funds to our community," Rep. Connolly added.

"With a wide range of units to accommodate families of all sizes and a variety of income levels, the Squirrelwood project is an important step in Just-A-Start's mission to offer quality, inclusive housing to Cambridge residents," said Just-A-Start Executive Director Deborah Ruhe. "As housing costs in the city continue to rise, Just-A-Start is proud to work alongside its partners to preserve the affordability of these homes and create more access to secure housing in this community."

The transaction also resolved the expired Section 13A affordable financing on the 45 units at Linwood Court, creating residency protection for the existing 13A tenants. The Commonwealth’s Section 13A program was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in the 1970s to provide low-interest mortgage financing to affordable housing communities. Today, 13A communities in Cambridge serve some of the lowest-income and most vulnerable populations in Massachusetts, including many elderly residents. The mortgages on these 13A housing communities are nearing maturity, and no federal resources are available for their preservation. In response, MassHousing and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) have committed a total of $100 million in capital to help protect vulnerable residents and preserve affordable 13A units that otherwise could convert to market rates.

As part of the Squirrelwood transaction, DHCD provided $4.7 million in Section 13A-specific financing as well as an additional $1 million in affordable housing financing. Other funding sources included $14.9 million in federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity allocated by DHCD, $4.1 million from the city of Cambridge’s Affordable Housing Trust, a $2.6 million seller note, $700,000 in state Historic Tax Credit equity, $300,000 from the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and $140,000 in Cambridge Historic Commission grants.

Of the 88 units, 78 will be for households earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) with 24 units supported by the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and 10 units be supported by federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment vouchers. The remaining 10 apartments will be workforce housing units for households earning at or below 100 percent of AMI. The AMI in Cambridge is $113,300 for a family of four. Squirrelwood’s existing 65 units are contained in 10 buildings on three parcels of land located within block of each other. The 23 new units will be contained in three buildings – two of new construction – and overall there will be 3 studio apartments, 14 one-bedroom apartments, 32 two-bedroom apartments, 35 three-bedroom apartments, 2 four-bedroom apartments and 2 five-bedroom apartments.

Among the renovations planned by JAS on the existing properties are the replacement of kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring in individual units, as well as new siding, roofs, hot water piping, and windows. The buildings will be made significantly more energy efficient through the addition of new insulation, and new landscaping will be added to the site. In total, MassHousing has financed 15 rental developments in Cambridge involving 2,235 housing units and $387 million in financing. The Agency has also provided home mortgage financing to 551 homeowners in Cambridge with $68.5 million in financing.

This announcement follows recent work Rep. Connolly did as both a member of the legislature's Joint Committee on Housing and the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets to authorize $1.8 billion dollars in funding for affordable housing across the Commonwealth. "I am pleased to see how our work in the legislature to re-capitalize and expand our affordable housing programs is now helping to deliver additional units of affordable housing right here in Cambridge," he added. In addition, Rep. Connolly also appeared before the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals to advocate for local approval of this project.

About Just-A-Start Corporation: Just-A-Start is a community development corporation dedicated to building the housing security and economic stability of low- to moderate-income people in Cambridge and nearby communities. Through innovative, comprehensive, and integrated programs, JAS provides and preserves affordable housing, offers education and workforce training for youth and adults, and builds community engagement.

About MassHousing: The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency is an independent, quasi-public agency created in 1966 and charged with providing financing for affordable housing in Massachusetts. The Agency raises capital by selling bonds and lends the proceeds to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners, and to developers who build or preserve affordable and/or mixed-income rental housing. MassHousing does not use taxpayer dollars to sustain its operations, although it administers some publicly funded programs on behalf of the Commonwealth, such as the Workforce Housing Initiative.