City and Community Partners Collaborate to Preserve Affordable Housing in Harvard Square


Chapman Arms Building

Pictured (l to r): City Manager Robert W. Healy; Lisa Hogarty, Vice President for Campus Services at Harvard University; City Councillor Marjorie C. Decker; Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary, Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development; Peter Daly, Executive Director of Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc; and Roger Herzog, Executive Director of Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation attend a ceremony celebrating the preservation of 25 affordable units at Chapman Arms Apartments. Photo by: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer.

Twenty-five affordable apartments in Harvard Square’s Chapman Arms Apartments will remain affordable for at least 50 additional years after the City of Cambridge, Harvard University and the nonprofit Homeowners Rehab Inc. (HRI) put together a creative plan to preserve the affordability of these units through HRI’s purchase of the 50-unit Chapman Arms building.  The acquisition, the first under the Commonwealth’s new preservation statute, Chapter 40T, was celebrated at an event in Harvard Square on Feb. 8, 2012.

Affordability restrictions on the 25 affordable units were scheduled to expire in 2016.  When the property was offered for sale, these units were an attractive investment to buyers interested in reaping the financial benefits of converting these units to market-rate housing after the existing restrictions expired.

Working together, the city, Harvard and HRI orchestrated HRI’s purchase of the building to ensure affordability of the 25 units for a minimum of 50 years.  Specifically, Harvard amended and extended its ground lease on the property in a manner that allowed HRI to secure the necessary financing from the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC).  HRI purchased the building in a preservation transaction that was finalized in December.

“We are celebrating today because a creative partnership has allowed us to preserve an important housing resource in Harvard Square which will benefit current and future tenants of these units,” said Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy, who is also the Managing Trustee of the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust and has worked to strengthen affordable housing during his 30-year tenure with the city.  “This is a huge win in today’s Harvard Square housing market, where maintaining affordability is very difficult.  We are especially appreciative of Harvard University’s commitment to this effort which made preservation possible, and to DHCD for acting under the innovative 40T statute to give HRI the time needed to work with us to put together this complex acquisition plan.”

Chapman Arms was owned by a multipartner entity that was led by Bob Kuehn, an affordable-housing developer.  Following Kuehn’s death, ownership of the property was left to 30 different investors who recently offered the property for sale.  HRI was designated by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) under the recently enacted expiring use preservation statute, known as Chapter 40T, which gives public agencies and affordable housing providers the time necessary to put together plans to preserve affordable housing before it can be sold to market buyers.  With this time, the city, Harvard and HRI put together the plan to preserve affordability of units at Chapman Arms, and, after a competitive bidding process, the owners elected to sell property to HRI. 

“All of this would not be possible without the City of Cambridge’s partnership and Harvard’s involvement,” said Peter Daly of HRI.  “By working together we have preserved the homes of 25 individuals and families of low and moderate incomes at Chapman Arms.” 

The city and Harvard have a long history of supporting affordable housing and a record of success in preserving and maintaining housing of all types for people of all incomes. An example of this success includes Harvard’s 20/20/2000 program, a $20 million, 20-year low-interest revolving loan program that has helped build and renovate 465 units in Cambridge.  Harvard also created affordable units for working families during the development of housing for students in Riverside, and has sold more than 100 housing units at reduced prices to the City of Cambridge for use as affordable housing.  In all, Harvard has helped to create and preserve over 600 units of affordable housing in Cambridge in recent years.

“The City of Cambridge and Harvard have enjoyed a long and successful track record of working together to address the quality of life in the City.  By any measure, Chapman Arms is an affordable housing success story,” said Lisa Hogarty, vice president of Harvard University Campus Services.

Click here for link to another news item about this important success story. 

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