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Overview of Rental and Homeownership Programs Offered Through the City

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Inclusionary Housing Rental Program Makes Cambridge More Accessible

Since its adoption in 1998, the Inclusionary Housing provisions of the Zoning Ordinance has provided new affordable homes for low-, moderate-, and middle-income households in Cambridge. This program is a key component of the City’s ongoing effort to provide residents with access to affordable homes. The Inclusionary Housing provisions engage the private sector to assist in creating new affordable homes. To-date, 1,497 inclusionary housing units have been completed or are now being built. These include both rental and homeownership units.  Homeownership units are administered by the Housing Division of CDD along with City-funded affordable homes. Access to affordable rental units in privately-owned buildings is also offered through the Housing Division’s Inclusionary Housing Rental Program.

“Living in inclusionary housing has allowed me to live in the city that I grew up in,” said one resident. “This in turn has allowed me to raise my children in a place that I hold dear to my heart. If it weren’t for this program, I would have never been able to afford to stay in my city.”

In 2023, over 200 households moved into new units through the program, which now offers access to more than 1,100 affordable apartments throughout the city. Over half of new households moved to affordable apartments from market-rate properties. Nearly a quarter of those tenants had an emergency need prior to moving, such as being unhoused, paying over 50% of their gross income for rent, or facing a no-fault eviction. Moving into inclusionary housing helped them remain stably housed in the city.

Eligible applicants for the program are identified through the Rental Applicant Pool. The Community Development Department manages this pool, determines eligibility, and refers qualified applicants to property owners or managers with available units. To enter the pool, candidates complete a preliminary application. Preference is given to Cambridge residents, households with children, and households with an emergency housing need.

Residents with a range of economic challenges can benefit from the Inclusionary Housing Rental Program. The affordable units provided through this program allow residents a stable home and the ability to take advantage of the many opportunities available in the city, while ensuring the economic diversity of the Cambridge community is built into new residential buildings. 

HomeBridge Eases Financial Burden for First-Time Homebuyers

The City remains committed to expanding affordable housing opportunities through programs like HomeBridge, which provides funding to first-time homebuyers in Cambridge. With this support, participants search for homes on the market and make offers with a pre-approval for funding assistance from the City.

According to one resident, “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the HomeBridge program has afforded me. I was able to buy a home in the community and neighborhood I love that I would have otherwise been priced out of … I am incredibly gratified to know that the home I purchased through this program will remain affordable for other families and individuals in the future.”

Through the HomeBridge program, eligible buyers enter into an affordable housing restriction in exchange for financial assistance with a portion of the home’s price. Launched in 2017, HomeBridge is the latest in a series of City programs that have offered direct funding assistance to homebuyers.  Last year, the Affordable Housing Trust approved changes to the program that increase the percentage of the price that can be paid with HomeBridge funds. This change was made to broaden the range of available homes available to buyers given the challenges in the current market, including high prices, increased interest rates and lower market inventory. HomeBridge now provides up to 65% of the purchase price for a three-bedroom unit, 60% for a two-bedroom unit, and 50% for a one-bedroom unit. Eligible applicants must earn at least 60% and no more than 120% of Area Median Income, adjusted for household size.

The City’s affordable housing initiatives aim to make living in Cambridge more accessible for new and long-time residents. HomeBridge is a key part of that mission – alleviating some financial barriers for first-time homebuyers so more people can connect with our community.

“Cambridge is a city that cares deeply about its residents,” said one resident. “I am proud to live in a place where the local government strives to improve the city and make life better for its residents. Cambridge is vibrant and culturally rich.”

Homeownership Resale Pool

When an affordable homeownership unit is being resold through the City, a new buyer is selected from the Homeownership Resale Pool administered by the Housing Division. The resale pool is open to households earning between 50% and 100% AMI adjusted for household size. Access to more than 550 affordable homes is managed through the Homeownership Resale pool administered by CDD’s Housing Division.

Home Improvement Program

The City supports income-eligible homeowners in Cambridge to make necessary home repairs through the Home Improvement Program (HIP). HIP offers low-interest loans to owners to cover the home repair costs; in addition, owners receive technical assistance to scope out work and identify licensed contractors to make the repairs and oversight throughout the entire project to ensure it is completed to the highest standards. The program is administered by two non-profit organizations in close collaboration with the Housing Division.

In 2023, HIP rehab projects included:

  • Accessibility upgrades to homeowner’s bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen to facilitate aging in place.
  • Replacing carpet with hardwood floors throughout the home to improve indoor air quality and alleviate homeowner’s asthma.
    • Condominium assessment to repair basement plumbing issues.
    • Emergency loan to replace owner’s heating system in time for winter.
    • Deleading, residing, and painting exterior of home that had fallen into disrepair.

Lottery Process Makes New Affordable Homeownership Units Available to Residents

In 2023, 4 new affordable homes in North Cambridge were offered to first-time homebuyers through a lottery process conducted by CDD’s Housing Division. Buyers are now living in their new homes. In 2024, another 3 new affordable homes in Wellington-Harrington will be available to new homebuyers by lottery.

Housed IN Cambridge

Housed IN Cambridge is a citywide campaign designed to educate and inform residents on housing opportunities and housing related resources and services. The Housed IN Cambridge team held four evening drop-in hours at the Cambridge Public Library locations in 2023. Staff provided up to 20 minutes of personalized, one-on-one assistance to over 85 attendees.

  • First-Time Homebuyer Education. The Housing Division offers a free, CHAPA-certified homebuyer workshop 10 months a year, featuring presentations on the homebuying process by City staff and local real estate professionals. In 2023, over 375 individuals completed the City’s first-time homebuyer workshop.

Programs like Inclusionary Housing, HomeBridge, and Housed IN Cambridge are key components in the City’s ongoing effort to provide residents with access to affordable homes.

" I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the HomeBridge program has afforded me. I was able to buy a home in the community and neighborhood I love that I would have otherwise been priced out of. "
A house at 6 Union Street before being renovated through the Home Improvement Program.
6 Union Street before being renovated through the Home Improvement Program.
A house at 6 Union Street after being renovated through the Home Improvement Program.
6 Union Street after being renovated through the Home Improvement Program.
" The City's rental program has made me feel secure and allowed me to focus on other important aspects of my life, which would not have been possible if I had precarious living conditions, being lower income. I have been able to raise a family comfortably while focusing on my health and career, knowing that we have a comfortable and affordable place to reside in. "
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