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Access to Affordable Housing For All

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Housing affordability promotes stability for our residents and allows for building the social, economic, and cultural bonds that strengthen a community. Creating and preserving affordable housing remains the City’s highest priority. In FY22, the City appropriated more than $32 million to the Affordable Housing Trust, bringing the total of City funds committed to the Trust to more than $278 million (FY92-FY22) to invest in affordable housing initiatives. The Trust also receives funding through Incentive Zoning provisions, which have generated more than $44 million for the Trust since their adoption in 1988. The Affordable Housing Trust has preserved or created more than 3,625 affordable units.

Preserving Affordability at Fresh Pond Apartments
In FY22, the Affordable Housing Trust provided $34.5 million in loans and other assistance to preserve the long-term affordability of all 504 affordable units at Fresh Pond Apartments at 362 and 364 Rindge Avenue. This commitment includes providing financing to the owner to continue to keep rents affordable, and funding a rent phase-in reserve, to assist some residents transitioning to a new affordable rent structure. Preserving affordability at Fresh Pond Apartments caps the City’s efforts, started in 2009, to preserve affordability of 1,094 units at 10 privately-owned properties where continued affordability was at-risk.

Building New Affordable Housing
To help affordable housing providers create new housing, the City adopted zoning provisions in FY21 to establish Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) zoning that facilitates creation of new City-funded affordable housing with relaxed dimensional criteria and as-of-right approvals. Since its adoption,staff have worked with affordable housing partners and the community on implementation of the AHO and have seen several proposals to create new affordable housing move through the community discussion and advisory design review process (see below). In FY22, the City collaborated with affordable housing providers including the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) to create a variety of new affordable housing options including:

  • Frost Terrace. 40 new units of affordable rental housing in Porter Square were completed in FY22.
  • Squirrelwood. 23 new affordable rental units in The Port were completed in FY22 as part of larger initiative to preserve affordability of 65 existing affordable units at Linwood Court and Squirrel Brand Apartments.
  • Rindge Commons. Plans advanced for new development of affordable rental housing in a two-phase mixed-use development in the Alewife area. The first phase, expected to begin in FY23, will create 24 affordable rental units, along with non-residential space that will include a new space for early childhood education programs.
  • 52 New Street. A plan to build 107 units of affordable rental housing in a mixed-use development next to Danehy Park advanced through the AHO review process; construction is expected to begin in FY23 once all funding is secured.
  • Jefferson Park Federal Public Housing. CHA is moving forward with plans for reconstructing 175 units in North Cambridge to continue providing much-needed affordable housing that will remain financially and operationally viable into the future. Plans were reviewed through the AHO process and also include the creation of more than 100 new affordable units. Construction is expected to begin in FY23.
  • 49 Sixth Street. A plan was advanced through the AHO process to create 46 new units of affordable rental housing at the former Sacred Heart rectory, school, and convent in East Cambridge.
  • 116 Norfolk Street. CHA has proposed to renovate existing rental housing and create 62 affordable units through the AHO to better serve low-income residents with on-site supportive services.
  • 35 Harvey Street. Planning is underway to convert this 16-unit single-room occupancy (SRO) building with shared facilities into 12 small apartment units for individuals moving beyond homelessness.
  • 35 Cherry Street. A community process to determine how best to redevelop this City-owned property as affordable housing was completed. Planning for the creation of affordable homeownership units here will continue in FY23.
  • 1627 Massachusetts Avenue. The Affordable Housing Trust will fund the purchase of this property from Lesley University to create new affordable housing. Planning will begin in FY23 for transformation of this prominent property through renovation of the historic structure and new construction on the parking lot behind it.

Inclusionary Housing 
In FY22, plans for 12 new inclusionary housing units were approved, bringing the total number of housing units completed or under construction under the City’s Inclusionary Housing provisions to more than 1,495. Several new rental buildings with affordable units for low- and moderateand middle-income residents were also completed in FY22; more than 130 new units will be made available to residents in late FY22 or early FY23. With more than 200 additional new inclusionary units under construction, the City will continue to see new inclusionary housing becoming available throughout FY23 and beyond. More than 150 new households moved into an inclusionary rental unit in FY22. Over 575 applicants have been housed in inclusionary rental units in the past 5 years, and 1,086 households have moved into an inclusionary rental unit in the last decade.

Affordable Homeownership
FY22 marked the first offering of new inclusionary homeownership units in several years. Nine units were offered to first-time homebuyers through a new online application process for new affordable homeownership units. The City continued to offer homeownership education and counseling to prospective homebuyers. More than 500 participants attend the City’s homeownership workshop annually, with many also receiving homeownership counseling. The City continues to offer financial assistance to income-eligible homebuyers through the HomeBridge program, which funds up to 50% of a home purchase price. HomeBridge is available to residents earning up to 120% of area median income (AMI) looking for homes on the market, and homes become part of the City’s affordable housing stock. The City oversees more than 500 affordable homes throughout Cambridge. When these homes are sold by current owners, new buyers are selected through the City’s homeownership resale program. More than 15 first-time homebuyers purchased a City-assisted affordable home in FY22. In the last 5 years, 70 residents purchased their homes with assistance from the City, and more than 150 residents have purchased a City-assisted affordable home in the last decade.

Housing Choice Community
Cambridge continues to be designated a Housing Choice Community by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which recognizes communities that have successfully created new housing and adopted best practices for sustainable growth, promoting housing affordability.

Additional Housing Support
Multi-Service Center (MSC) staff, in coordination with the City Manager’s Housing Liaison and the Community Development Department, continued to run the emergency support and stabilization programs that have assisted hundreds of households with rent or mortgage payments to preserve their housing. The MSC also provides services to 22 men in permanent supported housing units at the YMCA. Case management services for unstably housed residents continued, including regular housing search workshops, as did emergency response to fires in coordination with the Housing Liaison. MSC staff worked with low-income individuals and families to help cover costs of moving expenses or security deposits for residents moving to new units and negotiated with landlords on behalf of households with rental arrears.


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