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MassDevelopment Bonds Renovate, Preserve Affordable Housing in Cambridge

August 21, 2014


Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086 & 617-448-9077 (cell)
Peter Graham, Just-A-Start, 617-494-0444 ext. 331
Peter Daly, Homeowner’s Rehab, 617-868-4858

MassDevelopment has issued $21.74 million in tax-exempt bonds on behalf of two Cambridge-based affordable housing preservation projects. Just-A-Start Corporation will use an $8.5 million tax-exempt bond to acquire, renovate, and preserve of the Bishop Allen Apartments, a 32-unit affordable housing facility in Central Square. Renovations include new bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, doors, windows, and siding; accessibility improvements; and fire system upgrades.

Homeowner’s Rehab Inc. will use a $13.24 million bond to acquire, renovate, and preserve Putnam Square Apartments, a 94-unit affordable rental housing facility for seniors and individuals with disabilities at 2 Mt. Auburn Street. Renovations include building envelope repairs, window replacement, new elevators, new boilers, fire alarm upgrades, security upgrades, accessibility improvements, and energy and water conservation improvements. In addition to the bond financing, MassDevelopment assisted the Department of Housing and Community Development with approval of federal low-income housing tax credits, which provided approximately $3.7 million in equity for the Bishop Allen Apartments project and $7.4 million in equity for the Putnam Square project. Boston Private Bank purchased both bonds.

“Urban living spaces such as the Bishop Allen and Putnam Square Apartments provide much-needed affordable housing opportunities with access to public transportation to those in need,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “Preserving affordable units is critical to the Commonwealth’s housing stock, and these financings will help Just-A-Start and Homeowner’s Rehab improve these apartments and keep them available to low-income Cantabrigians.”

Bishop Allen Apartments consists of five two-bedroom units and 27 three-bedroom units in four buildings. Upon completion of the planned renovations, Just-A-Start will rent all 32 units to households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income, with affordability preserved in perpetuity as a result of this financing. Just-A-Start is a Cambridge-based nonprofit that, since 1969, has focused on affordable housing, community engagement, workforce development, and educational initiatives.

“The preservation of affordable housing units in Cambridge is vitally important to our residents and also to ensuring Cambridge remains a vibrant and diverse community,” said Deborah Ruhe, executive director of Just-A-Start. “Projects like these not only preserve affordable housing but allow JAS to update and restore these historically significant buildings. All of this helps us continue our mission at JAS of creating opportunity, strengthening community, and improving lives.”

Harvard University built the Putnam Square Apartments in the early 1970s near Harvard Square. Founded in 1972 by concerned residents who wanted to stabilize their community, Homeowner’s Rehab has developed more than 1,500 units of housing and owns almost 1,250 apartments and 55,000 square feet of commercial space in Cambridge. Homeowner’s Rehab also operates a foreclosure prevention program and The Home Improvement Program, a 37-year-old initiative that provides low-interest home improvement loans and technical assistance to homeowners in Cambridge who cannot afford to maintain their homes. Through this bond, Homeowner’s Rehab will preserve all 94 units as affordable.

“Putnam Square is a critically important preservation project for both the residents and the City of Cambridge,” said Homeowner's Rehab Executive Director Peter Daly. “We are very pleased to be able to work with MassDevelopment and our other funding partners to preserve this property.”

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2013, MassDevelopment financed or managed 350 projects generating investment of more than $2.4 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create more than 7,000 jobs and build or rehabilitate 800 residential units.