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City announces $60m in housing assistance

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
City announces $60m in housing assistance
Mayor Michelle Wu addresses reporters on Violet Street in Mattapan. Behind are MAHA Exec. Dir. Symone Crawford, City Councilor Brian Worrell, Boston Housing Authority Director Kate Bennet, Housing Chief Sheila Dillon, City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, State Rep. Russell Holmes and Director of Planning Arthur Jemison. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

City officials gathered at the site of a newly built affordable two-family home in Mattapan Friday to announce a $60 million investment of federal funds to help moderate- and low-income families buy homes in Boston as part of the Welcome Home Boston initiative.

The lot on Violet Street near Mattapan Square is one of 150 that a city audit found were suitable for building homes. All 150 lots have been reserved for owner-occupied housing with varying degrees of affordability. City officials hope to build 300 affordable units on the lots.

“We are really trying to move as fast as possible with every single lever that the city has — making land available in partnership with community developers and community members, making the financing possible with increased down-payment assistance, writing down interest on those loans and partnering with our community organizations for even more down-payment assistance, and with the state on top of that as well,” Wu told reporters.

In all, Wu’s administration plans to invest $380 million in affordable housing over the next three years.

“With the right funding, we have the ability to change people’s lives and invest in our communities right away,” Wu said.

The Welcome Home Boston down payment assistance comes courtesy of a $60 million infusion from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were channeled to the city in the wake of the COVID pandemic shutdowns of 2020. That assistance is for home purchases throughout the city. The city will provide up to $50,000 in down payment assistance for up to 5% of the cost of a home. Wu noted that with state down-payment assistance, first-time home buyers can also combine the city assistance with a state program that also provides down payment assistance for up to 5% of a home value.

First-time home buyers can also take advantage of the Saving Toward Affordable Sustainable Homeownership (STASH) program, administered by the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA). Homebuyers who are the first generation in their family to buy a home can receive up to $5,000 in matching funds toward a down payment.

“Thousands of potential homebuyers came to MAHA year after year seeking the stability and security that only home ownership can provide,” said MAHA Executive Director Symone Crawford. “This morning the mayor and our team are delivering.”

People living in public housing developments or who use Section 8 vouchers in Boston can qualify for up to $75,000 in down payment assistance to purchase a home in the city through the Boston Housing Authority’s Section 8 to Home Ownership program.

“We have families that really want to purchase their own home, and can support a mortgage, but need to get over the hurdle of upfront down-payment costs,” said Kate Bennett, administrator and CEO at BHA. “Providing homeownership opportunities to BHA public housing and Section 8 residents is a huge win—it means long term stability and opportunity for families here in Boston.”

While ARPA funding is making the city’s down-payment assistance and current round of affordable housing construction possible, Wu noted that more funding will be necessary to continue such efforts in the future. She pointed to a legislative proposal being advanced by members of the Boston delegation to the State House that would impose a transfer tax on real estate transactions over $1 million that she said would provide the city with $100 million a year to preserve and build affordable housing.

Fast-tracked development

Abraham Gonzalez, the president of One Way Development, which built the duplex on Violet Street, said the project is the second of 10 his firm won bids to develop. He said the city’s expedited permitting of affordable housing on the city-owned lots makes the process much easier than the normal building process in Boston.

“Because it’s been reviewed by the city already, it’s a much quicker process,” he said.

Standing in front of the gray three-story duplex, One Way project manager Sumul Shah said he was happy with the way the building turned out.

“We’re really proud of this,” he said. “We built what the community wanted.”