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January 2021: Latest updates from the Department of Neighborhood Development

Happy New Year! This first issue of our 2021 monthly newsletter will be focused on the work that the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) accomplished during an historically challenging year.

Much of DND’s work is focused on housing — creating new affordable housing and new opportunities for homeownership, stabilizing renters, and preventing homelessness, evictions, and foreclosures. In a high-cost city like Boston, we have always had established goals to measure our progress, but in 2020, our work was infused with new urgency.

What we accomplished last year would not have been possible without the partnership and support not only of Mayor Walsh and City of Boston colleagues, but also from a wide array of nonprofit and for-profit partners who stepped up to meet this overwhelming and continuing crisis. Collaboration and problem-solving have become the focus of every day as we strive to best serve our neighbors and keep them safely housed and healthy during this global pandemic.

We are grateful for all that we accomplished together last year, and secure in the knowledge that these partnerships will enable us to continue on with this important work through 2021, and beyond.

Sheila A. Dillon
Chief of Housing, and Director of Neighborhood Development

New Affordable Housing

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Despite a three month construction shutdown, Boston’s commitment to creating new affordable homes did not waver. In fact,  the Neighborhood Homes Division (NHD) recorded 2020 as the second best year for the production of new affordable homes. These accomplishments include:

  • 1,000 new units of affordable housing were permitted, a record year second only to 2017, when 1,025 units were permitted.
  • When the shutdown ended, 1,200 units of city-supported affordable housing were restarted and construction began on 500 more, representing $2.1 billion in new residential construction, and 2,800 construction jobs.
  • 2020 was the best year on record for senior housing production.
  • Boston surpassed the halfway point for affordable housing acquisitions, and has now acquired 532 units of the 1,000 unit goal.

Ending Homelessness

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Pictured: Mayor Walsh addresses homeless census volunteers in 2019

Throughout the pandemic, the Supportive Housing Division (SHD) has continued their work to provide safe housing for all of the residents in Boston experiencing homelessness. SHD also collaborated with shelter and service providers to ensure that shelters were as safe as possible, and that COVID+ Bostonians without homes received appropriate medical care and respite services. In 2020, SHD:

  • Collaborated with HHS, the Boston Public Health Commission, and shelter and service providers to stand up a field hospital and respite at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for 1,000 Bostonians in need of medical attention and shelter.
  • Housed more than 800 homeless individuals, including 133 chronically homeless Bostonians and 150 veterans.
  • Housed more than 100 youth during the first full year of new programs to end youth homelessness in partnership with the Ecumenical Social Action Committee, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Justice Resource Institute, Home for Little Wanderers, and Metro Housing Boston.
  • The team also was responsible for awarding $11 million in COVID-19 funding to local partners to support or create emergency shelter, housing, and prevent homelessness.

Please note that the annual Homeless Census will be conducted on Wednesday, January 27. The census will be modified this year to ensure the safety of both the census takers and individuals experiencing homelessness. Volunteer opportunities will be very limited.

Assisting Renters

In 2020, DND’s Office of Housing Stability (OHS) stepped up their efforts to protect Boston’s at-risk renters, who were struggling with job and income loss as a result of the pandemic. In 2020, the OHS team:

  • Created the Rental Relief Fund, which has distributed more than $5 million with help from partners NOAH, MetroHousing Boston and Project Hope, to 1,300 households who were unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19 job or income loss.
  • Enacted the Housing Stability Notification Act, which requires landlords to provide tenants with information on eviction resources and their rights whenever a lease is ended.
  • Established a Landlord Pledge, asking landlords to work with tenants to prevent evictions. To date more than 30 landlords, including some of the biggest property owners in the city, have signed the pledge.
  • Funded free attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services to work with tenants facing eviction in housing court.
  • Translated all of the documentation necessary for any of these actions into the top 10 languages other than English that are commonly spoken in Boston.

Supporting Homeowners and Homebuyers

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In 2020, DND’s Boston Home Center’s (BHC) work on creating new homeowners, and assisting those who already own to maintain their success continued through:

  • Launching the ONE+Boston product in partnership with MAHA and the MHP Fund, increased first-time homebuyer loan amounts, and financially assisted 129 homebuyers.
  • Increasing the grant funding available through the First-Generation Homebuyer Program from $3,000 to $5,000 in partnership with MAHA, the MIDAS Collaborative and Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • Establishing the Foreclosure Prevention Pledge, persuading 17 banks to agree to loan deferments.
  • Responding to 513 calls for foreclosure assistance.
  • Doubling the funds available for home repairs for seniors, and
  • Helping a record number of seniors with Seniors Save furnace repair and replacement projects. The amount of funding available per project also increased, from $6,000 to $10,000.
  • Completing 1,634 minor repairs for 800 homeowners.
  • Responding to 139 housing-related emergency calls from residents.
  • Making 600 wellness calls during the height of the first wave of the pandemic, ensuring that seniors and other Bostonians who had been assisted by the BHC were doing well during the lockdown.

Pictured: Dafany Pressat, a MAHA First Generation program graduate and Mattapan homebuyer

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    Published by: Housing
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