Landmark agreement reached to preserve affordable housing in South End
Mayor Martin J. Walsh together with LIHC Investment Group, one the nation's largest investors in affordable housing, the Boston Housing Authority, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants (MAHT), and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), today announced HUD approval of a creative plan to keep Concord Houses in the South End affordable for at least the next 40 years, with the support of the building's tenants.
"As we build more affordable housing, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the need to preserve Boston's inventory of income-restricted housing," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "This agreement marks a positive resolution reached to keep these residents in their homes for decades to come. I thank all the residents for their advocacy, and all partners involved who helped ensure the long-term affordability and viability of the Concord Houses."
"This agreement is the culmination of a multi-year effort to establish a new HUD program that will protect current and future residents of Concord Houses while providing funds for repairs and upgrades throughout the property," said Charlie Gendron, Principal, LIHC Investment Group. "We appreciate the support we received from the tenants; Congress, especially the efforts of Sen. Susan Collins; HUD; the City of Boston; BHA; MAHT; and GBLS in our drive to preserve this property for future generations."
Spanning two buildings located at 705-715 Tremont Street in the heart of the South End, Concord Houses has served as an important source of income-restricted housing in the South End for decades. In 2017, the HUD subsidy provisions governing the property expired, putting it at risk of losing its long-term affordability.
Of the 181 households at Concord Houses, 171-or 95 percent of households-chose to sign a waiver to convert their Enhanced Vouchers (EVs) to a new project-based rental assistance (PBRA) contract to make the plan work. The new HUD contract ensures homes at Concord Houses will be reserved for individuals earning no more than 80 percent area median income (AMI) and is renewable for a total of 40 years.
The agreement also guarantees that current and future tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent, which will actually reduce the rent burden for 30 existing households at the property. The remaining ten households will receive rent protections in the form of EVs administered by BHA.
"Preserving units of affordable housing like those at Concord House is a key element of Boston's housing strategy," said Roger Herzog, Executive Director of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), which works closely with DND on preservation issues and provided technical assistance in this case. "Congratulations to the City of Boston, the project residents, and LIHC Investment Group, and their partners, for thinking creatively to find a way to keep Concord House affordable for individuals and families in the South End."
"It's a dream to secure permanently affordable housing here -- not just for ourselves, but other people who will be here long after we're gone," said Pauline Durant, 85, a 20-year resident of Concord Houses and member of the Concord Houses Tenants Association. "It's been a long journey. When tenants stay together and fight, we win!"
"We're very elated by this victory," added Adella Quinn, 76, a retiree from Fidelity Investments and 24-year resident of Concord Houses. "We're losing too many people in the South End who are assets to the neighborhood due to rising rents. We need to come up with more ways like this to keep our community affordable."
"This is an historic victory," commented Michael Kane, Director of MAHT, which helped the tenants organize. Since 1983, MAHT has saved more than 12,450 homes like Concord Houses as affordable housing, one building at a time, through tenant organizing. "Saving affordable housing in the heart of the South End will help maintain the neighborhood's racial and economic diversity well into the future. The 171 tenants who signed up to preserve their apartments are to be commended for making this possible." Kane also lauded LIHC and the City of Boston for supporting the tenants' preservation plan and working creatively with Congress and HUD to make it work.
Attorneys for GBLS, Susan Hegel and Ann Jochnick, said they are pleased with the creative and collaborative process, which resulted in preserving much-needed affordable housing in the South End. "It's a win for current and future tenants, a win for the city and a win for the owner. We hope that this may serve as a model for future preservation efforts."
LIHC Investment Group is undertaking a $7 million repair and capital improvement campaign at the property, which includes a new entry system and security cameras; flooring and ceiling replacement; lighting upgrades in the building's common areas; and exterior work ranging from masonry repair to new fencing and landscaping. Under LIHC's ownership, apartments in the building have already received new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops and appliances; upgraded bathroom fixtures, tubs, and tiles; and vinyl plank flooring.About the City of Boston's Housing Agenda
In 2018, Mayor Martin J. Walsh updated his comprehensive housing strategy, Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030 to increase the City's overall housing goal from 53,000 to 69,000 new units by 2030, including 15,820 new income-restricted units, to meet Boston's population growth. In addition, the updated plan also set a goal to preserve 85 percent of Boston's most at-risk privately-owned affordable units, like those at Concord House. Mayor Walsh's recently announced housing security legislative package focuses on expanding upon the work that Boston has done to address the region's affordable housing crisis by proposing new and strengthening current tools to create more ways to leverage Boston's prosperity and create sustainable wealth opportunities that make Boston a more inclusive and equitable city. The housing security bills proposed for the 2019 Legislature seek to help existing tenants like those at Concord House, particularly the elderly, remain in their homes, and creates additional funding for affordable housing.About LIHC Investment Group
Based in Portland, Maine, LIHC Investment Group has been active in the Greater Boston housing market for over two decades. In July 2017, the company donated its ownership stake in the Close Building, a 61-unit affordable housing community in Cambridge, to the nonprofit Just-A-Start Corporation, which develops, own and maintains affordable housing; provides housing resources and services; and offers education and workforce training for youth and adults in Boston. In August 2017, LIHC and Weston Associates forged an agreement to keep 380 homes at Shore Plaza Apartments in East Boston affordable and have since completed a major capital repair campaign for the property.