News, Events, and Blog

Apr 08

2016

Housing the Homeless

The Tri Community Coalition to End Homelessness invites you to a forum on Sunday April 24th from 1:30 – 3:30 to explore “Housing the Homeless: From Crisis to Shelter to Home.” Many interesting speakers and exhibitors who are on the front lines trying to end homelessness. End Homelessness Forum

Mar 31

2016

How Volunteering can Benefit You!

We have all heard about how we should serve the common good by volunteering our free time to community non-profits; as an AmeriCorps member I can completely attest to idea of using your time to help others. Volunteering in general provides obvious benefits to the organization and the population being served.  However, what is often overlooked is the fact that volunteering can also have great personal benefits for those who are willing to donate some of their time and effort to a cause that is important to them!

Here at Metro West, we are currently looking for volunteers to help us further our mission and implement new programs. But we also want to help you become more engaged with your community and learn new skills! Keep reading for some of the ways volunteering with us can be mutually beneficial:

  • Learn more about affordable housing issues! As part of your training as a volunteer, you will be briefed on what defines affordable housing, the need for it, and the work being done to develop and advocate for new affordable homes.
  • Build your ties with metro west communities! We work with many different towns, organizations, and individuals; as a volunteer this network can be available to you.
  • Learn new skills! Some of our new programs, such as financial literacy and the housing search clinic, will require volunteers to familiarize themselves with relevant information and resources. Metro West CD will provide new volunteers with any necessary training and knowledge.
  • Meet new people! Volunteering will introduce you to numerous new people who may have similar ideas, interests, and hobbies.
  • Strengthen your resume! Many people may not think of this, but volunteering can add valuable experience to your resume, and show your potential employers that you are an engaged member of your community!
  • Improve your overall health! Studies show that individuals who volunteer have better mental health as volunteering combats depression, feelings of isolation, and promotes a sense of purpose. Additionally, those who volunteer also tend to be physically healthier as many volunteer activities encourage a more active lifestyle.

If you believe you would like to experience one of the benefits listed above and are passionate about bringing affordable housing to metro west communities, then visit our volunteer page or contact Desiree at desiree@metrowestcd.org. We have flexible volunteer opportunities for almost every schedule, and would love to hear how you would like to get involved!

Jan 31

2016

“The boys have gotten so big!”

It can take a seldom visited great aunt’s exclamation of “my how you’ve grown!” for a parent to see the growth in their own children. That’s how I felt when I recently spoke to a long lost colleague who exclaimed, “wow, you’ve got a lot going on!”

2015 was a challenging year for Metro West CD. The budget was super tight, a key staff person moved on and there was not a lot of good news on the horizon. But, we just kept stumbling forward and things have started to pick up steam. As of this writing we are:

  • Interviewing with the Norwell Community Housing Trust for the possible new construction of 18 units of affordable rental housing for seniors.
  • Submitting an application to the Waltham Community Preservation Committee for a $10 million acquisition/rehabilitation program to create 26 units of affordable rental housing for individuals and families.
  • Helping the towns of Stow and Belmont undertake Housing Production Plans.
  • Supporting two of our peer non-profits (the Weston Affordable Housing Fund, Inc. and the Lexington Housing Assistance Board) in their efforts to bring 2 and 4 units of affordable rental housing to their communities.
  • Organizing a Senior Housing Information Forum in Dedham.
  • Providing organizational infrastructure support to the Watertown Community Preservation Act campaign.
  • Participating in meetings with housing advocates in Natick and Lexington in their efforts to identify sites and public policies to create affordable housing.
  • Continuing our support of the Fernald Working Group.
  • Exploring a small-scale rental housing initiative in Hudson.

2016 will bear all of this fruit if we can tend it well. Thank you for your support, encouragement and commitment.

Nov 24

2015

The gulf between the advocates and the politics

Affordable housing advocates were eager to get their hands on “The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2015,” as it gives us new fodder to feed our mission. Costs are going up across the board–from land, to construction, to financing. Meanwhile, the state has over 4,000 homeless families in the emergency shelter system and tens of thousands more that are living on the economic margins.

It’s a great report and the problems are very real, very big and very entrenched, but what strikes me most is the incongruousness of the situation. A key conclusion is that we need to be able to build larger developments so that we can generate economies of scale to drive down costs. But at every town committee meeting I go to, and I go to lots and lots of them, the goal is to build innocuous affordable housing; keep it under the radar. “Political reality” trumps our crushing need every time. So, Community Preservation Committees and Housing Trusts and even many town planners, are now talking about how to get 2 units through town meeting. TWO UNITS! Some really bold and ambitious housing advocates might push for 10…

Up in the ether of the housing policy world, we’re talking about the need for thousands of units to meet the social and economic goals of the Commonwealth. And in towns and small cities we’re talking about single digits. How do we bridge this divide?

Maybe part of the answer is to dig deeper into the carrots and sticks that exists in communities for meeting housing production goals. Are Housing Production Plans working? Is the 40B “safe harbor” attainable for communities? Are 40R and 40S producing new units at a meaningful scale? And, how about those CPA dollars? Maybe the Commonwealth should have more strings attached to its match. Each community shares in the success of the Commonwealth. We also share in the challenge of addressing its problems.

 

 

Aug 25

2015

Can we end segregation?

Like, “Can we end hunger?” the  question of “ending segregation” in housing seems so vast and intractable that I never gave it much thought until August 6th while sitting in the front row of a CHAPA Breakfast forum entitled, “What do the Supreme Court Ruling on Disparate Impact and HUD’s Final Rule Mean for Fair Housing?”[1]

We heard Attorney Henry Korman (of Klein Hornig LLP) say that the purpose of Title VIII when it was passed back in 1968 was to end segregation. That got me wondering – what would ending segregation really look like? I certainly don’t have an answer, but I will go out on a limb and guess that we at least need to move the dial in the direction of more racial minorities living in our western suburbs.

The racial minority population in Massachusetts is about 30% and in our subset of Metro West towns it’s about 20%. That doesn’t feel like a vast difference until you think about the actual numbers. That difference represents about 63,000 people. How could we include 63,000 people in just our 21 towns and cities? What would it take? I began searching…

I found some interesting and important groups working on “inclusive communities.”[2]  But, they largely help communities think about how to bring diverse people together to work at the same table. Here in the suburbs, we need to actually get them into the house before we can ask them to the table.

A quick search for desegregation turns of mostly stories of school desegregation: there is no silver bullet to desegregate neighborhoods. No doubt what has taken centuries to build up will take a long time to knock down. I did find this:

If cities and developers respond with both the proactive planning that Williams and Daniel hope for and the expanded understanding of the problem that Orfield says is necessary, there’s a chance that the country could start seeing real progress on the physical divisions that are at the root of more explosive racial conflict.

“I think we’re seeing the fruits of this self-reinforcing segregation in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and all over the country,” Orfield said. “We have to use our housing system to make progress toward a more integrated society, not just rebuilding and resurfacing slums.”[3]

How would you use the housing system to build a more integrated society?

Jul 27

2015

Engine 6: 22 months later

Our effort to create nine studio apartments for formerly homeless individuals at Engine 6 officially ended on October 3rd 2013 when our Purchase and Sale Agreement expired and it became abundantly clear that there was not sufficient political will to make the project possible.  Since then, the Engine 6 site sold to a private developer and the Zoning Board of Appeals approved his permit to build three luxury condominiums.

If that were the end of the story then this would be a sad tale indeed.

The silver lining is that the proposed project  spurred the creation of a grassroots community effort known as the “Supporters of Engine 6.” Since October 2013, the community group has been steadily championing affordable housing developments in Newton and led a very successful complaint against the City to the Federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.  Below is the link to a press release the group released last month summarizing their achievement: The City must create 9-12 units of permanent supportive housing within the next five years.

While this outcome is significant in and of itself, of course the real achievement is in standing tall against discrimination and forcing the City leadership to address the housing needs of the entire community.

Congratulations Engine 6!

http://newton.wickedlocal.com/article/20150610/NEWS/150619595

Jun 30

2015

Housing Plan Approved for Boxborough!

Earlier this month, the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development approved the Town of Boxborough’s Housing Production Plan (HPP). The plan establishes goals and strategies for the Town as it works to meet the 10% affordable housing benchmark established by State law. With an approved plan in place, the Town can gain additional control over comprehensive permit projects if they are able to meet the annual planned production goals detailed in the HPP.

Metro West CD worked closely with the Town’s planner and the Boxborough Housing Board in drafting the plan. We developed a comprehensive housing needs assessment through an analysis of local and regional demographic, socioeconomic, and housing market indicators. Like many communities in the Commonwealth, Boxborough is in the process of a significant demographic shift as the population ages and younger households, faced with high housing costs, are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable homes in the metro Boston area. These trends helped inform the development of goals and strategies for the Town. Chief among these are expanding housing choices for younger families and for aging seniors who are low-income and on a fixed-income, but desire to remain in Boxborough.

With an active municipal housing board, a housing trust fund, and the recently adopted Community Preservation Act, the residents of Boxborough have many of the tools necessary to meet their affordable housing goals!

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