WCH newspaper 1996

Our Beginning

Metro West CD emerged from the conversations and efforts of people in the area who were concerned about the displacement of low and moderate income families and a desire to have an impact on the development that was happening around them. The result was the transformation of Watertown Community Housing (founded in 1991) into Metro West Collaborative Development, Inc. (in 2012).

Very Early On

In 1987 housing advocates used a Growth Management Committee Hearing as a forum to voice their concern for the shortage of housing affordable to seniors, first time home buyers and low and middle income workers. This hearing prompted the creation of a Housing Task Force that provided recommendations to the Town Council. These housing advocates became known as: WHAT – Watertown Homeowners And Tenants.

In 1988 recommendations from the Housing Task Force included:

  1. Creating a town-Housing Partnership
  2. Creating a non-profit housing development organization
  3. Creating a housing counselor position at Town Hall

WHAT decides to dissolve and form the non-profit per the Task Force recommendations. The non-profit would have “as its sole and continuing focus, the remedy of housing problems in the community.” In 1990, articles of incorporation are submitted to the Secretary of State for the formation of Watertown Community Housing, Inc. Its first membership meeting is held in February 1991.

1991 - 2008

In the very early years the Watertown Community Housing (WCH) Board members and volunteers largely focused on affordable housing advocacy campaigns and one HUD/HOME funded program “First Home.” First Home provided Downpayment assistance loans to low-income home buyers. WCH facilitated the loans on behalf of the Town of Watertown. WCH hired its first part-time staff person.

WCH takes on its first development project at Quimby Street, converting two 2-family properties into a 4-unit condominium development with a total development cost of $1.2 million. A second government-funded program “HIP” (Home Improvement Program) is launched utilizing State Community Development Block Grant funds. Just over $1 million in home improvement loans are made to low-income homeowners. First Home continues to provide approximately $150,000 in loans each year to first-time home buyers. Also during this time WCH co-develops a 10-unit senior housing rental project with CasCap. The project was conceived when a historic nursing home was closing and considerable public support was generated to maintain the housing for low-income elderly persons. The total development cost was $2.4 million.

2008 - 2021

WCH hires new Executive Director, Jennifer Van Campen, and tells her “Go build housing!” and so, she purchased an 18-unit development on Belmont Street and brings WCH into the world of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), completing the $5.6 million project in late 2010. At that same time, conversations and planning are underway to transform WCH into a regional community development corporation. The organization’s name, mission and Board structure are changed to become Metro West Collaborative Development.

The next 10 years marked significant growth for Metro West CD broadening its reach and impact with many new programs and development projects:

Community Planning and Organizing

  • Housing Production Plans in Watertown, Belmont and Lexington in 2012.
  • Support of the Fernald Working Group in Waltham beginning in 2014.
  • Watertown’s victorious Community Preservation Act campaign in 2016.
  • State-wide victories with the MA Association of CDCs such as the Community Investment Tax Credit and several Housing Bond Bills.

Affordable Housing Programming

  • Regional Ready Renter Program is launched in 2010 and now serves over 3,000 people each year. Weekly Housing Clinics are added in 2017.
  • Municipal consulting such as the Assabet Regional Housing Consortium grew in response to the great need for technical assistance for towns that wanted to increase their affordable housing stock.
  • 55+ and Ready To Move workshops launched and held at Senior Centers throughout the region.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Programs created by Metro West CD in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. $4.5 million is distributed in 8 towns to over 500 households. 

Real Estate Development

  • Joseph Hall, Watertown, rehabilitates rental homes for 25 senior households in 2013
  • Engine 6, Newton, not all efforts are victorious. This project to build 1-bedroom rental homes for 10 homeless individuals was ultimately defeated by neighbors opposing the project but, it did spawn a wonderful community group that continues to fight for affordable housing in Newton at https://enginesix.org/
  • Herring Brook Hill, Norwell, creates 18 rental homes for senior households in 2019.
  • 236 Auburn St., Newton, creates three rental homes for families and five units for individuals with disabilities in 2020. The project is conducted in partnership with CANDO and the Price Center, both non-profits in Newton.
  • Glen Brook Way, Medway, will eventually create 92 rental homes for families and seniors on land purchased in 2017. Initially conceived as 48 units, the Town leadership encouraged Metro West CD to expand the project. Their unprecedented support and determination made this possible. Families were able to move into the first phase in 2021.
  • Municipal RFPs (request for proposals) were a key piece of the Metro West CD strategy over the years. In 2020-21 Metro West CD was awarded the development rights to projects in Hudson and Newton. Each will serve about 40 households with construction targeted for 2023-24.

In 2011 Watertown Community Housing celebrated its 20th anniversary. Take a look at the numerous activities below that we’ve taken part in over the years and download our 20th Anniversary Brochure. Also see and hear from early community activists from this documentary created by Watertown Community Access Television.

30th Anniversary 2021

2021 marked the 30th Anniversary of Metro West CD. It also marked the departure of long-time Executive Director Jennifer Van Campen who retired from community development to pursue a career in health care. The Board was pleased to announce that the new Executive Director would be Caitlin Madden who served as Metro West CD’s Deputy Director since June of this year.

Over the last 15 years, Jennifer has helped us navigate many challenges and shepherded growth when we didn’t even think it was possible. Metro West CD has a strong balance sheet, multiple real estate projects in the pipeline, programs serving hundreds of families, and a very capable staff. We are very excited for Caitlin to take the organization to the next level.

Suneeth John

Board President

See the video below to watch the celebration.