MassHousing financing critical in Dot property rehabs

Hundreds of apartments in properties in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan are being overhauled and saved from foreclosure, according to an independent state agency charged with financing affordable housing. The Massachusetts Housing Financing Agency, also known as MassHousing, closed $52.4 million in loans for four community development corporations – Urban Edge Housing Corporation, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Lena Park Community Development Corporation, and Nuestra Communidad Development Corporation. The loans are helping to pay off the old loans on the properties, which include 359 apartments.

The funding prevents foreclosure and turns the properties, which ranged from 20 to 25 percent affordable housing, to 100 percent affordable housing as part of the deal.

Thomas Gleason, the executive director of MassHousing, said the properties had initially accumulated too much debt after the community development corporations bought the apartments in the 1980s with private bank loans and government subsidies. The properties’ renovation needs and debt service payments were outpacing the money the apartments generated.

Gleason said the nonprofits, which tend to run budgets “close to the bone” to begin with, were placed in a difficult position.

“Any time you can work with a nonprofit to stabilize buildings and neighborhoods, that’s a home run, you’ve got to do it,” he told the Reporter. “They’re high quality nonprofits doing the right thing in their community, so whenever we can help them out, that’s what we want to do.”

The properties received upgrades and improvements to their porches, windows, balconies, and roofs, along with new fire alarm and sprinkler systems, boilers, and updated wiring.

Lena Park, which received $13.5 million, has 103 apartments in eight locations on Blue Hill Avenue, Talbot Avenue, Glenway Street, Wellington Hill Street, Fessenden Street and Esmond Street in Dorchester and Mattapan. Codman Square, which has 80 apartments across nine locations on Dorchester Avenue, Capen Street, Washington Street, Gaylord Street, and Norfolk Street, received $12.3 million.

The other properties and their community development corporations are in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.
“MassHousing’s underwriting, operating oversight, and financing have been crucial for our Codman Square Apartments project,” said Mark Dinaburg, the director of real estate development for Codman Square. “With their help, we have finally been able to refinance and rehabilitate this 80-unit BHP-1 property. Previous to this, we had made multiple efforts to bring together an adequate financing package, while the properties slowly decayed, physically, socially, and financially. Indeed, the entire portfolio was threatened with foreclosure in the dark days of 2009. MassHousing’s willingness to step up with bridge financing, and to participate in a permanent financing package, was key to turning this around.”

Separately, MassHousing closed a loan earlier this week for the Quincy Heights project in Dorchester. The 129-unit project, acquired by a partnership of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation and the Quincy Geneva Housing Corporation, will be receiving $30.4 million in loans. Eighty existing apartments will be rehabilitated, while 49 new apartments will be built.

Quincy Heights, once known as Woodledge/Morant Bay, is also receiving federal money through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The city is seeking to revamp the economically depressed corridor, and HUD is providing a grant totaling $20.5 million. “It’s really a combined effort,” Gleason said.

“The goal of all this work is to improve the quality of life for the people who live in the Quincy-Geneva neighborhood,” said Barbara Fields, HUD’s regional administrator. “We are excited to be part of the tremendous collaborative effort working to make this happen.”