$3.8 from CPA fund gives boost to MAHA housing push

Mayor Martin Walsh, center, announced $3.8 million in Community Preservation Act funds to assist low-to-moderate income first-time homebuyers in the city of Boston during a rally at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury last Thursday. Photo courtesy MAHA

Some 900 people crowded the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury last Thursday night for a standing-room-only rally organized by the Mass Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) to unveil a new affordable mortgage program targeting first-time homebuyers.

Mayor Martin Walsh was on hand to announce the awarding of $3.8 million in Community Preservation Act funds designed to assist low-to-moderate income first-time homebuyers in the city of Boston.

This award came one year after MAHA applied for funds as a part of their Expand The Pie campaign to win resources for affordable homeownership.

Prior to presenting the check, Walsh took the gathering through his own struggle with buying a home in Boston. He said that during his initial campaign for state representative, he was $30,000 in debt from battling his addiction to alcohol. “When people have access to homeownership, we know we can build a strong middle class,” Walsh said. His speech was met with cheers and whistles.

“This is a full circle moment for me,” said Shalaye Camillo, a graduate of MAHA’s homebuyer program. “My real estate journey was five years. I was a single female trying to purchase in Boston and I was getting outbid on all these properties because I didn’t have the buying power to actually compete. Because of MAHA and the ONE program, I was able to buy a house.” Camillo, who spoke at the event, was accompanied by her daughter.

The new program, ONE+ Boston, will increase the buying power of families making below the median income through a combination of lower interest rates and enhanced down-payment assistance. The pilot program will be run by the Massachusetts Housing Partnership with funding from Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development DND).

“Our role is to come up with a program where we can reduce the interest rates of mortgages to allow people more buying power in a very tight homeownership market,” said Sheila Dillon, the city’s chief of housing and DND director.

“Traditionally, we have given people down payments,” she said, “but when you look at increasing a down payment versus reducing an interest rate, you get a lot more buying power when you reduce an interest rate.”

On stage alongside the mayor were state representatives who support of the program. “It allows you to finally get some roots,” said Rep. Russell Holmes. “You can then decide: Where am I going to work? Where am I going to have fun? Where am I going to do all the things in life? I think it’s the base of everything for anyone with a strong family.”

MAHA has called for a doubling of linkage fees paid by developers of commercial development, an increase in the percentage of affordable units required for new housing developments, and a new tax on multi-million dollar real estate transactions to help raise significant funds for affordable housing initiatives.