Community Preservation in Boston and throughout Massachusetts
In 2016, MAHA was a leading member of the Yes for a Better Boston Coalition that passed the Community Preservation Act through a ballot question campaign. It was a resounding victory with 74% of the city’s voters saying “YES” to a 1% increase in their property taxes to raise money for community housing, parks and outdoor recreation spaces, and preservation of historic places. Now Boston will have $20 million per year in new money to address these pressing needs. MAHA members are working with other nonprofit organizations and the City Council to set up a fair and transparent process for allocating this money to community projects.
MAHA is also a founding member of the state wide Community Preservation Coalition which helps cities and towns pass the Community Preservation Act (CPA) through local referenda, then works with local activists as they develop systems for allocating and spending CPA money on community needs. We now have 172 participating communities throughout the state. At least 10% of the money collected in every community must go to each of the three uses (housing, outdoor space, and historic preservation). The other 70% can go to any of the three.
Massachusetts' Most Affordable Mortgages
Over twenty years ago, a determined group of women fought hard to reverse a decades-long pattern of disinvestment in low and moderate income homebuyers and communities. These MAHA members successfully negotiated for an innovative, affordable mortgage program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers that has changed the lending landscape in Massachusetts.
Today, MAHA members and our allies work with 37 lenders that offer the program. We continue to encourage new lenders to participate, and we urge those lenders who are already involved to increase the number of homebuyers they serve each year. Over 20,000 homebuyers have already bought their first homes. The ONE Mortgage Program continues to offer stability to families and communities, with affordable payments and a foreclosure rate well below the rate for all mortgages in Massachusetts.
Community Responsibility for Mortgage Companies
At the beginning of the subprime crisis in 2000, MAHA filed legislation to create a Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for mortgage companies. Seven years later, that bill became law, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to extend CRA to cover independent mortgage companies. The new law dramatically increased the percentage of mortgage lending that is reviewed by state regulators to ensure that it meets the needs of low and moderate income homebuyers and homeowners.
Accountability for Property Insurance Companies
In 1996, MAHA was a major force behind the passage of the toughest property insurance disclosure law in the country. In response to research showing that many insurance companies were refusing to offer policies to homeowners in urban neighborhoods, MAHA organized support for the Insurance Anti-Redlining Act which now requires the top 25 property insurers to report (by zip code) where they do business in Massachusetts.
Community Investment Funds From Insurance Companies
From 1996-1998, MAHA and the Massachusetts Association of CDC's led a campaign that resulted in the passage of An Act Insuring Community Investment and the Equitable Taxation of Insurance Companies in Massachusetts. The law set up two $100 million community investment funds; one called The Life Initiative and the other called The Property and Casualty Initiative. The Life Initiative has invested over $300 million since 1999, benefiting affordable housing and other economic development projects throughout Massachusetts. The Property and Casualty Initiative has invested over $200 million.
In 1991 MAHA teamed up with the Bowdoin St. Health Center in Dorchester to lead a campaign for lead-safe housing in Boston. At that time, thousands of children were being diagnosed with elevated lead levels each year. But there were no resources available to low- and moderate-income homeowners and parents to help them make their homes safe. In many cases where children were poisoned, the homeowner was under a criminal court order to delead, but no bank would provide a loan. MAHA and the health center organized homeowners and tenants together to encourage the city of Boston to apply for federal funds in 1993 to establish the city's first-ever grant/loan program to make homes lead-safe.
Today, LeadSafe Boston and MassHousing's Get the Lead Out program stand as models for others around the country.
In 1999 MAHA members campaigned for an inclusionary development policy in Boston that would ensure that all new housing would include some units for low- and moderate-income people. In February, 2000 MAHA members stood with Mayor Thomas M. Menino as he announced the city of Boston's first formal policy on inclusionary development. The policy now calls for developers of market rate housing to set aside 13% of the units as affordable. Alternatively, developers may choose to build affordable units off site, or contribute to a fund that others can use to build the affordable units. Contribution requirements are higher for those developers who do not choose to include the affordable units within their market rate developments. We have continued to work with the City to update the policy as market prices have increased throughout Downtown and the neighborhoods.
MAHA's campaign in 2001 resulted in the first increase in Boston's linkage fee in fifteen years. The fee went from $5 per square foot to $7.18 per square foot for housing. MAHA and our community development allies have continued to advocate for increases in the fee, as the statute includes a provision for the amount to be revised at regular intervals. It is now up to $8.34 psf. Linkage is the fee paid by developers of hotel and office space to the city's Neighborhood Housing Trust. The City has collected and spent over $134 million in linkage fees since its inception.
Bank Services In Every Neighborhood
MAHA was a leader in a community campaign in 1989-90 that resulted in Boston banks opening nine new branches and more than 40 ATMs in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, and the South End. Almost all of the branches are still open today.
High Rock Homes
MAHA joined with our partner, Needham Opportunities Inc., to build support for an innovative affordable housing development of 40 units in the town of Needham. Completed in 2008, High Rock Homes was built on land owned by the Needham Housing Authority. Twenty aging rental units were torn down and replaced with twenty new affordable rentals, and twenty affordable homes for first time homebuyers. The project has improved the rental housing stock, and added 20 new units for low and moderate income homeowners to the town's inventory.