Community Development Block Grant
Success Stories

Cambridge, MA - Mayor Francis H. Duehay

Hampshire/Columbia 16-Unit Homeownership Project

The Hampshire/Columbia Townhouses - located in Area Four, Cambridge's most distressed neighborhood - offer 16 lower-income families the opportunity to own their own condominium units.

The Townhouses were built on an eight-tenths-acre City-owned site. While City officials had envisioned using the land for a park/playground development, they engaged in a two-year study of Area Four needs, in partnership with local residents, to plan for the reuse of the land. As the residents were equal partners in the effort, it was decided that their wish for a homeownership initiative should prevail.

The Homeownership Project includes several significant features:

  • •The architectural design for the 16-unit complex matches the neighborhood's character in terms of scale, height and massing. The facades of the three buildings are so well matched to the adjacent structures that they are not singled out as "new housing."
  • •The condominium units have deed restrictions which ensure that resales will be to lower-income families in perpetuity. Eleven of the units will remain permanently available to families making under 80 percent of median family income; the other five go to families below 65 percent of median family income.
  • •With CDBG support, non-profit housing professionals have been providing ongoing technical assistance to the 16 families in becoming successful homeowners and in establishing a well-functioning condominium association.

City officials also point to two other exemplary aspects of the Homeownership Project: First, the self-esteem of the neighborhood was lifted because its residents were equal partners with the City both in the planning study and in all phases of the subsequent project development. Second, the Project enabled 16 lower-income families - many with children - to become first-time home buyers, to move from renter status in mediocre-to-poor quality housing to ownership status in functionally and aesthetically high-quality housing.

CDBG funds were used for all of the City staff work leading up to the Homeownership Project, including the neighborhood needs study and the Project planning and development. Key construction financing was provided by a consortium of local banks and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation; the HOME program and the City's Affordable Housing Trust provided $823,000 which was used to reduce the per-unit cost from $128,000 to an average of $76,500. Permanent mortgage financing was provided by the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency and through grants from the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and a local private foundation, Charlesbank Homes, which helped write down the sale prices.

Contact: Beth Rubenstein, Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development, (617) 349-4600

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