Elliot Kilham, MUP 2016
Summer 2015
Organization: Just a Start, Cambridge, MA, USA
Sponsor: Greater Boston Community Service Fellowship

“The Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard recently released their report The State of the Nation’s Housing in 2015. One affordable housing challenge that the report highlights is an urgent need to preserve existing affordable units. In the coming decades, 2.2 million affordable units are at risk of removal from the affordable housing stock and conversion to market rate. Over half of these units are LIHTC developments whose 15 year compliance period is ending. These so-called “expiring use” units come on top of declining Federal subsidies for affordable housing, rising development costs, and declining incomes.

In my own research on affordable housing this past week, I am finding this pressure to preserve expiring use units is playing out in Cambridge, MA. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how inclusionary units have become the primary source for new affordable housing development in Cambridge. While the city and non-profits have continued to produce new units as well as to convert market rate units to affordable units, much of their attention has switched to preserving expiring use units. The City has made staff available to help owners develop preservation plans in addition to making funds available for preservation activities through the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.

Over the past ten years, the City and non-profits have preserved 1,120 units. This compares to developing 267 new units and converting 147 market rate units. Just-a-Start (JAS), a CDC in Cambridge where I am doing my fellowship completed a deal in March 2012 to preserve 32 affordable units at the corner of Norfolk and Bishop Allen in Central Square. JAS is currently renovating these units. However, the City has identified another 800 units set to expire in the next 8 years.