Resilient Affordable Housing Grant Program - Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s Resilient Affordable Housing Grant Program illustrates how cities can use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building Program grants to fund resilience investments in affordable housing.1 Despite having one of the narrowest housing affordability gaps in the country, Boston nevertheless faces pressures from increasing population growth.2 Like many urban areas across the country, Boston also faces increased incidences of climate impacts like extreme heat, coastal and riverine flooding, and more frequent stormwater flooding. In 2019, the Boston chapter of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) issued an RFP to provide HUD Section 4 funding (up to $9,000) to assist community development corporations (CDCs) and community housing development organizations (CDHOs) with preparing the city’s affordable housing stock for extreme weather, sea-level rise, and other impacts of climate change. Specifically, the Resilient Affordable Housing Grant program provided funding to conduct resiliency assessments for vulnerable properties (located in the floodplain or at-risk for extreme heat), as well as for creating emergency management and training plans.

As climate change is posing threats to Boston, people of color and low-income people living in affordable housing are facing a number of challenges. Affordable housing in Boston is located in physically vulnerable areas such as floodplains or urban heat islands. To enhance resiliency through the lens of equity, LISC Boston initiated the Resilient Affordable Housing Grant Program to help provide cost-effective resilient building strategies to the most vulnerable residents. LISC Boston is a local chapter of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national social enterprise acting as an intermediary to bridge the funding from government and for-profit companies and underserved local communities’ needs. Housing has been the main concern for LISC since LISC first established. LISC Boston as the matching funder thus far has financed nearly 11,000 affordable homes.3   

In 2019, Boston received a $50,000 grant from the Partners for Places matching grant program with another $50,000 matched by LISC Boston. The Partners for Places matching grant program is led by the Funder’s Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. As the local matching funder of the $50,000 grant, LISC Boston collaborated with resiliency experts and other partners to develop the Boston resilient affordable housing grant program. The goal is to help multifamily affordable housing organizations prepare cost-effective resilient building strategies to protect the properties and residents to withstand climate impacts. The program includes two parts: one that provides resiliency assessments for vulnerable properties and one that creates emergency preparedness plans for owners’ properties. For the purpose of this grant application, vulnerable properties are defined as any of the following: 

(1) Properties within the 100-Year Floodplain

(2) Properties that would be flooded in the event of a Category 1 Hurricane (or higher)

(3) Properties that, by virtue of their urban location or population type, are at higher risk for overheating conditions during extreme heat events

The program specifically targets multifamily affordable housing organizations like the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations. According to the request for proposals, the program expects to award up to five organizations or more whenever the funding pool is depleted. The participating organizations will be working directly with the expert consultant, New Ecology, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, to assess property’s climate resiliency. Based on the assessment, New Ecology may also provide corresponding recommendations. The program will prioritize the vulnerable properties which are planning rehabilitation or recapitalization so that the recommendations provided by the New Ecology can be incorporated into the new plan immediately. 

To prepare for emergency situations due to extreme weather, New Ecology will develop operational emergency preparedness plans with property owners and operating organizations. Each of these plans is specifically designed and tailored to the needs of each individual property. The plans include both capacity building for the property management teams and property owners and the emergency response plan. The emergency response plan includes ensuring residents’ safety, having access to clean water, food and electricity. These plans are particularly crucial for residents who have fewer resources to draw from if there were a need to evacuate and endure an extended emergency. This LISC Boston grant program can serve as an example of how cities can provide funds to build climate-resilient affordable housing.   


Publication Date: 2019

Related Organizations:

  • City of Boston, Massachusetts

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  • Case study
  • Funding program

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