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Worcester Launches Downpayment Assistance Program, Affordable Housing Preservation Program

For Immediate Release: 9/13/2023 5:30 pm

WORCESTER, Mass. – The City of Worcester’s Housing Development Division Wednesday launched its Downpayment Assistance Program and Affordable Housing Preservation Program.

As the Worcester housing market evolves, the municipality continues to pursue innovative programs to help residents achieve homeownership, as well as stabilize rental increases in certain properties. The two housing programs launched Wednesday will play key roles in helping accomplish those goals.

“The two new programs come as part of the City’s comprehensive Housing Strategy that has united all of our housing initiatives, including Inclusionary Zoning and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, under one umbrella,” said City Manager Eric D. Batista. “I want to thank Worcester Community Housing Resources and our Housing Division for their creative and diligent work to address the pressing housing issues that our city is currently facing. We are fortunate to have a number of tools at our disposal to facilitate the creation and preservation of affordable housing units, expanded homeownership opportunities, homelessness assistance, and other key supports.”

The municipality has committed an additional $1M in ARPA funds for a new Downpayment Assistance Program that will provide up to $25,000 per eligible first-time homebuyers to cover up to 3.5% down payment and eligible closing costs. This program is being administered by Worcester Community Housing Resources (WCHR).

“Worcester Community Housing Resources (WCHR) is proud to lead Worcester’s ARPA Downpayment Assistance Program,” WCHR Executive Director Jennifer Schanck-Bolwell said. “WCHR has nearly 30 years of experience in housing development, community lending and helping low-income residents access stable housing. We look forward to partnering with the City of Worcester to continue this critical work.”

Another $1M of ARPA funds has been set aside to launch the Affordable Housing Preservation Program (AHP), which will be administered by the municipality’s Housing Division. The program was created to address the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing as many residents and families in Worcester have struggled to keep up with rent and other financial obligations due to the lingering impact of the pandemic and rising rents throughout the city and the Commonwealth.

Given this, the City recognizes that additional efforts are needed to preserve the “naturally occurring” affordable housing stock in the city, which refers to housing units that have historically charged affordable rents, but are not deed restricted, so they are not part of the official affordable housing stock measured by the Subsidized Housing Inventory. These units are also the most vulnerable to rent increases since there are no requirements limiting those increases, especially when a property is sold at current market prices.
The AHP program will provide grants to owners who control these “naturally occurring” affordable units to preserve the affordable rent levels into the future.

“I want to thank the City of Worcester’s Housing Division and community partners as they continue to step up and work together to figure out solutions to our housing crisis,” said Mayor Joseph M. Petty. “These programs will help enable upward mobility for many families, ensuring a flourishing future for our growing city.”

An information Session about the AHP program will be held for all interested landlords on Wednesday, Sept. 27th at 4 p.m.

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