(CHELSEA, Mass.) – Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston and Comunidades Enraizadas Community Land Trust are joining together to bring critically needed affordable homeownership opportunities to Chelsea, thanks in part to a $1.25 million state grant.

Gov. Maura Healey’s administration and MassHousing recently announced the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant award, providing an infusion of funding to the innovative new partnership and its plan to construct five affordable homes on a vacant parcel on Orange Street. The Chelsea Affordable Housing Trust Fund currently owns the site and has designated it to be developed into affordable homes. Once complete, the homes will be sold to eligible local households earning less than 80% of the area median income.

“We’re grateful to MassHousing and the Healey administration for recognizing the severity of the housing crisis in our region and taking action to provide relief for families struggling with some of the highest housing costs in the country,” Habitat Greater Boston President and CEO Jim Kostaras said. “This funding will have a direct impact on five local families by making their dream of affordable homeownership a reality.”

The NSP grant will cover a significant portion of the cost to construct five condominium units in two adjoining buildings. The project is currently in the preconstruction phase. Habitat Greater Boston and Comunidades Enraizadas CLT are excited to be collaborating with the Chelsea Affordable Housing Trust Fund and eager to move forward with the project pending city approvals and securing additional funding.

“We thank MassHousing for granting these funds for the construction of five condominiums on Orange St. It is a dream come true to be able to support the neediest families in Chelsea,” says Suyapa Perez, co-president of the Comunidades Enraizadas Board of Directors and one of the founders of the organization. “It is such a wonderfully empowering contribution to the emotional, social, intellectual, and physical stability of five families, the first five families that this program is going to support.” 

An innovative partnership

By partnering together, Habitat Greater Boston and Comunidades Enraizadas are taking an innovative approach to advance their shared goal of making affordable homeownership possible for families with low incomes. Habitat Greater Boston brings more than 35 years of experience building affordable homes in Boston and surrounding communities. Comunidades Enraizadas is a Chelsea-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting homeownership opportunities for immigrants and people with low incomes, and to bringing land control into the hands of the community.

Community land trusts have sprung up in Massachusetts and around the country in response to soaring housing costs. Typically, a land trust governed by a nonprofit board acquires land for affordable housing and maintains ownership of that land. Eligible households purchase and own their homes and sign a 99-year lease for the land underneath them. Buying only the structure and not the land reduces the cost for the homeowner, and homeowners become members of the governing board. The lease also includes a resale formula to ensure the homes remain affordable.

Comunidades Enraizadas (“Rooted Communities” in Spanish) was founded and is directed by Latina immigrant housing activists in Chelsea in response to the crisis of displacement in their city. The group has been organizing for over 15 years with the support of Chelsea environmental justice nonprofit GreenRoots. The Orange Street project will be Comunidades Enraizadas’ first housing project and the first land ownership for the CLT.

Under the partnership, Habitat Greater Boston will build the homes using its unique model, which brings volunteers together with expert construction staff. The organization will also manage the process to engage eligible applicants and select the future homeowners based on their level of need for better housing, ability to make affordable mortgage payments, and willingness to help build their future homes and attend homeownership classes.

Comunidades Enraizadas will be the local contact for the project, coordinating communications, outreach, and engagement in Chelsea. They will involve the new homeowners in the Community Land Trust and work with them to establish the governing structure of the property and to provide ongoing support.


Responding to the housing crisis

New affordable units like these are desperately needed as Greater Boston families grapple with the region’s housing crisis.

A mounting shortage of affordable housing options has put homeownership out of reach of many families. More than half of all renters in Greater Boston are cost-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 30% of their household income on housing costs, according to the Boston Foundation’s 2023 Greater Boston Housing Report Card.

When the Orange Street homes are complete, each family will receive an affordable mortgage with payments set at no more than 30% of their gross monthly income, including taxes, insurance, and any condo fees.

Volunteers contribute about 70% of the labor to build Habitat Greater Boston homes, with the remainder performed by staff and licensed subcontractors.

Since 1987, Habitat Greater Boston has built more than 120 affordable homes for families with low-to-moderate incomes. Plans for upcoming projects include homes in Roslindale, Dorchester, and Weston.