On: March 21, 2022

We are happy to highlight the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) an Ashmont-based nonprofit that has been serving the community for over 37 years.  MAHA’s mission is to educate and increase affordable homeownership opportunities, break down barriers facing first-time and first-generation homebuyers, and close the racial wealth and homeownership gaps.  The amazing team at MAHA fights every day for both public and private sectors to increase their support for affordable and sustainable homeownership. They continually challenge banks, insurance companies, mortgage companies, developers and elected officials to do more, and the impacts of their work can be felt by low- and moderate-income homebuyers.

MAHA offers Homebuying 101 courses for a small fee of $25 for Boston residents and $50 for non-Boston residents.  Students are offered a wide array of classes which introduce first time home buyers to the pros and cons of purchasing a home.  They also offer Condo Owner 202, a condo ownership class that teaches students all about the dynamics of a condo association and Homeowner 201 which features information about the responsibilities of owning a home and includes landlord training for multi-family homeowners as well.  At MAHA they believe it is vital that first time homebuyers surround themselves with a team of professionals that you trust will guide you through the process. They work with professionals in different fields including real estate agents, loan officers, attorneys, home inspectors and insurance agents teach the importance of understanding how each field impacts the process of purchasing your own home.

Their Homeowner 201 course teaches students where the guts of the home reside.  They will even teach how to best clean your gutters.  But at MAHA it doesn’t stop with the ins and outs of home ownership, they also teach students how to integrate yourself into a new neighborhood, how to be a landlord, how to hire a contractor, research them, make sure they are licensed, lead paint, environment, a good steward to the community.  The dedicated Staff at MAHA also provide students with 1:1 consultations in which they review a student’s financial background to determine if said student is mortgage ready and if they aren’t they will develop an action plan to make sure that you are on the path to becoming mortgage ready.

In March 2020 they were forced to shut down their day to day in-person operations at 1803 Dorchester Avenue.  The team at MAHA took 4 weeks to develop a brand new, completely online offering which they rolled out in April of 2020.  Initially there were concerns that they would not be able to provide the same services to the community.   To their surprise the online classes have been a major success.  MAHA had 2,400 students graduate their Homebuying 101 course in 2020 and 2,800 in 2021.  The 5,200 students over the past two years,  is more than twice the 2,200 students that graduated from MAHA course from 2018-19.

Since 1985, MAHA’s campaigns have resulted in affordable mortgages for over 24,000 homebuyers and over $10 billion in public and private investment in affordable housing.  Their comprehensive homebuyer and homeowner education programs have graduated over 41,000 individuals, which is more than any other organization in the state.  We know that the desire for homeownership is very much alive in Boston,” said MAHA Executive Director Symone Crawford.  “We are thrilled that so many families place their confidence in MAHA’s ability to assist them as they take important steps toward owning a home of their own.”  Another really initiative program that MAHA offers its students is “STASH” developed by MAHA’s Executive Director, Symone Crawford.  STASH (Saving Toward Affordable Sustainable Homeownership) is a first-in-the-nation matched savings program for first-generation homebuyers earning below the area median income for the county they reside in.

How it works is simple: If you are the first-generation in your family to buy a home, MAHA will provide you with $2,000 if you are able to save $2,000.  If you are buying in the City of Boston, take part in MAHA’S new Boston First-Gen Partnership with the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development and earn below 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and contribute $2,500 of your own money, you will be eligible to receive $5,000 in match dollars, which can be used toward down payment assistance and/or closing costs.  “First-generation buyers often don’t have enough savings, or family members with the financial resources to tap, when trying to buy a home, ” said Symone Crawford” This investment is critical in helping to level the playing field for those residents to become homeowners.”

“We know first-generation homebuyers are less likely to become homeowners than those in similarly situated households who grew up with parents who are homeowners,” said Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing and Director of Neighborhood Development. “These funds will help make homeownership possible to those who will benefit for generations to come and help us close the gap on homeownership in Boston.”

Now in its third year of existence, MAHA’S first-generation homebuyer matched-savings program has 278 homebuyers enrolled in the program. Thirty-seven have purchased homes so far. Of the 278 participants, 67 percent are Black and 20 percent are Latinx. 65% of participants are households headed by a woman, and one-third are households that identify as immigrants.  STASH and the First-Generation Program aim to further the goal of increasing homeownership among communities of color, low- and moderate-income buyers, immigrants, and first-generation buyers.

The success of the STASH program has garnered national attention, being adapted into the Build Back Better Act thanks to the efforts of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services.  Congresswoman Waters called the Better Build Act “an historic piece of legislation that will provide unprecedented and long overdue investments in our nation’s housing infrastructure.” It includes $10 billion in down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers modeled after the STASH program.

Another great program that MAHA offers is led by Civic Engagement Team Lead Hillary Pizer and her team of community organizers Barbara  Rice, Cortina Vann, and Jessie Dambreville.  Through their efforts, they were able to establish the Home Buyers Union and have built out the advocacy side of the house.

At MAHA, it is crucial that the community is empowered to advocate for themselves.  Symone Crawford adds, “A collective voice can make changes from a policy standpoint. The ONE mortgage program, which MAHA ‘co-parents’ with the Massachusetts Housing Partnership,   did not happen because 1 or 2 people from MAHA walked into a bank and said ‘Hey we need a low income mortgage that is giving us a below market interest rate.’ It came together because a collective of people in the community met with lenders 30 years ago and advocated for a change”.

The Civic Engagement team works with students who graduate from their classes and say ”Yes, I want to do more than take this class. I want to advocate for myself.” They introduce students to state reps, city councilors and lenders.  Symone added “This is organizing at its best. We give our graduates a seat at the table where they can speak and share their own lived experiences instead of others making the decision on their behalf.”

MAHA also strongly believes in empowering local business and bringing the community together to enjoy the diverse cultures that make up Ashmont and Dorchester.  Every year, MAHA hosts a massive event called the Taste of Dorchester®. This has been the staple fundraising event for MAHA for the past 14 years.  Covid forced MAHA to host the past two Taste of Dorchester events virtually but Symone and the team at MAHA are happy to announce that the event will be in-person for 2022.   If you have never gone to Taste of Dorchester you are missing out.  MAHA brings together many of the local restaurants in the district.  Local restaurants compete to win the coveted Best of Taste of Dorchester award that they are able to hang proudly in their restaurant, until the following year where they are tasked with defending their title.

Taste of Dorchester serves as a melting pot where people of all ethnicities come together to eat delicious diverse food while jamming out to great live jazz and participating in silent auctions and raffles.   It is important to Symone that MAHA “continue to highlight local restaurants that have gone through a tough time.”  Symone added “Dorchester restaurants are truly amazing; they have been supportive since day one and its critical that we bring them back into that space, it’s a great way to highlight the amazing restaurants in Dorchester.

We are ecstatic to have MAHA in our district. For over 37 years they have become a staple in the community, helping community members buy homes while advocating for themselves and helping to promote local restaurants at their annual Taste of Dorchester event while also raising critical funds for MAHA’s efforts.  While the staff size at MAHA is modest, they are made up of dedicated individuals who have many years of experience in community-driven endeavors.  Many of the staff Including the Executive Director have gone through the MAHA program and take pride in the fact that the work they are doing is having a tangible effect on the community.  While much progress has been made, they realize that there is still a lot more work to do and they are not backing down from the challenge.