Special Strategies

Special Strategies: Elderly, Supportive and Rural Housing Markets


Supportive Housing

Some populations - including frail elders and people with physical, psychiatric, or cognitive disabilities - may need specialized housing to meet their needs. Both the state and federal governments encourage providing such housing in integrated settings when possible and appropriate by setting aside units within a larger development. This is done consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision.

Supportive housing is an eligible activity under most state and federal subsidy programs. In addition, there are a number of programs that target specific populations. CEDAC is the underwriting agent for three state programs for supportive housing and is a good place to start for development advice for this type of housing.

Some programs fund only the bricks and mortar, meaning rental assistance and service funding may need to be lined up separately. Supportive housing residents generally need rent subsidies. Lenders look for firm funding commitments for services from state and/or local providers before they will approve construction funding. Support service needs vary depending on the project. Most permanent supportive housing developments offer some type of case management.  Some offer more mental health, substance abuse, and vocational/employment services , either onsite or at a community agency. 

Rural Housing

Rural housing needs can differ from those in urban and suburban areas, especially if the rural community has lower demand for housing, or has a significant second home market. Proposals may have trouble competing for funding because they are smaller—making it more difficult to realize economies of scale—and small communities may lack planning staff. Small communities in Massachusetts have developed multiple approaches to meeting local housing needs. Some have implemented regional (multi-community) programs, with a lead community or area community development corporation overseeing day-to-day activities. Common strategies include:

  • Using CPA Funds for a Housing Coordinator
  • Creating Homeowner Rehabilitation Loan Programs using CDBG and HOME funds to provide forgivable or deferred payment loans to homeowners and owners of small rental properties
  • Developing rental and ownership housing using conventional subsidy sources for development and down payment or closing cost assistance
  • Using US Department of Argriculture self-help housing programs or Habitat for Humanity, which combines subsidy funds, homebuyer labor and/or free or low-cost landto reduce development costs. 

Small-scale housing

In smaller and rural communities, affordable housing development of 20 units or less is often appropriate but projects of this scale often struggle to find financing.  To address this need, DHCD and MassHousing are offering the Community Scale Housing Initiative, which seeks to prioritize smaller projects in smaller communities. In 2017, this program made its first round of funding awards, supporting projects of nine units in Arlington, 18 units in Norwell and nine units in West Tisbury.