A former thriving agriculture and mill town with a strong sense of community, situated just six miles from Boston proper, Arlington has been, and continues to be, a very desirable place to live. As a result of the economic turmoil of the late 1970s and early 80s, mortgage interest rates reached a high of 18%. For the first time, the housing market in Arlington became out of reach for individuals that were born and raised in the community. This was Arlington’s first glimpse of an unstable housing market that would soon become the norm and eventually lead to overcrowded, displaced families and threats of homelessness throughout the area.
In 1986, a small group of Arlington town leaders and residents had the troubling realization that housing prices were far outpacing growth in income. Prices were escalating at 10% per year. Median single-family home prices were approaching $200,000—out of reach for many of Arlington’s renters and young adults who grew up in the area. The lack of open land for development added to the need for creative solutions. Out of crisis, community commitment, and opportunity, Housing Corporation of Arlington was launched to address the community’s growing affordable housing shortage.
In its early years, HCA provided down-payment assistance loans for first-time, moderate-income home-buyers. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 1990, HCA’s mission statement, “to provide and advocate for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and individuals in Arlington and surrounding communities, while promoting social and economic diversity,” reflects the commitment of HCA to ensure that the community’s most vulnerable members have adequate housing.
By the late 90s, the housing market began to shift with the growing acceptance of condo conversions of two-family houses. Suddenly, as older owners began selling their properties for record amounts, Arlington began facing the loss of its existing affordable rental stock. HCA stepped in and purchased the first of its two-family houses in 2001. By 2005, HCA owned and operated 14 two-families, serving 28 low-income families. Over the next four years, Housing Corporation of Arlington focused on purchasing and improving apartment buildings, providing one- and two-bedroom units for smaller households. This effort generated six properties and twenty-eight new units of affordable rental housing in Arlington. With the lease up of Capitol Square Apartments‘ 32 units, and an additional 3 units at the historic Kimball Farmer House, HCA now owns and manages 93 units of affordable rental housing in Arlington. We also have an additional 57 units in the planning stages.
In 2001, HCA also partnered with the Town of Arlington to create our Homelessness Prevention Program. Entirely financed through private donations, this program provides one-time grants to Arlington residents experiencing an emergency housing crisis that could lead to homelessness. HPP grants help pay back rent, moving expenses and security deposits. Assistance is given in cases where the grant will help stabilize a family’s housing for at least six months. In late 2009, HCA expanded our homelessness prevention support to include HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), a three-year federal initiative to provide assistance to people with housing issues as a result of the recent economic downturn. To date, HCA’s Homelessness Prevention Programs have provided emergency assistance to prevent homelessness to over 550 households, totaling over $950,000 in small grants.
Today, HCA not only continues to serve the residents of Arlington, but has expanded its efforts to provide affordable housing services to surrounding communities through its non-profit affiliate, Academy Development Partners. Housing Corporation of Arlington also works as a strong advocate, by increasing awareness through community events and having a presence at local and government gatherings to ensure the issue of homelessness and affordable housing remains present and at the forefront of the community and government consciousness.