Making Affordable Homeownership Opportunities a Reality in the Greater Boston Area

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | April 29, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

Thanks to the leadership and vision of Eastern Bank, Asian American communities across Massachusetts are gaining access to affordable homeownership opportunities through the bank’s Community Development Lending (CDL) program.

The CDL was established to invest much-needed revenue into low-income communities across the Bay state—from affordable housing projects to economic revitalization programs that strengthen local communities. Yongmei Chen, Senior Vice President at Eastern Bank, says that it’s getting difficult to build a life in Boston due to major, high-priced real estate developments.

“Gentrification is a major issue, not just in the Asian American community, but in a lot of minority communities in [Boston],” she said. “In Chinatown, particularly, with all of the development that’s going on, the pressure of affordability, of people staying in the city and working in the city is getting tougher and tougher.”

Though Boston is a prime location for a lot of CDL’s work, Chen said that gateway cities like Quincy and Lawrence also receive CDL funding to build affordable housing. However, Boston is a city where the impacts of gentrification and wage inequality are incredibly dramatic and visible. For example, according to a 2013 report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), from 2000 to 2009, the average household income for white Chinatown residents leaped from roughly $40,000 to $84,000. During that same period, the average household income for Asian Chinatown residents dropped roughly from $15,000 to $13,000. In 2010, just 46 percent of Chinatown was composed of Asians, a drop from 70 percent in 1990.

With statistics like this, it’s vitally important that resources be invested in minority communities to address income inequality and gentrification.

“Most recently, we finished a project in Roxbury that brought 50 plus units of affordable housing and a social service center that can work with those families,” Chen said. “In Chinatown, we financed 88 Hudson Street, which brought 51 affordable homeownership opportunities, something that is very rare nowadays with all of the development that’s happening. Most of the condos are selling at a very high price, so this will allow working families to live in the city.”

Other successful projects include the Chinatown Community Education Center, the Oxford Ping On Apartments (with 67 units of affordable housing), and the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center.

Rebecca Lee, who sits on the board of the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) with Chen, spoke highly of her work to support the Asian American community. “She is passionately committed to community development and social justice, which is evidenced by her professional work and commitments in the community,” she said.

One strength of Chen’s leadership is her ability to see how affordable homeownership opportunities intersect with the economy. “We’ve already put a lot of resources into providing access to capital for small businesses to grow,” she continued, highlighting Eastern Bank’s Business Equity Initiative (BEI), a program designed to provide resources for minority-owned businesses. “It helps with more jobs, prosperity, and, in turn, it will allow families to have a higher income to stay and grow in their communities,” Chen said.

The work that Yongmei Chen and Eastern Bank are doing to improve the lives of everyone in Boston doesn’t end with affordable housing. Tied closely together are early childhood education, youth and workforce development, and even healthcare. Affecting and improving one creates a ripple effect that impacts the others, something Eastern Bank is committed to in order to improve the lives of every Boston resident—no matter who they are.

Learn how Eastern Bank’s Community Development Lending (CDL) program is addressing the issue of gentrification in Boston and beyond.

Community Development Lending Helps Low-Income Neighborhoods Thrive

By Kisha Tapangan,

By Michael Givens | July 10, 2018 | 3 Minute Read

On Thursday, June 21, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) announced that Eastern Bank will award $300,000 to a Massachusetts tax credit program to help continue a philanthropic partnership to help low-income communities across the Bay State. The announcement was made at the Mel King Institute 9th Annual Breakfast in partnership with Eastern’s Community Development Lending (CDL).

Eastern Bank staff at the Mel King Institute for Community Building Celebration. Photo by Tatiana Blanco Photography.

“The CDL group of Eastern Bank is driven by our commitment in doing good things in our communities,” said Yongmei Chen, Senior Vice President at Eastern Bank. “From affordable housing developments, [and] solar financing to economic revitalization projects, the CDL loan portfolio is one of the fastest growing business lines of the bank. We strive to be doing well by doing good.”

Implemented in 2014, the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program allows charitable organizations such as Eastern Bank to make donations to a shared pool of funds which are then distributed to community development corporations (CDCs) that provide a range of programs and services aimed toward supporting communities across the state. This is the third year in a row that Eastern Bank has participated in the program.

According to Joe Kriesberg, president of the MACDC, a membership organization of CDCs across the Commonwealth, the funds are used by the individual CDCs on such neighborhood projects as community organizing, the arts, youth and elder programs, job training, affordable housing production, and small business assistance. The true value of the CITC program is that community support and engagement drive whether the project will receive funding. The Eastern Bank Community Development Lending Program’s donation to the fund means that more CDCs have the resources they need to provide quality programming to Bay State communities—from Somerville and Worcester to Springfield.

“Eastern Bank stepped up with a significant level of support, not for one organization, but many across the eastern region of the Commonwealth,” said Kriesberg. “This was increased…new funding for CDCs that needed this support from a recognized and trusted organization, Eastern Bank, when CDCs were developing new fundraising networks through the CITC program.”

According to the MACDC, CDCs supported by the CITC program created or preserved more than 1,800 units of affordable housing in 2015 and 2016 and assisted more than 130,000 families. The 2018 Growing Opportunities, Assets, and Leaders (GOALs) annual report produced by MACDC also provides some exciting data about the impact of organization’s supported by Eastern Bank.

The report states that more than 5,000 job opportunities were created or preserved through the work of CDCs. Nearly 860 small business owners were provided assistance as well — clear indicators of the impact of well-resourced community programs.

Kay Mathew, the resource development manager for Madison Park Development Corporation (MPDC) in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, said the donations given by Eastern Bank through the CITC program go a long way in making an important impact on low-income communities.

MPDC received a $15,000 CITC donation from Eastern Bank in 2016 and another in 2017, which helped to increase the reach of an array of MPDC community building programs that support residents in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. For example, Eastern Bank’s CITC funding supports year-round workforce development and community leadership programs for up to 90 youth in Roxbury including a highly successful summer youth jobs program. It also supports MPDC’s civic engagement program, which provides year-round voter education and get out the vote activities. Eastern’s CDL funding helps MPDC augment its healthy food programs, which teach residents how to access healthy food and prepare nutritious meals. Donations also support two community gardens at affordable housing developments and regularly-scheduled physical activity events such as yoga classes and walking groups.

“It’s through the resources provided by Eastern Bank that we are able to make our programs work so well,” Mathew said.