City of Boston


Preservation Oriented Decisions Saves Valuable Low-Income Housing Stock in Boston

Project Overview

Vincent O’Donnell was a principal at Community Assistance Development Association Corporation (CEDAC), a quasi-governmental agency that supports affordable housing development projects in Massachusetts.  During this time Mr. O’Donnell provided technical and program support to the City of Boston, specifically related to the preservation of affordable multifamily housing.  He has continued to provide advisory services to DND with regard to federal policy and preservation strategy trough LISC and as an independent consultant.

The relationship grew out of an crisis involving foreclosed federally-subsidized rental properties.  In just a few low-income neighborhoods, several thousand housing units in failed properties were beset by physical, social and financial difficulties. By the early 1980s, these properties were either owned by HUD as foreclosed real estate, or in the foreclosure pipeline.  The majority of the units also had project-based Section 8 contracts that provided a potential resource, yet the City of Boston had limited capacity to interact proactively with HUD, to manage the Section 8 resources wisely, or to manage the future of the affected neighborhoods in a thoughtful way.

CEDAC’s status (as neither a city nor a state agency) allowed it to work constructively with the advocacy community. The advocacy community included resident organizers and legal services providers that assisted in developing strategies that in turn, encouraged HUD to make preservation-oriented decisions about their troubled inventory.

Through this work a key analytical tool developed. The tool, the state’s first preservation database, integrated data provided by HUD and included additional property research information.  The data in  this system, informed the City’s preservation planning and decision-making.  With continued support from the City, CEDAC still maintains iteration of this powerful tool.


  • Created an ongoing successful interagency collaboration through the CEDAC-facilitated stakeholder preservation task force that highlighted both problems and opportunities.
  • Built consensus for a preservation mandate that continues to be a cornerstone of the City of Boston’s policy to this day.
  • Utilized CDBG funding to create a dedicated high-risk predevelopment forgivable loan pool with a current value of $845,000, of which $775,000 is currently deployed in 6 active projects that will preserve over 600 affordable units. CEDAC closely monitors 100% of all at-risk assisted multifamily properties in Boston, working closely with all owners on behalf of the City.  Currently five properties with 510 units are regarded as at high risk of conversion from affordable use through 2016.  In the past five years, only one major property has been lost to conversion, despite the dramatically increasing real estate value of the assisted stock.
  • CEDAC typically tracks or provides technical or financial assistance to 20-30 at-risk properties, to help identify preservation options and encourage owners to make a preservation choice.