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Conference covers trusts from all angles

Posted on October 16, 2018

MARLBOROUGH --- A recent regional conference on affordable housing trusts gave community members from the greater Boston area a chance to learn how a trust works, how a developer thinks and how to move a development opportunity forward.

Held on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Holiday Inn in Marlborough, the training drew housing professionals and volunteers from 10 towns – Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Kingston, Natick, Northborough, Sherborn, Salem, Upton and Weston.  Most of the attendees were trust members but also attending were selectmen and zoning board of appeals members, a town planner and an attorney.

”We appreciate all the dedicated trust members and local officials who took their time to spend the day learning and discussing ways to make affordable housing trusts work,” said Shelly Goehring, MHP’s affordable housing trust expert. “The cross section of community leaders made for an interesting day because we were able to look at the challenge of developing affordable housing from all angles.”

The conference is part of an ongoing effort by MHP to help communities start and run effective local affordable housing trusts. MHP’s efforts began in earnest back in 2005 when the state legislature passed the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Law, simplifying the process of establishing a local housing trust fund. Since then, 98 communities have adopted Municipal Affordable Housing Trusts (MAHT), raising the overall total of communities with local trusts to 109.

MHP increased its efforts two years ago thanks to a multi-year grant from the Kuehn Foundation. Last year, MHP’s Goehring participated in trust trainings, tours and direct assistance that reached 34 communities across Massachusetts.  This fall, Goehring and MHP have done regional trust roundtables in Amherst, the Berkshires, and Merrimack Valley, and a group training for four trusts on Cape Cod. Saturday's conference coincided with MHP finishing up on an update of its Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Guidebook, which it first published in 2009 and last updated in 2013.

Goehring began Saturday’s conference with a presentation entitled "Trusts as a Tool for Affordable Housing." The presentation included an overview of the MAHT statute (MGL CH.44).  Goehring provided examples of trust activities from across the state and shared  practical details, such as where to find funds, how to set up a trust fund account, setting a mission and establishing a budget.

Kevin Maguire of Oxbow Partners then spoke of the value of local affordable housing trusts and the challenges of doing small-scale development in the suburbs. Drawing on his experiences developing small projects in towns like Concord, Wayland and Hopkinton, Maguire pushed the audience to be specific about their town’s affordable housing needs. He then explained the challenges a developer has in making the financing work for smaller affordable developments and how local trusts are crucial in helping a developer collaborate and gain community support. Click here for Maguire's presentation.

MHP’s Katy Lacy then gave a presentation on zoning and how it's a crucial tool in the production of affordable housing. Elizabeth Hughes, town planner in Concord, showed how Concord has used zoning to produce a variety of affordable housing options.

The final activity involved the audience breaking into three groups for a case study of a fictitious town called Wayne, MA. The groups were given a zoning map and then details about a potential development for a certain parcel. Groups were asked their opinions on how to get started, how to engage the community and abutters, and how to shape a request that would meet the town’s needs and attract developer interest.

For more information about MHP's work with local housing trusts, email Shelly Goehring at or Katie Bosse at