Harvard Fund Helps Community Housing

The new Doña Betsaida Gutiérrez Housing Cooperative that opened in Jamaica Plain on Saturday is the latest project made possible by the Harvard’s 20/20/2000 Housing Initiative.

The Housing Cooperative represents the latest phase of a $50 million affordable housing development at the Blessed Sacrament parish site.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony also celebrated the 20/20/2000 initiative’s first ten years, during which time it has helped build and renovate more than 4,350 affordable housing units in Boston and Cambridge.

“We are pleased to join with the leadership of both cities on the 20/20/2000 initiative, which has helped to finance nearly one out of every six units built in Cambridge and Boston and provided many local working families with homes,” University President Drew G. Faust said in a press release.

Established in 2000 and spearheaded by former Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Paul S. Grogan, the program is a $20 million, 20-year, low-interest loan fund that assists the financing of affordable housing developments.

Harvard created the initiative to support a community response to the growing need for affordable housing following the end of rent control in the 1990s. As federal and state resources declined, housing costs increased dramatically in Boston and Cambridge.

The 20/20/2000 Housing Initiative responded to local efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing by establishing a $20 million fund that would be used to grant low interest loans to non-profit housing agencies, coupled with $1 million in direct grants to local agencies to explore innovative approaches to affordable housing development.

“The Harvard loan provided a critical investment at the right time and right price that helped sustain us at a very critical point in development,” said Philip Giffee, executive director of the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing.

Giffee said that the non-profit organization used Harvard’s 20/20/2000 resources to help build a 14-unit, first-time homebuyer development outside of East Boston. The development provided housing for 14 low-medium income families that never owned a house before.

“Low-interest loan money, when you are borrowing lots of money like we are, helps a lot.” Giffee said. “Although Harvard clearly has an international presence, we encourage Harvard’s on-the-ground connection to the community.”