Habitat for Humanity provides affordable homes for a select group of Malden residents

The exterior of Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston's townhomes as part of the organization's Malden II project. Photo by Jack Drees.

By Jack Drees

Habitat for Humanity has a presence here in Malden. As you stroll down Main Street near the Melrose line, you’ll come across two new townhouses next to a construction site. Several Malden families have new affordable homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston.

An independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, the Massachusetts non-profit has given housing to people with low to moderate incomes since 1987. The group, which has thousands of volunteers, buys land or restores existing buildings and then passes the houses on to people in need. Habitat for Humanity homes have sprouted up in 26 Massachusetts cities and towns, including Dorchester, Weston, and Roslindale.

Two single-family homes from Habitat Boston’s previous Malden project. Photo by Jack Drees.

With the city’s first project completed in 2022, Malden is officially a part of the Habitat family. The project resulted in two single-family homes on Main Street. Each one is complete with three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, one full, and one-half bathroom.

Also in 2022, Habitat for Humanity broke ground for their next Malden project. This time around, it is for five townhouses. Two are three-bedroom homes, while three of them are two-bedroom. Volunteers coming from all over the Greater Boston area have been attached to the project since April 2023. The project is currently in progress.

Workers building around a foundation as part of Habitat’s ongoing project. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston.

The new homes are going to be equipped with energy-saving features. Manager of External Relations, Christian Schiavone, told Neighborhood View that most of the homes built by the organization now come with solar panels. “We have an obligation not just to the families but to the communities where we are building to be thinking about sustainability,” Schiavone said. “That’s why we prioritize sustainability and we use eco-friendly materials and design features as much as we can in all of our homes.”

The families moving into these homes are each responsible for their own sweat equity. There is no prior experience required to participate. For households with two adults, they are required to contribute 300 hours of labor. For households with one adult, they are asked to contribute 250 hours. This is seen as an alternative to a down payment. Schiavone says one family has completed their hours in the fastest time since he has been involved with the organization. Manager of Homeowner Services Chloe Amaya says the family started in April and completed their 300 hours in December.

Slabs of wood sitting by the front of the townhomes’ construction area. Photo by Jack Drees.

The families also participate in a first time home-buying class, where much of the focus is centered around financial management, legal aspects, and home maintenance.

The impact of this project is far reaching, from giving families homes, to giving volunteers a sense of achievement, to giving the organization a sense of pride. One family attached to the project has been facing rent increases in another Malden home. The new home will not only give them a place to live, but it will let them stay in Malden without being priced out. Schiavone says one of the most monumental impacts of all is, “Seeing the families all the way from the beginning of the process to when they finally get their keys.”

Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston logo attached to a truck. Photo by Jack Drees.

The process of selecting the families to go into the homes is competitive. The applications for the Malden II project opened in the summer of 2022. The applicants must meet certain criteria. A need for housing, which as Amaya says, “is very subjective.” Possible reasons for such a need would include overpaying, overcrowding, or unsafe circumstances such as mold or pests. Amaya says those who end up in the program “need to have a willingness to partner with us,” which is where factors like sweat equity and the homeownership process come in. The families must also be able to repay an affordable mortgage.

Those who fulfill the criteria then meet with the homeowner selection committee. They are a group of volunteers who do home visits and interview the families. During said time, they make sure the families are qualified. Those who meet the criteria are put into a lottery and selected from there. To highlight the demand for projects and homes like these, Schiavone says Habitat had “more than 80 families and individuals apply.”

A crane dangles by the townhomes’ exterior. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston.

Habitat Boston has more projects in the pipeline in various communities. As of now, nothing else is planned for Malden. Schiavone says “it’s been a great experience building for Malden, and the need is definitely there. We would absolutely explore opportunities for another project in the future.”

The townhomes are expected to be complete in 2025.

Corrections note: The article originally states Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization. While the organization has Christian roots, it is officially non-denominational. Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston is an independent affiliate of the organization, and has no religious affiliation.

The final quote: “We would absolutely explore opportunities for another project in the future,” was changed after being written as “We absolutely explored opportunities for another project in the future.” upon review (via Zoom recording).

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. The Habitat for Humanity has been a wonderful show and tell to folks as we walk to the Oak Grove Station! Now, I know more to share!

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