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affordable housing in lowell
affordable housing in lowell

CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell

LOWELL — In at least three Greater Lowell communities, more than half of renters are what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers rent-burdened, meaning they spend 30% or more of their household income on rent.

By ALANA MELANSON | amelanson@lowellsun.com | Lowell Sun PUBLISHED: June 21, 2021 at 5:42 p.m. | UPDATED: June 21, 2021 at 5:43 p.m.

View full article with graphs on the Lowell Sun CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell

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In Lowell, it’s 55% of renters, in Tewksbury 53% and in Dracut 51%. Chelmsford and Billerica aren’t that far behind, at 45% and 43%, respectively.

The median gross rent for a two-bedroom apartment is highest in Westford at $1,940 and lowest in Tyngsboro at $1,115, but good luck finding an available apartment in a town with an effective 0% rental vacancy rate.

Since 2010, the rental vacancy rate across the region has dropped significantly, even with modest increases in total rental housing stock in communities like Billerica, Lowell and Westford, showing the demand far has outpaced the growth.

Even in Lowell — which has the greatest ratio of rentals at 58% of total housing units — the vacancy rate is only 5%. Every other Greater Lowell community is well below the state average of 38% of housing units occupied by renters, with most ranging about half that amount or less, creating a rental scarcity across the region.

These were among the findings of Community Teamwork Inc.’s 2021 Community Needs Assessment, underscoring the region’s need for more affordable housing.

“People need it, and the community does not have enough of it,” said CTI Director of Planning and Quality Improvement Ann Sirois.

CTI conducts a community needs assessment every three years as part of its strategic planning process.

“We do a whole host of things, but a big piece of it is really sitting down and trying to gather data directly from the community to try to find out what it is that everyone around here says that they need and what they think their neighbors need,” Sirois said.

She said CTI received nearly 1,500 responses directly from community members, interviewed 19 key informants from 17 organizations, conducted 18 focus groups with 133 different people and used publicly available data from a number of state and federal agencies.

The data collection began in fall 2019 and was wrapping up in early spring 2020 just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Sirois said. With so much changing over the course of 2020 due to the pandemic — including a huge jump in the unemployment rate from 3.5% to 20% — as well as the national conversation on racism, these factors necessitated additional analysis of the impact of both on poverty that was also included in the report, she said.

Sirois said it wasn’t a surprise that there is a housing crisis in Massachusetts and the region, and talking to community members helped to determine what they need in order to get appropriate housing: better-paying jobs, education and training to obtain and sustain those jobs, affordable child care, medical and behavioral health care and transportation.

With so many people in the area dedicating large shares of their incomes to housing costs, it means many were at risk of a minor emergency jeopardizing their ability to pay their rent, and homelessness as a result — even before the pandemic, she said.

“Then, of course, we saw COVID hit, which was an extremely huge emergency,” Sirois said.

The lack of affordable housing has been an issue across the state. Several weeks ago Gov. Charlie Baker signed “An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents” to ensure long-term support for the Baker administration’s efforts to increase the production of affordable housing, diversify the state’s housing portfolio, modernize public housing, preserve the affordability of existing housing and invest in new, innovative solutions to address Massachusetts’ rising demand for housing.

The region’s aging housing stock and quality is also problematic, especially for families with young children, Sirois said. All units built before 1979 must be deleaded to house children age 6 and below and many owners don’t take on the costly process, often preventing families from renting available units. This problem is most prevalent in Lowell, one of the region’s more affordable communities, where 82% of units were built before 1980.

“In virtually every area, Lowell has the most significant needs,” Sirois said.

CTI Director of Development and Marketing Kathleen Plath said it’s particularly difficult to create affordable housing in Lowell because it’s not advantageous for developers unless the project is of a significant size, like 40 units. She said more attention needs to be given to assisting smaller developers and multifamily building owners to improve the quality of the overall housing stock.

CEO Karen Frederick said CTI often hears of many young people who graduate from UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College and can’t afford to live in the region because the cost of rent is so high.

“We want to make sure there’s housing for everybody — for people starting off their careers, for seniors,” she said. “Affordable housing for seniors is critical as baby boomers continue to age into retirement, and for families, where there’s already been a critical shortage.”

While the assessment covers many diverse needs, Sirois and Frederick said one of the areas they were surprised to see consistently pop up in conversations was the need for more after-school and summer programming for older children — and this was before the child-care crisis that resulted from pandemic-related shutdowns, Plath said.

As communities start to look at how to best use their federal American Rescue Plan funding, the Community Needs Assessment can offer ideas of where to direct that money and address those needs, Plath said. She said CTI will engage with its partner organizations, municipal governments and school districts to share the results and encourage investment in the areas of highest need.

Frederick said CTI hopes people and institutions will take a look at the information in the assessment and that it will be “well used.”

“I have always believed in the power of the collective work, and if we work on things together, we’ll make progress,” she said.

One such organization that has already put CTI’s Community Needs Assessment findings into action is the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

President and CEO Jay Linnehan said he used the previous assessment to help direct philanthropy within the foundation, and he will do the same with the new set of information as well, including a funders’ meeting focused on combatting youth food insecurity this week.

He said the pandemic in particular really brought to light how many people in the area are living “close to the edge” and their critical needs that must be met.

“The thing that a community foundation is all about is being boots-on-the-ground philanthropy in the community that you serve, and so it’s really important from my perspective to understand the needs of the community, and that needs assessment does that,” Linnehan said. housing


CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell


GLCF Grant Helps Nonprofits Improve Virtual Programming


Local nonprofits create new online programming thanks to technical-training classes from Lowell TeleMedia Center, funded by a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation

Eva Cortes, a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor, provided well-baby sessions online when Lowell’s Community Teamwork Inc. benefited from LTC’s Media Making classes, funded by a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation. COURTESY GLCF


November 28, 2020 at 5:51 a.m.

LOWELL – Virtual well-baby visits for new moms and infants. Monitoring a nest of turtle eggs in the wild. Cooking videos led by a local nutritionist. Online nature walks with a botanical illustrator.

These are just a few examples of the new online programming local nonprofits have created, thanks to technical-training classes from Lowell TeleMedia Center, funded by a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

Last spring, when the pandemic forced nonprofit organizations into lockdown mode, they moved their face-to-face programs online. However, as summer fast approached, many realized they needed help creating virtual programming to attract young people.

A baby Blanding’s turtle was hatched from a nest monitored by Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust as part of its virtual summer programming. The LPCT received LTC training to create virtual content as part of a grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation. COURTESY GLCF

“Kids are usually outside running around during the summer, but all that changed this year with COVID-19,” LTC Executive Director Wendy Blom said. “Our local nonprofits knew they had to start offering online summer programming — and they had to do it quickly.”

Recognizing this need, GLCF awarded a $5,000 grant to LTC to organize a series of Media Making classes for 10 youth-serving nonprofits.

Offered in late June and early July, the training covered Zoom, social media, TikTok, cellphone video, podcasting and iMovie editing.

“In our spring Zoom meetings with local nonprofits, they let us know they wanted skills training for virtual programming,” said Jay Linnehan, GLCF President and CEO. “Our nonprofit partners needed to pivot their in-person programming online and wanted it to be quality, engaging content for discerning youth. We knew LTC could provide that training.”

The response to Media Making classes was overwhelmingly positive, Blom said.

“I was amazed that so many organizations — and how many staff — wanted to take our classes,” she said.

LTC trained 115 people, she said, and both small and large nonprofits took advantage of the six courses. The online content they created was also highly varied.

Jane Calvin, executive director of Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, said her staff of four welcomed the training.

“It was perfect timing,” she said. “We had already started creating virtual content but had questions about how to do it better and how to get it out to a wider audience.”

One of the few accredited urban land trusts in the country, LPCT protects land throughout Lowell and provides community programming to connect residents to natural resources in the city, including outdoor after-school and summer programs.

“When COVID shut everything down, I told my staff, ‘Be creative! Let’s take advantage of this time to get out to Trust properties we haven’t videoed before,’” Calvin recalled.

So, Environmental Educator Emily Wood began making virtual nature walks, encouraging viewers to create nature journals to keep track of the plants and animals they encountered.

Wood’s engrossing videos also feature beautiful time-lapse botanical illustrations she draws on camera.

The trust also created virtual content teachers could use, added Calvin. In previous years, three Lowell science teachers had run popular “turtle adoption” programs in their classrooms. Shortly after COVID-19 shut down schools, a trust staff member noticed that a rare Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species, had laid eggs in her neighborhood. She began making short videos as she kept watch over the nest.

During the summer, in conjunction with Zoo New England, LPCT monitored the nest, and eventually, eight baby turtles hatched. Trust staff and volunteers are now raising the turtles in a terrarium in the office and plan to release them back into the wild next spring.

Lowell’s Community Teamwork Inc., a community action agency with more than 500 employees, also benefited from the Media Making classes, according to Amy Weatherbee, Manager of Grants & Planning.

“By March 16, word of mouth just shut down, so word of mouth went virtual,” Weatherbee said. “We had to pivot quickly to online program delivery, and when this opportunity at LTC came up, we jumped at it. Not only did our summer youth programmers want training, but we also asked if staff from other CTI divisions could attend Media Making classes,” she said.

The foundation agreed, and CTI sent more than 30 staffers from across the organization to the virtual classes.

As a result, CTI’s Entrepreneurship Center began hosting daily Zoom calls for small-business owners with questions about how to apply for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, Weatherbee said.

No longer able to hold in-person nutrition workshops, a nutritionist in CTI’s Women, Infants &;Children, or WIC, program created a series of popular “healthy eating” cooking videos. Another WIC staffer moved her well-baby sessions online and, in the process, discovered that her client list grew because new moms found it easier to attend virtually.

According to Weatherbee, these are just a few of the many ways CTI utilized Media Making classes to improve client outreach.

“The foundation was great,” she said. “It stepped in and quickly provided much-needed help to agencies that had to switch to the realities of remote work,” she said.

“This type of grant,” said Jennifer Aradhya, GLCF’s vice president of marketing and programs, “is what community foundations do best — convening nonprofit partners, identifying a common need and providing a funding solution. This partnership is real grass-roots philanthropy at its best. And in this case, the skills our partners gained have set them up nicely for future programming.”


Kathy Register, Special to the sun


GLCF MinutemanARC w x
GLCF MinutemanARC w x

Greater Lowell Community Foundation awards additional response grants for rent relief

The grants were part of the seventh and final round of distributions from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist area nonprofits serving vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers provide fresh food delivery for adults with disabilities at Minute Man Arc, a recent grant recipient from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund through GLCF.

LOWELL – The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) announced that it awarded $290,000 from its GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to nonprofit organizations, this includes targeted funding to provide rent relief to families and individuals that face a loss of housing due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The grants were part of the seventh and final round of distributions from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist area nonprofits serving vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are so grateful to the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund for supporting our neighbors in Greater Lowell who are unhoused or at risk of becoming homeless,” said GLCF President & CEO Jay Linnehan. “These grants boost the efforts of our tremendous nonprofit partners who have continued to go above and beyond during the pandemic to support those who need it most.”

“As of June, Massachusetts and Greater Lowell had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 17.5%, with the city of Lowell exceeding that rate at 20.5%. Coupled with the July 31st expiration of the Federal Unemployment supplement payments, we at Community Teamwork fully expect to see a secondary increase in demand for assistance from families who are trying stay safe and to remain in current housing,” said Karen Frederick, CEO of Community Teamwork. “We are so grateful for this Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund grant opportunity through GLCF, which allows us to help families so tragically impacted by job loss and housing insecurity as a result of this pandemic.”

The following 10 nonprofits receiving grants in the latest round of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund are:

  • Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, Inc. – to provide emergency rental and food assistance
  • Clear Path for Veterans New England, Inc. – to purchase and provide food and groceries for veterans and their families unable or without means to access food due to COVID-19
  • Coalition for a Better Acre, Inc. – to provide financial support to low-income residents impacted by COVID-19 for rental payments for low-income housing
  • Community Teamwork Inc. – to provide financial support to low-income residents for housing
  • Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. – to prevent food insecurity among seniors
  • International Institute of New England (IINE) – Lowell – to provide emergency rental assistance
  • Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) – to provide rental assistance in cases of urgent need
  • Minute Man Arc for Human Services Inc.- to purchase and provide food and groceries for home-bound people with physical and mental disabilities
  • Minuteman Senior Services – to prevent food insecurity among seniors
  • Paul’s Soup Kitchen, Inc. – to purchase food to produce meals for the homeless

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund supports those across the state most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis, focusing on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations including the homeless, immigrant populations, people with disabilities and those facing food insecurity. The Fund works in concert with regional community foundations and non-profit leaders who partner with local leaders to understand the response and relief landscape, strategically filling in where gaps are pronounced. For more information, visit MACovid19ReliefFund.org

“The Mass COVID Relief Fund grant opportunity through GLCF was instrumental in enabling Minute Man Arc to purchase and store food supplies for our eight group homes,” said Jean A. Goldsberry, CEO of Minute Man Arc. “Emergency funding like this is supporting the needs of people with disabilities in eastern MA and keeping our most vulnerable citizens safe and healthy.”

To date, GLCF has awarded nearly $2.5 million through 172 rapid response grants to nonprofits battling COVID-19 and the resulting fallout from the virus through the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Donations to the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund can be made online at www.glcfoundation.org or by mail to the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund c/o GLCF, 100 Merrimack Street, Suite 202, Lowell, MA 01852.

International Institute of New England (IINE) staff with “back to school” donations. IINE received multiple grants from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund through GLCF to support refugees during the pandemic.




fund grant recipients Women Accelerators
fund grant recipients Women Accelerators

Grant awards announced to support nonprofits helping women in Greater Lowell

The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund, a permanently endowed fund of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, has announced the recipients of $43,710 in grants that will support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community

The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund recently awarded more than $43,000 in grant funds to support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community. WWW Fund Grant recipient Women Accelerators, from left, Hagir Mohamed, Debby Fowler, Miriam Margala, Jodie Bruneau, Susu Wong and Kim Meninger.

Lowell, MA – The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund, a permanently endowed fund of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, has announced the recipients of $43,710 in grants. These grants will support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community.

“During this unprecedented time of economic hardship and public health crisis, Women Working Wonders is proud to support these five organizations in their work to improve the lives of women and girls,” said Susan West Levine, Women Working Wonders Fund board president. “Now more than ever, our philanthropy and attention are needed in the Greater Lowell community.”

2020 WWW Grant Recipients:

  • Community Teamwork, Inc.for Support for Minority Women Childcare Service Providers – $10,000
  • Dignity Matters Inc.for Period Protection to Support Greater Lowell Providers – $10,000
  • Lowell General Hospital for Cancer Center / Cancer Services Breast Boards for Radiation Therapy Treatment Providers – $10,000
  • South Sudanese Enrichment for Families for Women’s Financial Literacy Programming: Whole Family Health and Stability – $3,825
  • Women Accelerators for The Accelerating Women Leadership Program – $9,885

“Access to menstrual care makes an enormous difference to girls and women who are homeless or living in poverty. Period protection makes it possible for girls to attend school and improve their economic prospects, and it helps women work reliably and access other services to support their families,” said Kate Sanetra-Butler, Executive Director of Dignity Matters. “We’re so grateful to the Women Working Wonders Fund for this new grant, which will help hundreds of women and girls in Greater Lowell through schools and COVID-19 emergency centers. When women support each other, anything is possible.”

Women Working Wonders provides annual grants in three key areas: assist women in transition, provide leadership development as well as contribute to the beautification of the environment.

At a COVID-19 emergency center at Stoklosa Middle School in Lowell, a volunteer hands out menstrual care packages from Dignity Matters, an organization recently awarded a grant from the Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund.

Founded in 2004 by a small group of women coming together to form a collective giving organization that focused on women’s issues, the fund has made more than $200,000 in grants to organizations supporting women and girls in the Greater Lowell area.

“We are thrilled to receive this year’s Women Working Wonders Fund Grant. The grant will be used to assist us in helping women with their professional and career training in the Merrimack Valley,” said Susu Wong, co-founder of Women Accelerators. “The grant will support our mission of giving women the tools they need to succeed professionally and to affect meaningful change leading to closing the gender gap.”

The Women Working Wonders Fund’s virtual Power of the Purse 2020 event is scheduled for October 15. Tickets go on sale September 1. For information about WWW and the upcoming event, visit: www.womenworkingwondersfund.com.


Greater Lowell Community Foundation

100 Merrimack Street, Suite 202,
Lowell, MA 01852

© 2020 Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

GLCF, CTI and Middlesex District Attorney’s Office Partner in Drug Court Transportation Project

GLCF, CTI and Middlesex District Attorney’s Office Partner in Drug Court Transportation Project

Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) receives $10,000 Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) Grant

Lowell, March 13, 2019 – Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI), Greater Lowell Community Foundation and
the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office are announcing a first-of-its kind partnership to provide
transportation to individuals to and from Drug Court. Last year CTI received a $10,000 grant from
the Greater Lowell Community Foundation to help start the pilot program, which kicked off in
October, and is currently providing services three women who are being picked up from a Lynn Sober
House and transported to their court appearances. The goal is to accommodate up to 13 individuals
each week.

“This partnership with the office of District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, Community Teamwork and the
Drug Court is the capstone of a multi-year commitment to fund programs for opioid prevention and
treatment in our area and help ensure success for participants. In response to the opioid epidemic,
the Community Foundation has awarded more than $160,000 in discretionary funds to support local
nonprofits,” said Greater Lowell Community Foundation President and CEO Jay Linnehan.

“By providing this transportation option we are filling a service gap that was prohibiting some
individuals from easily accessing the courts, which is essential to successful completion of drug
court,” said District Attorney Ryan. “We continue to work with the courts and our community
partners to ensure the criminal justice system is not just punitive. To do this we need to think
outside the box to come up with innovative solutions that will hopefully lead to a successful
outcome and ultimately interrupt the often cyclical effects of substance use disorders.”

The Drug Court is a special session within Massachusetts district courts where judges, prosecutors,
defense attorneys, probation officers, police and social-service workers team up to work with
defendants on probation whose crimes were motivated by substance abuse. Many defendants are placed
where treatment beds are available, which can be

located in Sober Houses far from their community and the Drug Court. These defendants risk
violating probation because they are unable to secure transportation to attend their trial. In
addition, various modes of transportation, such as public transportation and taxis can be cost
prohibitive and often defendants can find themselves back in the neighborhoods and streets where
drugs are being sold.

Community Teamwork recognized that its Transportation Department, which brings children to and from
school, had flexibility to use drivers and vehicles during the school day to respond to other
community needs. With funding from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, CTI is deploying
drivers and vehicles to fill this need. GLCF provided a $10,000 grant to support the cost of a
driver and van for Community Teamwork to facilitate this innovative approach to assist the Drug
Court and its clients. Together, CTI, GLCF and the Drug Court probation officers developed a
framework for what the program might look like as well as a strict Code of Conduct which the
participants would have to follow in order to receive the benefit of this program.

“Most often, these defendants are in need of other basic services which CTI can provide, such as
housing, financial literacy, child care, etc. Through this pilot program, which can send employees
from CTI to work with the probation officials and social workers, we are able to identify the
various resources available to the defendants. We could not have taken this novel approach without
the help of this grant from GLCF,” stated Meghan Siembor, Director of Child and Family Services.

About Community Teamwork

Community Teamwork is a catalyst for social change. Our driving mission is to help people help
themselves with child care, family supports, nutrition, fuel assistance, housing, skills training,
employment, financial education, and individual asset and small business development. As a
Community Action Agency, a Regional Housing Agency, and a Community Development Corporation,
Community Teamwork helps nearly 50,000 individuals from 63 cities and towns in northeastern
Massachusetts gain greater economic independence.

About the Greater Lowell Community Foundation

The Greater Lowell Community Foundation is a philanthropic organization comprised of over 350
funds, currently totaling over $35MM, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life in 20
neighboring cities and towns. The Community Foundation annually awards grants and scholarships to
hundreds of worthy nonprofits and students, and is powered by the winning combination of
donor-directed giving, personal attention from its staff, and an in-depth understanding of local
needs. The generosity of our donors has enabled the

Community Foundation to award more than $13 million to the Greater Lowell Community since 1999.


Program Contact: Meghan Siembor – Division Director, Child and Family Services 978-654-7130,  msiembor@commteam.org

Media Contacts: Julia Ripa – jripa@commteam.org, communications@commteam.org,  978-654-5628  OR Meghan Kelly,  781-897-8325, Meghan.Kelly@state.ma.us

Fantastic article in the Lowell Sun (3/29/19) by Rick Sobey about how the Middlesex DA Marian Ryan GLCFoundation and CTI are partnering to help drug-court defendants go to their hearings – They are using CTI buses during the time of day when they are not in use! BIG return for a very small investment!