Nicholas DeSouza - Executive Director Michael J. Johnston

Michael J. Johnston, Esq., was appointed Executive Director of the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) in February of 2017 and has over 33 years of experience in public housing policy, operations, and program management at the agency. Johnston is a graduate of the New England School of Law, admitted to practice in Massachusetts, and is a Massachusetts Certified Purchasing Official.

In 1991, Johnston began his career at the CHA as Deputy Director of Leased Housing, managing the administrative operations of the agency’s 1,800-unit Federal and State Leased Housing Program. He was later promoted to Deputy Director of Leasing and Occupancy and then served seven years as the department’s Director. From January 2008 to February 2017, he was the Deputy Executive Director for Administration, overseeing Public Housing Operations, Leased Housing Departments, and Human Resources. During his tenure, the Leased Housing Program doubled in size, and he played a key role in budget preparation and enforcement, union contract negotiations, and implementing the RAD requirements to transition 1,150 units to the project-based voucher program under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration.

Since 2017 as the Executive Director, Johnston successfully oversaw more than $300 million in rehabilitation efforts for 10 properties, extending the life of over 880 units by a projected minimum of three decades, despite navigating the COVID pandemic. He effectively revamped the Operations Department to adapt to project-based vouchers and low-income housing tax credits. In 2024, the CHA is set to open two permanent supportive housing facilities for up to 90 unhoused individuals. Additionally, a $200 million initiative is underway to replace 175 outdated units with 278 housing units on a transit-oriented eight site. The new units are being constructed to Passive House standards.

Johnston is highly regarded for leveraging the CHA’s Moving to Work (MTW) Deregulation Demonstration agreement to preserve affordable housing in Cambridge. He developed Local Payment Standards and other leasing incentives for the high-cost Cambridge rental market. In 2011, he created the Expiring Use Preservation Program, collaborating with local nonprofits and private entities to preserve over 1,600 units. 

Johnston also pioneered the Sponsor-Based Housing Program, enhancing the CHA’s efforts to address homelessness, promote family self-sufficiency, and support individuals fleeing violence.

Before joining the CHA, Johnston served as Vice President for a developer in southeast Massachusetts, contributing to the development of over 500 housing units. He continues to proudly lead the CHA in creating and maintaining quality affordable housing units for generations to come in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

Executive Staff

Nicholas DeSouza - Executive Assistant to the Executive Director

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Executive Assistant to the Executive Director Work Phone: (617) 520-6229