HUD Secretary Julián Castro Visits Cambridge Housing Authority


Cambridge, MA – HUD Secretary Julián Castro Visits Cambridge Housing Authority

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was in Cambridge on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 to tour with Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) at Newtowne Court and Washington Elms, CHA’s largest family housing sites that were recently converted to project-based assistance under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). He was warmly welcomed by CHA’s Executive Director Gregory Russ.

Washington Elms and Newtowne Court Apartments
Secretary Castro toured Washington Elms and Newtowne Court, currently undergoing a major renovation, budgeted at a combined $64 million.  CHA is in the process of converting over 2,000 public housing units under RAD, the largest conversion in New England.  RAD is feasible for CHA’s portfolio-wide conversion due to the agency’s participation in HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) program. The combination of the RAD platform that permitted leveraging of private investments and loans, and MTW flexibility, added critical funds to the contract rents to support investment and debt, making long-term preservation of Washington Elms and Newtowne Court possible.

Secretary Castro acknowledged both the CHA’s and HUD’s progress on RAD to date, stating that while efforts to preserve public housing and create new affordable units have long been hindered by tight federal and state budgets, HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration initiative will turn that stalemate on its head. Secretary Castro also recognized such innovative partnerships as having the potential to spur millions in private investment, addressing long overdue capital repairs, sparking economic development, and preserving affordable housing for low income families, the elderly, and disabled households for future generations to come.

Makerspace – The Possible Project (TPP)
Secretary Castro also visited The Possible Project’s Makerspace at Washington Elms, where he was greeted by Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher. Also joining the Secretary were Cambridge Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson and Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development Iram Farooq, as well as, Brenda Cross-Sanchez and Jacey Buel of The Possible Project (TPP).

Nabi Tall, a current TPP student, gave Secretary Castro an exciting demonstration of the Makerspace laser cutter. Together Nabi and Secretary Castro created a custom laser engraved key chain that incorporated the HUD logo. 

TPP opened its Makerspace facility earlier this year in collaboration with Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) and the Biogen Foundation. Using its MTW flexibility, CHA was able to invest $100,000 to help complete the renovation of a previously under-used space at Washington Elms, which houses the Makerspace.

Secretary Castro was shown renderings and designs for the capital improvement program by representatives from Baker Wohl Architects and ICON Architecture, both from Boston.  Also gathered for the tour were Wahed Uddin, CHA Work Force alumni and current Baker Wohl intern, Cheryl-Ann Pizza-Zeoli and Jean Hannon of the Alliance of Cambridge Tenants, Cambridge’s citywide resident organization, Mark Moses, President of the Newtowne Court/Washington Elms Tenant Council and Washington Elms resident Roberta Davidson.

About Cambridge Housing Authority
Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) is a national leader in the development, management and administration of subsidized affordable housing for low-income elderly, family and disabled households. Our mission is to develop and manage safe, good-quality, affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in a manner that promotes citizenship, community, and self-reliance. CHA provides housing assistance to more than 5,000 low-income households in one of the highest-cost rental markets in the country. 

About The Possible Project
Based in Cambridge, MA, The Possible Project (TPP) is a non-profit organization founded by Mark and Becky Levin in 2010. TPP teaches high school students with untapped potential how to create and run their own businesses while gaining important personal and professional skills. The Possible Project uses entrepreneurship as a vehicle to impart the characteristics and competencies that make enduring personal and professional success more likely for its students. During the course of the three-year program, students become proficient in leadership, resilience, professionalism, self-confidence, teamwork and a host of other vital skills. TPP is working to close the skills and opportunities gap facing its students by providing resources and support that make them more likely to finish high school, complete education and training beyond high school, and enter careers that will provide them with a living wage. For more information on TPP, please visit

About The Biogen Idec Foundation, Inc.
The Biogen Idec Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of peoples’ lives and contribute to the vitality of the communities in which the company operates, with a special emphasis on innovative ways to promote science literacy and encourage young people to consider science careers. Additional information about the Biogen Idec Foundation can be found at