On Thursday May 31st The Neighborhood Developers publicly introduced Rafael Mares as its incoming Executive Director when more than 200 were on hand to celebrate the organization’s 40th Anniversary.  Those who welcomed Rafael included Congressman Michael Capuano, Secretary of the MA Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, EOHED Undersecretary Juan Vega, Senator Sal DiDomenico, Senator Joseph Boncore, Representative Joseph McGonagle, Brian Arrigo Mayor of Revere, and Tom Ambrosino Chelsea City Manager as well as many City Councilors, organizational members, friends and allies.


Rafael is well known regionally for his work with the Conservation Law Foundation where as a Vice President and Program Director of the Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice program he has provided legal, technical, and strategic support to equitable transportation and community development efforts. His work on the Fairmount Indigo Corridor, for example, served to improve economic opportunity and mobility for Boston residents in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park that were without efficient or rapid transit to downtown employment. Prior to joining the Conservation Law Foundation, Rafael worked at the Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School in Jamaica Plain representing indigent tenants in fair housing and eviction matters. Rafael and his family are residents of Revere, one of three cities served by The Neighborhood Developers. The ability to support equitable development within his own community is part of what drew Rafael to apply to for the position.

“Rafael has been a steadfast advocate for healthy communities across New England,” said Bradley Campbell, President of Conservation Law Foundation. “His work ensuring equitable access to the MBTA and fighting for environmental justice in places like Lawrence, Massachusetts will have a lasting impact on countless lives. All of us at CLF will certainly miss his energy and the passion he showed for his work over the last nine years.”

Also announced at The Neighborhood Developers’ 40th Celebration event was the launch of Opportunity Communities (OppCo), a new and innovative joint-venture launched in April 2018 to increase the capacity of community development nonprofits to sponsor socially just, locally controlled, and equitable change within low- and moderate-income communities. Opportunity Communities was co-founded by The Neighborhood Developers and Nuestra Comunidad of Boston. Across the two non-profits organizations is a housing portfolio of 1,150 apartments, which provide a stable home to over 3,000 low- and moderate-income individuals. Greater scale provides greater opportunity. Through OppCo, The Neighborhood Developers and Nuestra Comunidad are leveraging their combined resources and creating a common, shared set of core operations and programs with significantly more capacity than either organization can afford on its own. The end result is a more sustainable, efficient and robust structure for community development activities that sustains each organization‘s distinct identity, independent non-profit status, and control over mission, assets, and strategy. The model is designed for scale; up to ten community development non-profits are expected to join OppCo in the years ahead.


Stepping into the role as CEO of OppCo is Ann Houston, who for the last 14 years has served as the Executive Director of The Neighborhood Developers. Ann Houston joined The Neighborhood Developers in November 2003 with a mandate to expand the organization’s real estate development program. She accomplished this and much, much more. During her tenure with the organization, The Neighborhood Developers completed 16 real estate projects with 378 new or rehabbed homes representing more than $100 million invested in healthy, affordable homes for low and moderate-income households. Other major organizational milestones that occurred during Ann’s tenure include geographic expansion into Revere (2010) and Everett (2017) and the creation of CONNECT, an innovative partnership that supports low-income individuals and families to find a better job and achieve greater economic stability and mobility.

At the event another community development organization that is also turning 40 during 2018 -- NeighborWorks America – was recognized as The Neighborhood Developers’ Partner of the Year. NeighborWorks America exists today because 40 years ago, a coalition of residents, government officials, bankers and community members decided to experiment with a new way of making communities better places to live. Instead of public housing projects, this coalition envisioned better, more affordable homes in the places that people need them most. Since its Congressional chartering in 1978, NeighborWorks has expanded to nearly 250 members nationwide. Yet, it has retained what makes it unique: a grassroots approach that allows every organization the flexibility to focus on the needs of its particular community. The Neighborhood Developers is one of the first NeighborWorks organizations formed by a local coalition of Chelsea leaders and benefits from all that NeighborWorks has to offer: technical assistance; flexible grants; comprehensive, tailored training; and the opportunity to interact with and learn from fellow professionals from a variety of sectors.