Before the initiation of the MassDocs program in 2006, multiple federal, state, and local loan providers supported the development of affordable housing in Massachusetts; it was not uncommon for a single affordable development to receive funding from as many as a dozen unique sources. This layered public financing system had unintended consequences. Obtaining multiple funding sources resulted in unnecessary expense and delay, with little opportunity or incentive to reduce development costs. Difficulty navigating the financial system, coupled with high associated costs, also discouraged real estate developers from acquiring higher quality properties with the greatest underlying value.
Recognizing the need to streamline affordable housing financing procedures, four public agencies—the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, and the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency—developed MassDocs, a one-stop loan acquisition program that supports affordable housing development. Through MassDocs, a single set of loan documents is used to solicit funding from a variety of sources. The Program's Global Participation Agreement also allows lenders to jointly engage counsel, who make use of MassDocs's Web-based document assembly system, to close affordable housing loans. The MassDocs program also reconciles the different statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements of each loan program and provides a composite affordability restriction to ease compliance monitoring during the loan term.
The overwhelmingly positive response to MassDocs by affordable housing developers and financiers and elected officials alike speaks to both the program's success and its potential for replication. Sponsors across Massachusetts are increasingly requesting that affiliated local lenders make use of the single set of loan documents and work with the one closing attorney provided by MassDocs. In ten municipalities across the Commonwealth, use of MassDocs affordable housing services are required. And, as of early 2008, participating members of MassDocs included the cities of Chelsea, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Somerville, Springfield, Worcester; the towns of Amherst, Bedford, Lexington; and, the North Suburban Consortium. Staff of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) are additionally engaged in efforts to disseminate information about MassDocs nationally.