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Transforming an Abandoned Car Dealership Into Affordable Housing in Boston

Corner view of white four-story residential building from across the street.
Four-story, townhome-style buildings along a street lined with parked cars.
Four-story, red and gray residential building with road and sidewalk in front.
Kitchen and an unfurnished room in an apartment with sunny windows.
Abandoned parking lot with grass growing.
Aerial view of residential neighborhood with an apartment building in the foreground and the Boston skyline in the distance.


Home > Case Studies > Transforming an Abandoned Car Dealership Into Affordable Housing in Boston


Transforming an Abandoned Car Dealership Into Affordable Housing in Boston


Cote Village is a 76-unit, mixed-income apartment community in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood. Completed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Inc. (POUA) and Caribbean Integration Community Development (CICD) in 2022, Cote Village consists of a renovated former automobile dealership and four adjoining new buildings. The development complements the city's effort to attract investment to this historically underserved area while ensuring that legacy residents are not priced out. The development, winner of a 2022 Affordable Housing Finance Reader's Choice Award, complements the city's effort to attract investment to this historically underserved area, while ensuring that legacy residents are not priced out.

Neighborhood Change

Mattapan, a predominantly Black neighborhood in southern Boston, is one of the lowest-income areas of the city. The neighborhood has historically seen less new investment than many other parts of the city. After experiencing population loss in the 1960s and 1970s, Mattapan's population has remained steady at more than 30,000 residents. The neighborhood has one of the highest rates of Black homeownership in Boston. Approximately 42 percent of Black households in this area own their homes compared with 31 percent in the city as a whole, and parts of the neighborhood have attracted new public and private investment over the past several years. Although housing prices in Mattapan remain lower than in much of Boston, some residents worry that these new investments could make housing costs in the area prohibitively expensive for current residents. "There's a lot of concern in the neighborhood about people being priced out, particularly among legacy residents concerned that their children will not be able to stay in the neighborhood," explained Shaina Korman-Houston, POUA's director of real estate.

The city of Boston has been supporting efforts to redevelop Mattapan and create and preserve affordable housing in the neighborhood. The city has used vacant tax-delinquent properties acquired under the state's tax laws to leverage new development. One of these properties was the blighted Cote Ford dealership, which had been vacant since the 1990s and was a hotspot for criminal activity. Although the city initially struggled to find developers interested in the old dealership, the property's marketability improved when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) unveiled plans for a commuter rail station a block away from the site. For residents living near the station, riding the commuter train to downtown Boston would be approximately twice as fast as the typical commute by car or other public transit. In 2015, POUA and CICD contracted with the city to jointly develop a mixed-use, affordable housing community on the site. POUA had extensive experience developing affordable housing, and CICD's established presence in the area helped facilitate community engagement efforts.

Repurposing a Car Dealership

The development team acquired the site from the city for a nominal amount and began construction in 2019, less than 1 year after the new commuter rail station opened. Adhering to the targets set by the city of Boston for publicly supported projects, the developers awarded nearly $13 million to minority-owned businesses and more than $3.5 million in contracts with women-owned firms. These enterprises provided labor, building materials, electrical services, and utilities during construction. "This was a challenging project, but I was particularly pleased with our success [in] contracting to women-owned businesses and hiring people of color," Korman-Houston said.

The dealership was in dismal condition. Most of the deteriorated single-story structure was contaminated with lead and asbestos. The development team replaced walls, reinforced steel beams, and removed mold and other contaminants. The team converted approximately 18,500 square feet of the original 2-story building into 14 apartments but retained the original covered garage for residential parking. The remaining space is new construction that houses the management office, lobby, and the rest of the units. "In retrospect, it might have been easier to knock it down and start again, but we thought it was important from a sustainability perspective to try to save it," Korman-Houston explained. The developers also constructed four smaller buildings with townhouses adjacent to the original building. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prolonged the construction process, Cote Village finally opened in June 2022.

Cote Village

All 76 units are reserved for low- to moderate-income households: 12 are reserved for residents earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), 2 for those earning no more than 50 percent of AMI, 42 for those earning no more than 60 percent of AMI, 12 for those earning no more than 80 percent of AMI, and 8 for those earning no more than 100 percent of AMI. Eight of the units set aside for households earning no more than 30 percent of AMI are also reserved for residents exiting homelessness. The former car dealership structure houses 52 apartments, and the 4 new buildings contain 24 townhomes. The complex includes one-, two-, and three-bedroom units ranging from approximately 630 to 1,060 square feet. The apartments have new ENERGY STAR® appliances and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

The main building has a fitness center, a community room, and laundry facilities that serve the entire development as well as CICD's offices. The property also has a playground. A café owned by a first-time local entrepreneur will open on the first floor of the main building. Cote Village is within walking distance of restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks, and schools and a public library are within a mile of the property. Residents are also close to a park and a walking trail. From the adjacent Blue Hill Avenue MBTA commuter rail station, residents can travel to downtown Boston in approximately 20 minutes. The fare to downtown Boston is normally $2.40, but the city offers discounted fares for seniors, people with disabilities, and eligible low-income adults, and there is no charge for some students, military and public safety personnel, and legally blind riders. Cote Village is also served by several local bus lines and the Mattapan Trolley.


The development cost approximately $48.5 million (table 1), $15 million of which went toward constructing the townhomes. The developers used 9 percent low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to construct the new buildings and 4 percent LIHTCs to rehabilitate the original structure. LIHTC equity accounted for nearly half of the funding, and a loan from MassHousing, the state's quasi-public housing finance agency, accounted for approximately another quarter. Massachusetts, Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities provided nearly $5 million, and the city of Boston granted more than $6 million, most of which came from fees paid by developers in lieu of providing income-restricted units under the city's Inclusionary Development Policy and from commercial linkage fees. HUD's HOME Investment Partnerships program supported a portion of the city and state awards.

Table 1. Funding for Cote Village

4% low-income housing tax credit equity (apartments) $14,322,000
9% low-income housing tax credit equity (townhouses) 8,940,000
MassHousing permanent loan 11,430,000
MassHousing workforce housing 2,400,000
City of Boston: HOME Investment Partnerships funds 1,501,000
City of Boston: other sources 4,815,000
Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities: HOME funds 825,000
Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities: other sources 3,925,000
Deferred developer fee 397,000
Total $48,555,000

Community Impacts

The development of Cote Village helped revitalize this long-vacant block, making it feel safer and more active. Consistent with the city's neighborhood plan, updated in 2023, other residential and commercial developments are now either under construction or proposed nearby. Since Cote Village opened, POUA and CICD have continued to develop other affordable housing projects throughout Mattapan. Two of these — Morton Station and 150 River Street — also were developed on city-owned land. The former opened in late 2023 and the latter is slated to open in 2024. In January 2024, another developer filed for building permits to construct an apartment building on vacant land across the street from Cote Village.

This article was written by Sage Computing, Inc , under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.