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SPRINGFIELD — Way Finders and the MassMutual Foundation announced that Way Finders has been provided with a $2 million gift from the MassMutual Foundation to help fund its City of Homes (COH) initiative. This pilot program will address the need for quality, affordable homeownership opportunities in Springfield, the headquarters city of MassMutual and Way Finders.

“When a family has a stable, safe, and affordable home, it opens doors for upward mobility and opportunity. When a community invests in renovating or replacing dilapidated housing, it creates ripples of improvement that make neighborhoods better,” said Keith Fairey, president and CEO of Way Finders. “Way Finders is thrilled to be a partner in this important project in the city of Springfield. Through this innovative program, we will improve housing stock, increase investment in the North End and Mason Square neighborhoods, and build family wealth in communities too-often excluded from homeownership.”

COH will create homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers by leveraging the receivership process to acquire and rehabilitate single-family homes or properties for sale at affordable prices in pilot neighborhoods in Springfield. To qualify for the applicant lottery, prospective homebuyers must have either attended a first-time-homebuyer seminar with Way Finders or another certified organization and secured mortgage funding with MassHousing or a private lender.

“I want to thank the MassMutual Foundation for their continued belief and investment in Springfield,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said. “The MassMutual Foundation and MassMutual continue to be excellent corporate citizens for our city. This generous grant to support Way Finders’ City of Homes initiative will provide many Springfield families the opportunity to secure stable and affordable housing, increase the homeownership rate in our North End and Mason Square neighborhoods, and provide an opportunity for families to become proud homebuyers where they can start building equity in something they own — their home.

“This initiative is very similar to my administration’s Buy Springfield Now initiative, a public and private collaboration, and our first-time homebuyers program, which has seen tremendous success in helping families achieve their dreams of homeownership,” Sarno continued. “All of this enhances the quality of life in our neighborhoods and will help families start to build generational wealth in our communities.”

By focusing on Springfield’s North End and Mason Square neighborhoods, where 75% or more of the residents are Black or Hispanic and 50% or more live below the poverty line, the project will provide much-needed access to homeownership opportunities traditionally unavailable to many residents in these communities.

“Long emblematic of the American Dream, homeownership is foundational to building generational wealth,” said Dennis Duquette, president of the MassMutual Foundation. “The MassMutual Foundation is very pleased to support the City of Homes program and help make this important goal more readily attainable for first-time homebuyers in our city’s Mason Square and North End communities.”

Since 2018, the MassMutual Foundation has supported Way Finders’ financial-capability programming, which lays the groundwork for homeownership with financial education and first-time homebuyer workshops. Through the COH pilot program, Way Finders will be able to help Springfield residents turn this education into action as they become first-time homebuyers.

In 2022, Way Finders programs impacted the lives of more than 46,000 people through services including homelessness and foreclosure prevention, financial education and first-time homebuyer workshops, and small-business loans.