Jenny Raitt, 2016Raitt holding her award.

The Massachusetts Housing Partnership has honored Jennifer Raitt with one of its Housing Hero Awards for her dedication to affordable and fair housing during her many years of public service and for the last six years with the Town of Arlington.

Raitt received the award June 8 in a virtual awards ceremony at MHP’s 15th Housing Institute, a two-day training conference for local officials and volunteers. MHP is a state organization that uses bank funds and other capital sources to support and finance affordable housing. Each year, it recognizes communities and individuals for excellence in affordable housing.

“Your expertise in both housing policy and planning are key to move housing forward in ways that strive to repair past and present harms,” said Laura Shufelt, MHP’s community assistance director, in a June 15 news release

“We have always seen you as a leading voice on fair housing, and people like you are crucial as we move forward efforts to build homes for people in Massachusetts and around the country.”

Raitt has spent most of her career in planning and community development, including six years for the Town of Amesbury, nine years at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and her most recent stint as Arlington’s planning and community development director.

Several initiatives

During her time in Arlington, Raitt drove several planning and housing-related initiatives, including a housing plan, a fair-housing plan, and plans for arts and culture, net zero, and sustainable transportation. She also brought a bus priority lane to East Arlington, recodified zoning, secured multiple grants and oversaw the renovations of two parks.

The fair-housing plan stands out as one of Raitt’s most notable achievements, as towns generally articulate these principles within a broader local or regional housing plan. Arlington’s fair-housing plan was written following a process that included data analysis and interviews with community-based organizations, town and school officials, and resident focus groups. The plan included a history of the town and region’s history of housing discrimination, the rules and bylaws that play a part in it, and actions steps the town can take to ensure equitable access to housing choice. 

This wasn’t the first time Raitt was behind an effort to make fair housing a higher priority. For the American Planning Association, she chaired committees that led the organization to adopt policy guides on housing and aging in community, including elevating polices about fair housing choice.

“Jennifer has a good way of not letting people off the hook,” said Adam Chapdelaine, Arlington’s town manager during Raitt’s tenure there. “She’s always thinking about what the next step should be.”

Raitt was one of four to receive Housing Hero Awards from MHP this year. Also honored were the City of Chelsea, the Town of Wellfleet, and Engine 6, a community of Newton residents dedicated to expanding housing availability in Newton.

This award inspires me to continue to be a champion for local change and addressing the nation's housing crisis. This inspires me to advocate for and allocate resources equitably, to create and implement housing policy, and to keep speaking up for housing in my community and beyond.”                                                      -- Jennifer Raitt

In accepting the award before over 100 Housing Institute attendees, Raitt thanked her Town of Arlington colleagues and the people who have supported her during her career. She then spoke about what the award means to her as she prepares for her next challenge as the new executive director for the North Middlesex Council of Governments, a regional planning agency based in Lowell.

“This award inspires me to continue to be a champion for local change and addressing the nation's housing crisis,” she said. “This inspires me to advocate for and allocate resources equitably, to create and implement housing policy, and to keep speaking up for housing in my community and beyond.”

Raitt's last day in Arlington was June 3.

MHP is a state nonprofit organization that uses bank funds and other capital sources to support and finance affordable Housing. Since 1990, MHP has provided over $1.4 billion for the financing of more than 26,000 apartments and has helped over 23,000 low- and moderate-income households buy their first home through the SoftSecond and ONE Mortgage programs.

MHP’s Community Assistance team has provided support and technical assistance to more than 300 communities and its Center for Housing Data does policy research and creates web-based tools to increase understanding and promote policies to allow more housing in response to demand.


May 4, 2022: Raitt leaving Arlington to lead regional planning agency


This news summary was published Wednesday, June 15, 2022.