Home Improvement Program


HIP’s mission is to revitalize, stabilize and improve homes owned by income-eligible Cambridge residents by providing affordable financial and technical assistance for these low and moderate income homeowners.

The Home Improvement Program (HIP) has been operated by HRI since 1974. HIP provides financial and technical assistance to eligible Cambridge homeowners, helping renovate more than 500 units for low-and moderate-income homeowners. HIP participants maintain their residency, revitalize their homes, and help stabilize their community. 


Frequently Asked Questions

+ What services does the program provide?

The services of the HIP program include: performing rehab inspections; estimating costs; establishing a rehab plan; managing and monitoring the rehab; assisting with a loan application for financing; obtaining a rehab loan; counseling on property management and maintenance issues; and working with tenants to assure that their rent is affordable.

+ How does the program work?

HRI works with property owners to determine the level of rehab that is needed. Work specifications are written and several contractors will review the proposed work and submit a bid. A financial analysis is performed to insure that the loan is affordable. Loans are approved and a contractor is selected. The loan closes and the rehab begins. The entire rehab process is supervised by HRI to assure it is done properly.

+ What properties are eligible for HRI assistance?

Properties that are owner occupied, house between one and four families, and are at least 50% residential are eligible for HRI assistance. The applicant must also fall within the income limits (see income requirements below) set forth by the Community Development Block grant program, and typically must own his or her house for at least one year.

+ What type of rehab is eligible under the program?

HIP is a moderate rehab program. Priority is given to the following rehab needs: health and safety hazards; weatherization and energy conserving improvements; lead paint hazards; remodeling to accommodate the handicapped; exterior upgrading.

+ How does the program help property owners?

HRI makes the entire rehab process easier by providing both financial and technical assistance to property owners who wish to rehab their property. This assistance will result in improved buildings that will be financially manageable and more attractive. Owners who are concerned that renovating their property might result in unaffordably high rents for their tenants, can now do the rehab and keep their tenants’ rents affordable.

+ How does the program help tenants?

The program’s goal is to assist property owners in renovating apartments while keeping costs affordable. Below-market rehab loan financing allows owners to keep their costs low. Tenants will not only have improved housing conditions but will also be able to afford the rent.

+ How do I apply?

If you believe that you meet the eligibility requirements outlined above, you can either call the office at (617) 868-4858, or simply come by the office at 280 Franklin Street, Cambridge, conveniently located in Central Square. You are then briefly prescreened for eligibility. If you qualify and want to apply, you will receive an application along with other documents to complete and return to the office.


Approved services

If an applicant for the HIP program is approved, HRI will provide the following services:

Examples of HIP Rehab



"I learned about HRI when I saw a sign posted on the window of the North Cambridge Senior Center. I knew my home needed some major repair; roof, bathroom etc., and I was exploring ways to finance the work. The Home Improvement Program (HIP) at HRI helped me to confidently assess and understand what work really needed to be done on my home. HIP staff expertly guided me through the process, which would have felt overwhelming and would probably have been more costly. I received a reasonable affordable loan rate and as importantly, had caring, knowledgeable, accessible people who could provide technical assistance, support and guidance. I would recommend others to HRI because I don't think I have ever worked with an agency where every person I interacted with was so thorough, caring and attentive to detail, and followed through on every task as promised. I would rate the service I received as excellent, since I can't thank the HIP staff enough for all their help."

"My daughter saw an ad at the local library about Homeowners Rehab and she called their office. Our house was going into foreclosure. We had tried for over a year to get a bank to give us a loan to pay back taxes and make necessary repair. Our home had safety issues in and outside; lead paint on the walls and soil, electrical and plumbing problems, holes in the attic and roof, falling porches. We could not go into the yard for fear of the many hazards. The Home Improvement Program at HRI helped us get a low interest rate loan at a local bank. They also provided us with support and resources to help us create and maintain a budget, supported contractor selections, brought our home up to code, perform home inspections and all aspects of rehab in and outside the home.  We feel that the Home Improvement Program at saved our lives!! This home has been in my family for many years. HRI allowed my grandchildren and their future children to grow up here, since now we will not be uprooted from our home. We will continue to live as a close knit family. I sleep better at night knowing that a household of single females can be successful and that my grandchildren can live and play safely here."

When my husband died over 25 years ago, I decided to update my house with the necessary repairs. Suddenly, it seems, it is 25 years later and I find I need a lot of repairs, such as a new roof, painting inside and out, plaster repair. The bathroom walls needed attention and I needed a couple of new windows. My funds were very low and I was really worried — then I heard from a friend that Cambridge has a wonderful program for people like me to use the equity in my house for a repair loan. Homeowner’s Rehab helps with choosing the contractors and closely monitoring the work before payment is made. I certainly have peace of mind. I can’t say enough for the program.”

In a winter night of November 2004, we were displaced from our apartment in Cambridge — following by a fire incident in the building. Since then, it was a long and difficult journey for our family — both emotionally and from financial considerations. These difficulties were further compounded by the fact that two of our children were — at that point — in the middle of their college semesters, finding the whole family fallen into a crisis of immeasurable magnitude…

In our desperate looking around for money, we happened to hear about HRI. We found “H” as a symbol of 'hope’ and ‘help’ for getting back the ‘home’ we had lost. We can praise this program simply by stating the fact that our hope to return to our condo would have never been possible, without their help. HRI has rescued us from the financial disaster we were facing in finding the additional fund that was needed to reconstruct the building and rehabilitate ourselves back to our condominium.

Our experience in dealing with HRI — from the time of our first approach, till the day of their final approval of loan — has been simply splendid. We are immensely grateful to each and every member of the team, not only for their financial support but also for their generous attitude towards our problems.”

“I read about HRI in a Cambridge newspaper. My roof had been leaking for a year and no bank would give me a loan because of my very low income. HRI gave me an interest-free loan, and provided highly skilled professionals to replace my roof: guaranteed for 10 years. City inspectors monitored the job each step of the way. They saved my house.”