from the walkPeople of all ages turned out May 19 to support affordable housing. / photos by Phoebe Mabuchi

Nearly 100 people showed their support for the Housing Corporation of Arlington (HCA) by attending the 21st annual "Walk for Affordable Housing" in Arlington Center on Sunday, May 19.

The event raised more than $38,000 for HCA, founded in 1986 as a nonprofit organization providing affordable housing for families and individuals in Arlington.

The purpose of the walk was to raise awareness about the ongoing housing crisis, inform the community about HCA’s recent work and celebrate its accomplishments.

Participants gathered at noon at the Jason Russell House, 7 Jason St., before marching to Arlington Center and back along Mass. Ave. The lawn in front was filled with attendees wearing the walk’s red T-shirts.

Each featured an illustration of Arlington’s first 100-percent solar-powered affordable home, an accessible dwelling unit (ADU) at 40 Dorothy Road. It was built by Andover-based Reframe Systems, and HCA was its first ADU customer. The unit is not yet occupied.

Lots of fun for everyone

Reframe, a modular housing company, produces climate-friendly affordable housing with the use of technology. The company says the ADU is energy-efficient, using only electric heating and cooling; one panel was built by a robot. Some Reframe engineers came to the walk, some with their families, all wearing matching Reframe hats.

Walk attendees got goodie bags with items from local businesses, such as a toothbrush from Arlington Orthodontics,Erica SpeechExecutive Director Erica Schwarz kept her speech short and to the point.  bubbles from Winchester Savings Bank and a pen from Leader Bank. They could also sign up for raffles to try to win prizes from local businesses, such a gift basket from Trader Joe’s or an Inspire Fitness gift card. Once checked in, participants enjoyed the entertainment on the lawn.

JP Honk, a band that focuses on performing music for causes its musicians believe in, played songs in the corner of the lawn. One was the “Sesame Street” theme, engaging the kids in attendance. There were seven musicians dressed in purple, all playing all brass instruments, except for one playing the drums. Pizza, fruit and cookies were provided to all. There was also a cornhole game available, and a stilts walker, Danny Drake, whom some children talked to and took pictures with.

Lizandra Hawkinson of Belmont, a rising sophomore at Boston University, attended the event with a friend. Hawkinson is on an email list from state Rep. Dave Rogers, which is how she learned about the walk. Because she fought for affordable housing while in high school, she felt it important to support an organization working toward that goal in a small town while she is home for summer break.

Around 20 minutes after the event began, members of City Life/Vida Urbana arrived. This organization, based in Jamaica Plain, pushes for rent control and helps people with tenant issues. City Life supports HCA’s mission because both organizations believe in the pressing need for affordable housing.

Laura Frost of City Life/Vida Urbana is a tenant leader at multiple properties in Arlington. She said that in Arlington, some big developers are buying properties full of relatively affordable units and then converting them into luxury buildings. She believes that the work HCA does to acquire such properties before that can happen is important.

stiltsStilts walker Danny Drake was a hit with the kids.'What do we want? Affordable housing!'

At 12:45 p.m., Neal Mongold, HCA’s board president, and Erica Schwarz, HCA’s executive director, welcomed everyone to the event. Mongold thanked everyone for showing up and said that HCA “has a very serious mission … but today is a day to have fun and to celebrate.”

Schwarz spoke about the partnership with Reframe and the planned 43-unit development at 10 Sunnyside Ave. that HCA is hoping to get subsidies from the state to build. The application has been filed; if funding is awarded this year, construction could begin in January. She asked the group gathered around her to “cross their fingers and toes” in hopes that the monetary request is approved.

At 1 p.m., the walk began. The staff passed out posters that read, “Housing Corporation of Arlington,” accompanied by the HCA logo. JP Honk and Drake led the group, while the staff wore safety vests to help everyone cross Mass. Ave. A few participants, especially families with young kids, left before or during the walk, but most remained.

During the walk, some people in cars honked in support of the march. Many people were drawn outside of the buildings along Mass. Ave. by the music but then stayed to watch the march and read the signs.

Once the group made it to Broadway Plaza in Arlington Center, the band played “Feel Like Funkin’ Up” by the Rebirth Brass Band while people of all ages danced. When the band finished the song, Schwarz led a chant. “What do we want? Affordable housing! When do we want it? Now!”

The group then marched back to the Jason Russell House lawn along the same route, then learned who won the raffle prizes. HCA raised a total of $38,094 from the event between walk sponsorships, raffle tickets and other donations.

Lizandra HawkinsonFrom left, Leila Bernbeck, sophomore at Wesleyan University, and Lizandra Hawkinson, sophomore at Boston University, enjoyed the event.Sponsors of the walk heralded

The walk sponsors were listed on the backs of the red shirts as follows:

Heroes: Brookline Bank, Cambridge Savings Bank

Champions: East Cambridge Savings Bank, Leader Bank

Allies: Bald Hill Builders, Calvary Church, Casner & Edwards, Eagle Bank, Eastern Bank, KJP Partners, Merchants Capital, Reframe Systems, Vibrant Arlington, Watertown Savings Bank, Winchester Savings Bank

Supporters: Arlex Oil Co., GZA GeoEnvironmental, McDonald Contracting, Peabody Properties, Workbar Arlington

Friends: Belmont Printing, Stephen and Mary DeCourcey, St John’s Episcopal Church, Summer Federal LLC, Zhen Ren Chuan Martial Arts

Once all the raffle prizes were handed out, Schwarz left the group with some final words. “Thank you so much for coming. It was great. You made it great."

May 6, 2023: Housing Corp. of Arlington's 20th walk raises $48k, includes protesters

This report, published Thursday, May 23, 2024, is the first for YourArlington by freelancer Phoebe Mabuchi of Lexington, who just completed her freshman year at Boston College, studying education, journalism and psychology.