Cambridge Historical Commission | Projects & Services | Preservation Grants

Cambridge Historical Commission Preservation Grant Program

See also: Info about our Institutional Preservation Grants for non-profits.

The Cambridge Historical Commission is a municipal agency concerned with the history of Cambridge and the preservation of significant older structures in the city. To aid in the preservation and rehabilitation of these older buildings, the Commission administers various federal, state, and local programs. One of these is the Preservation Grants Program.


The Preservation Grants Program is funded by a Community Development Block Grant from the federal government and with appropriations from the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act. The Historical Commission began the Preservation Grants Program in 1976.


Grant funds may be used to restore exterior features that contribute to the original appearance of the building. Such work includes the repair or restoration of original ornamental trim, porches, columns, railings, windows, and chimneys. The grant may also be used to restore original siding such as clapboards or shingles. Homeowners may also use Preservation Grants to remove vinyl, aluminum, or other artificial siding in order to restore the house's original shingles or clapboards. Grants may also be applied toward structural repairs that are essential to the integrity of original features.


In order to apply for a Preservation Grant, a homeowner must meet certain eligibility requirements. The applicant must have owned the home for which he or she is seeking a Preservation Grant for at least one year. The homeowner must also reside in the house, and the house can have no more than four rental units. In addition, the applicant must have a low to moderate income according to guidelines established by the Community Development Block Grant Home Improvement Program. To check the current eligible income levels, which are based on the estimated median household income for the Boston Metropolitan Area., check the following link on the Cambridge Community Development web site:


A homeowner interested in applying for a Preservation Grant should call the appropriate rehabilitation agency. The Historical Commission offers preservation grants of up to $8,000 for exterior rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes in association with two non-profit organizations that operate home improvement programs with Community Development Block Grant funds:  Homeowner's Rehab, Inc. (280 Franklin Street; 617/868-4858) and Just-A-Start (320 Cambridge Street; 617/494-0444). Although the programs differ in minor details, each provides rehabilitation assistance to low and moderate income families by means of low-interest or deferred loans.


The homeowner should first contact the Historical Commission staff (617/349-4683) for an initial assessment of the structure's eligibility for a grant. The appropriate rehabilitation agency with then arrange for a site visit and an interview by a staff member. The homeowner must furnish the rehabilitation agency with information necessary to establish the applicant's eligibility for the program. The applicant and the staff member determine how the homeowner would use a Preservation Grant once an applicant's eligibility is established. After the rehabilitation agency has established an applicant's eligibility and outlined a scope of work, the agency forwards an application to the Commission staff. The full Commission will consider the application at its next meeting. Grants are awarded for projects that help retain or recover the original architectural integrity of the house. Buildings need not be considered historically or architecturally significant to receive a grant.


The formula for grant disbursement is as follows:

Homeowners (Home Improvement Project participants):
a flat grant of up to $10,000 plus 50% of additional documented costs up to a maximum disbursement of $15,000

Affordable Housing Agencies (per project)
a flat grant of up to $25,000 plus 50% of additional documented costs up to a maximum disbursement of $50,000

If an applicant receives a grant, he or she is notified in an award letter, which states the conditions of the grant and the scope of work to be done. The homeowner then signs a contract with the City in which he or she agrees to carry out the work under the supervision of the Historical Commission and to maintain the restored features for five years. If the house is sold before the end of the five-year period, a portion of the grant must be returned. After the contract is signed, work may begin. When the work is completed in a manner satisfactory to the Historical Commission, the homeowner is reimbursed for the grant amount.

Cambridge Historical Commission
February 2005

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