Will Monson, 2017
Fellowship: Homeowner’s Rehab
Graduate School: MIT
Post Fellowship: Post-Fellowship, Will stayed on at HRI as a project manager.
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Fellow Profile

Please tell us a little about your background and what drove you to apply to be a Kuehn Fellow.

Growing up in a diverse, high opportunity suburb of Chicago and working in public policy prior to urban planning grad school, I’ve come to realize the importance of geography in determining broad life outcomes. Affordable housing is a crucial way to provide access to this opportunity, especially in high cost urban areas such as Boston. The Kuehn Fellowship provides a great opportunity to get a foothold in the affordable housing world, providing a network of support and knowledge among peers in the industry.

What has been a favorite project, accomplishment or learning so far?

808-812 Memorial Drive (a 300 unit preservation project), in its size and complexity, embodies so many of the challenges and opportunities of affordable housing, and is therefore a great learning opportunity. The ability to preserve so many affordable units and the community that they’ve formed over the decades, in a neighborhood that is today financially beyond many of the residents’ reach, is a reminder of the importance of this work.

Is there anything you’ve seen/experienced that challenged or surprised you?

The sheer complexity, and at times, maddening absurdities that are prevalent in so many facets of this field go far beyond what I had experienced in the classroom. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of any human endeavor involving so many overlapping political, financial and regulatory entities with numerous preferences and priorities. I think part of the value of seeing the field with fresh eyes is to ponder how we can create a more improved system to achieve the crucial end goal of providing access to affordable housing in unaffordable neighborhoods.

What’s something people don’t know about the community (or communities) you work in?

The diversity of a place like Cambridge is certainly a value that many of its residents share, but this result doesn’t just happen on its own. I’m not sure people fully appreciate the key role of affordable housing in maintaining this diversity, which is evident when looking at a racial density map of the city and how it aligns with major affordable housing developments, such as the Rindge towers in North Cambridge.

Anything else you’d like to add about your experience as a Kuehn Fellow?

I hope we can continue to grow the field of current and former Kuehn Fellows! The industry needs to increase its capacity to meet the pressing affordability challenges of today.

Monson, Will