How Lawyers Are Getting Involved in Boston’s Affordable Housing Scene

The Barr Foundation in Boston steals the spotlight when it comes to local grantmaking, and rightfully so since it’s the largest private foundation in the state of Massachusetts. But there’s another foundation in town with a similar name and just one less “r” that's worth mentioning, too.

The Boston Bar Foundation (BBF) supports local causes aimed at justice and advancing access to legal services. However, the legal services it funds touch on some of the most important issues facing people in Boston today. BBF is the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association and has an annual grant cycle that local groups should take note of.

Just north of Boston in nearby Malden, BBF awarded a grant to Housing Families, Malden, which is part of a recent $1 million commitment. This nonprofit "works to end family homelessness by offering safe, temporary shelter, quality affordable housing and individualized supportive services that nurture the potential of each family member and help maintain permanent housing." About 20 other community organizations also receive BBF’s support to provide legal services to people in need in the area. These groups are serving the homeless, at-risk children, domestic abuse victims, and veterans in and around Boston.

Another recent BBF grant recipient is MetroWest Legal Services, which is a group that protects the rights of disabled people and the elderly. The legal protection of children is also a big priority for this funder. For example, Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts also received BBF grants.

Although legal aid to vulnerable local groups is at the heart of this funder’s mission, it also supports other causes. For example, one of BBF’s community projects, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, is all about helping students in Greater Boston make smart financial choices. Over half of BBF’s funding comes from the proceeds of an annual benefit that it holds, and most of the rest comes from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds.

Lots of nonprofits in the Boston area could benefit from a little legal expertise, so this is a good local funder to know for groups that serve vulnerable populations. Any questions about the grants process should be directed to Galen Byrne at 617-778-1906 or