Multi-family homes in Worcester, Massachusetts have a long and storied history dating back to the early 19th century. Originally called “tenement houses,” these structures were built to house the growing immigrant population that started coming to Worcester in the mid-1800s.
The first multi-family homes in Worcester were built in the 1830s and 1840s, and were typically three-story brick structures with shops or businesses on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors. They were typically built in the downtown area, close to the factories and mills that employed many of the city’s residents.
As Worcester’s population continued to grow, so did the demand for housing. By the late 1800s, multi-family homes had become the predominant form of housing in the city. They were built in a variety of architectural styles, including Italianate, and Queen Anne, and ranged in size from two-family homes to large apartment buildings with dozens of units.
During this time, many of the city’s multi-family homes were owned by wealthy individuals or corporations, who rented out the units to working-class families. The conditions in many of these homes were often cramped and unsanitary, with families sometimes living in just one or two rooms.
In the early 1900s, the city of Worcester began to take action to improve the living conditions in multi-family homes. In 1907, the city passed an ordinance requiring landlords to obtain a permit before renting out units in multi-family homes. The ordinance also required landlords to maintain certain standards of cleanliness and sanitation, and allowed the city to inspect homes to ensure compliance.
Over the next several decades, the city continued to enact regulations aimed at improving the quality of multi-family housing. In the 1930s, the federal government became involved in the effort to improve housing conditions, with the passage of the National Housing Act of 1934. This law created the Federal Housing Administration, which provided loans and subsidies to developers to build new housing.
During the post-World War II era, Worcester saw a boom in the construction of multi-family housing. Many of these new buildings were built with the help of federal subsidies, and were designed to provide affordable housing for working-class families. In the 1950s and 1960s, the city also saw the construction of several large public housing projects, including Plumley Village and Great Brook Valley developments.
Today, multi-family homes remain an important part of Worcester’s housing stock. Many of the city’s older homes have been converted into multi-family units, and new construction continues to add to the supply of housing. Multi-family homes are particularly popular among investors, who see them as a way to generate rental income.
In recent years, the city has taken steps to encourage the development of more multi-family housing. In 2018, the city council passed an ordinance allowing for the construction of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, on single-family properties. This has led to the creation of more affordable housing options in the city, as homeowners can rent out the units to tenants.
Overall, the history of multi-family homes in Worcester reflects the broader trends in urban housing over the past two centuries. From their origins as tenement houses built to house immigrants, to their current status as an important source of affordable housing, multi-family homes have played a vital role in shaping the city’s history and identity.