Blog Home

New CDC Leaders: Strengthening Communities and Families with Urban Edge CEO Emilio Dorcely

Emilio Dorcely, CEO of Urban Edge Housing Corporation

BOSTON (June 14, 2023)
– In INSITES this week: Emilio Dorcely is the CEO of Urban Edge Housing Corporation in Boston, where he leads affordable housing development, family wealth building, and housing stability efforts. He also oversees neighborhood improvements through community engagement.

Urban Edge was founded in 1974 amidst a strong community activist movement to stop the then-proposed ‘inner belt’ highway that would have severely disrupted and separated several communities of Boston. The organization provides support services for families living in its portfolio of 1,431 rental homes and offers homeownership promotion and preservation programs, is located in Boston’s Jackson Square, and is currently undergoing a strategic planning process under Dorcely’s leadership.

Their objective, according to Urban Edge, is to “maximize (the organization’s) contribution to affordable housing, deepen its commitment to wealth-building, empower vulnerable populations, serve as a trusted voice for community leadership, and embed racial equity into its organizational practices.” The first phase of Urban Edge’s strategic plan aims to help close the racial wealth gap and increase the household wealth of more than 500 families by an aggregate $20 million.

The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation has a long history of close collaboration with Urban Edge on a variety of affordable housing developments – providing acquisition and predevelopment loans for projects such as 1599 Columbus Ave. in Jackson Square, the Walker Park apartments in Roxbury’s Egleston Square, the Bancroft and Dixwell apartments in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, and others. In total, CEDAC has loaned almost $13 million in early-stage project financing to support 27 affordable housing developments over the past 35 years.

Prior to joining Urban Edge, Dorcely served as CEO of Bridge Street Development Corporation in Brooklyn, NY. He has also worked in the philanthropic sector at the Association of Black Foundation Executives, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and as an independent consultant and community foundation leader. He was born in Haiti and raised in New York City. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), the Midas Collaborative, and the United Way’s Boston Builds Credit initiative. He also sits on Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s Rent Stabilization Committee.

Dorcely also created and implemented Urban Edge’s emergency COVID-19 pandemic response. The Roxbury/JP Family Resiliency Fund provides more than $500,000 in cash, basic needs, internet connectivity, utility, and rental assistance to families disproportionately impacted by the crisis.

The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation spent some time with Dorcely discussing Urban Edge’s current initiatives, the critical work the agency did in assisting communities with COVID-19 response, the role of CDCs in building communities and the prioritizing of affordable housing by city and state leaders.

CEDAC: Talk first about the mission of Urban Edge as a CDC and the kind of work the organization does. You partner on affordable housing development. You provide education for homebuyers. You organize and advocate. And you do a lot more…

Emilio Dorcely: Really the mission is quite simple: It’s to strengthen communities and families, and we do this by building affordable housing and creating opportunities to engage with communities – both organizations and residents. We also help build wealth primarily through home ownership and helping people build credit and savings.

CEDAC: Are you encouraged by the commitment demonstrated so far by Governor Healey and Mayor Wu to creating more affordable housing?

I must admit that I’ve been generally very impressed with (Mayor Wu). She has gone full throttle and has not only talked about the importance of affordable housing. but put the actual proposals and policies behind it. What the mayor has realized is the solution to the housing crisis is not just one thing. You need to work across the spectrum. One: You’ve got to build new housing. You also have to preserve existing housing while at the same time making sure that existing housing is going to be energy efficient and can sustain in this new era of increasing costs.

With the governor I think she also seems to be going on a similar track. Obviously, it’s only been a few months so there will be a lot more to see and watch. But I was really impressed when I heard that she was going to make a cabinet level position for someone who would focus on housing. That was an indicator that she has acknowledged the importance and complexity of the issue. (Gov. Healey) is willing to have a direct contact whose primary responsibility is to think about the systems and the processes and things that will be needed to increase the number of affordable housing units. Massachusetts and Boston in general … we definitely have the sophistication and the capacity to do more. I think part of the challenge is tweaking the current systems.

CEDAC: Is the role of a CDC or neighborhood development corporation evolving or changing?

Emilio Dorcely: In my mind, a community development movement is more than housing. It’s about housing, jobs, health, safety and education. CDCs should reflect the neighborhoods and the cities in which they are working. There is not one size fits all. It’s about the people in your neighborhood and your city. What do they need to be successful? That’s why I think CDCs in many ways are going to consistently evolve. They are not meant to be static. The goal is to create opportunities for people to live a vibrant life and to have equal access to opportunity.

CEDAC: Can you discuss how Urban Edge approached the challenge of COVID-19

Emilio Dorcely: Urban Edge has always been an organization that tries to look at what’s happening on the ground and create programming and opportunities that are relevant to what the needs are of folks in our target communities. The COVID-19 epidemic was no different. We knew this was something that would have a genuine impact on everybody across the board. That’s why we created the COVID relief fund, where we pulled together $500,000. And what we did was to provide people with gift cards so that they could meet their basic needs. Our communications staff made sure we did wellness checks, especially for seniors, and tried to make sure people could navigate this crisis as best we could. What we found was that (COVID-19) uncovered some long-term existing needs, like the digital divide. Something that was talked about in the early part of the 2000s, but somehow became buried under all the (other) needs and priorities.



CEDAC is a public-private community development financial institution that provides project financing and technical expertise for community-based and other non-profit organizations engaged in effective community development in Massachusetts. CEDAC’s work supports two key building blocks of community development: affordable housing and early care and education. CEDAC is also active in state and national housing preservation policy research and development and is widely recognized as a leader in the non-profit community development industry. For additional information on CEDAC and its current projects, please visit

Categories: CEDAC, Housing

« back to blog

Recent Posts