A new state program that launched Friday aims to make it easier for cities and towns across Massachusetts to turn unused office space and other old commercial buildings into new housing.

The idea gained traction as remote and hybrid work models took hold during the pandemic, but it can be difficult to pull off because office buildings are designed for different needs than apartment complexes.

“When you have physical assets that were built 40 or even a hundred years ago, they don't contemplate residential [uses],” said David Greaney, CEO of Boston-based real estate company Synergy. “So whether it's the depth of the units, the window line, the amount of different services that are going to be required within the building, not all buildings — I would say maybe 10% of buildings — could be converted from office to residential or automatic ones.”

Synergy is already working on plans to convert Chestnut Place, an office complex in downtown Worcester. The company wants to create 198 new market-rate apartments for the larger, 11-story building in that complex, and 22 affordable condos, available to people earning 80% of the area median income, in the smaller building.

Gov. Maura Healey and other state officials visited Chestnut Place Friday to announce the launch of MassHousing's Commercial Conversion Initiative.

The initiative will help cities and towns identify good candidate properties for commercial-to-housing conversions, conduct floor plan and feasibility analyses for those buildings, and reduce regulatory barriers along the way. MassHousing is seeding the program with $1 million that will be available for technical assistance funding.

Housing Secretary Ed Augustus said state officials see opportunity in every corner of the state to repurpose office buildings that either have been vacant for some time or are repositioning in the era of remote work. He said those buildings often “are exactly where housing is needed.”

“They’re in the core of the city where you want that walkability, often the historic buildings that you desperately don't want to lose,” he said. “You want to keep that historic character of your community.”

MassHousing's new program is focused on cities and towns outside of Boston, which launched its own local-level office-to-residential conversion effort last year.