Building Massachusetts' Housing Future
“In every single community I’ve visited across Massachusetts, residents have told me about their struggles with housing. It’s hurting our economy, our communities, and our state’s future. We must find the courage to take real action to ensure that every Bay Stater can afford to live here.”
Housing is fundamental to so much of what we hold dear in life. Homes are places we can raise our families, rest our heads after a long day, and eat a meal with our neighbors. Stable housing also provides our communities opportunities to build generational wealth, and it’s key to our state’s economic future — allowing us to both retain homegrown talent and attract new workers and taxpayers.
But from our biggest cities to rural towns, housing costs are continuing to rise. Underproduction of housing over the past few decades combined with increased economic and population growth has led to supply shortages – particularly for affordable housing options — and skyrocketing costs across the board. The median price of a single-family home reached $610,000 in Massachusetts in June 2022, nearly 40% higher than it was just 2 years earlier. At the same time, affording the average rent for a two-bedroom home requires earning at least $75,000 per year — while 20% of white households and 40% of Black and Latino households earn less than $35,000 per year.
The pandemic has only made a bad situation worse. Survey data from the fall of 2021 found that an estimated 200,000 Massachusetts renters were behind on rent, including more than a third of Black renters, a quarter of Asian renters, and a fifth of Latino renters.
Retirees are being forced out of the communities they’ve lived in for decades, young people and immigrants can’t find apartments they can afford to rent, municipal workers can’t afford to live in the communities they serve, and too many families are now facing eviction and foreclosure.
It will take a multifaceted, comprehensive approach to tackle our housing crisis. To address the wide range of issues Bay Staters face today, our state government must:
Produce 200,000 new homes by 2030 – enough to meet our state's growing need for housing – by:
Establishing statewide and local goals and a planning process for housing production
Reforming our zoning laws to remove restrictive zoning barriers to new development, prevent discriminatory zoning, and promote fair housing
Incentivizing the production of multifamily housing near public transportation
Implement a comprehensive approach to make housing affordable at all income levels, including:
Increasing the supply of affordable housing, including accessible units, by passing the HERO Act and expanding additional funding sources
Lifting the ban on rent stabilization
Investing millions to protect and redevelop existing public housing
Increasing the availability of state rental subsidies
Expand homeownership for working families and help close the racial wealth divide by:
Increasing homeownership assistance programs and subsidies
Funding and supporting Community Land Trusts
Passing the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act
Using state contracts to actively build wealth in communities of color
Reduce homelessness and keep people in their homes by:
Expanding homelessness prevention programs
Expanding legal protections for tenants facing eviction and homeowners facing foreclosure
Building a statewide supportive housing network to provide pathways to permanent housing
Dramatically simplifying the application processes for housing and emergency assistance
Housing Supply: Development and Production
As the population of our state grows, we must take action to ensure there is sufficient housing available for all those who want to live in Massachusetts. Underproduction of housing over the past few decades has led to supply shortages and skyrocketing housing costs, causing many to leave our state and burdening those who remain, particularly residents with lower incomes.
Estimates suggest we need to create an additional 200,000 new homes by 2030 – approximately 22,000 per year – to keep pace with our existing economic and population growth. In recent years, however, we have produced at a rate of only approximately 17,000 new homes annually – which means we must take urgent action to address the current barriers to housing production if we are serious about keeping Massachusetts livable for non-wealthy people.
One of the biggest barriers to housing development is exclusionary zoning policies — especially the emphasis on single family zoning, as well as excessive setback and parking requirements – that remain in place in so many communities across the state. These not only serve as systemic barriers (intentional or not) to diversifying populations in these communities, but they also prevent the development of higher density housing, especially near transit, that can help increase housing supply more quickly and often at a more affordable price point than individual single-family homes.
A recent study found that only 14% of multifamily developments approved in the Greater Boston Area between 2015 and 2017 were approved “by right.” The rest of the developments required special permits and variances from the local zoning board — a time consuming and expensive process that further drives up housing costs.
In particular, housing density near MBTA and Commuter Rail stations is significantly lower than ideal: while urban planning experts recommend building at 10 units per acre within half a mile of an MBTA or Commuter Rail station, the current median density is just 2.8 units per acre. Building housing near public transit benefits everyone: it encourages public transit use, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, and helps reduce commuting times for those who travel into Boston for work. Density near transit also helps reduce sprawl, preserving green space in other areas. Unfortunately, many local zoning policies maintain single family zoning even near stations and commercial centers, thereby actively discouraging the development of higher-density housing near commuter rail stations.
To support the growth of higher-density, multifamily development across the state, both in Gateway cities and the suburbs, our state should:
Establish statewide and municipality-specific housing production goals and a process for incentivizing communities to meet those goals. We need to build a significant amount of new housing at a variety of affordability levels in our state over the next few decades, and that requires thoughtful community-by-community and regional planning and active efforts to remove barriers to new development. In California, all local governments are required to adopt a housing plan that provides opportunities to build (and does not unduly constrain) sufficient housing to meet the needs of everyone in the community. Many of California's state funding programs for transportation, infrastructure, and housing require a local jurisdiction applying for funds to be in compliance with the law. Our state should work with a wide range of local partners, including municipal, state, nonprofit, and business leadership to create a similar model here, establishing statewide and town-by-town housing production and affordability goals, tracking progress and developing a set of Massachusetts-specific “carrots and sticks” to incentivize cities and towns to make meaningful progress.
Pass and implement legislation to remove restrictive zoning barriers. We need changes to our state zoning laws to increase the production of more housing at all price points, including allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be built by-right, requiring multi-family zoning around public transportation across the state, and allowing communities to enact more kinds of zoning changes with a simple majority (rather than supermajority) vote of the city council or town meeting. For example, we should allow communities to adopt inclusionary zoning bylaws, establish Affordable Housing Zoning Overlays, or reduce or eliminate parking minimums for multi-family or affordable housing developments, as Boston recently did, with a simple majority vote.
Strengthen our fair housing laws by passing legislation to prohibit municipal and state discriminatory zoning bylaws, ordinances, and land use decisions, modeled on legislation I filed as State Senator. Too often, families with children, people with low incomes, and people of color are intentionally excluded by discriminatory local zoning and permitting decisions that limit housing type and affordability – perpetuating segregation in our state. We should pass legislation to prohibit government entities from taking actions that have the purpose or effect of limiting or excluding affordable housing, multi-bedroom units for families, or protected classes, unless there is a legitimate government interest that cannot be met with a less discriminatory effect. We must also combat rampant discrimination in our rental housing market, which research shows heavily burdens individuals with a housing voucher and people of color who are seeking a home, by increasing funding for fair housing testing programs.
Support municipalities in utilizing the 2021 Housing Choice law. The new Housing Choice law provides cities and towns with tools for addressing some current zoning barriers to housing development – but it will only have an impact if municipalities take action. The Department of Community Housing and Development (DHCD) recently issued long-awaited guidance to municipalities on implementing a critical piece of the law related to zoning for multifamily units in MBTA communities. This guidance is appropriately bold – but implementing it will be complex, and to achieve the results we are looking for, the state should provide cities and towns with implementation support through the creation of shared planning and rezoning resources and technical support. We should also actively monitor ongoing compliance with the new law, and propose further changes, including specific requirements on affordability, as needed to achieve the aims of this new statute.
Partner with cities and towns to encourage development of multi-family housing near public transit. The Massachusetts 40R law provides financial incentives to municipalities to support the development of higher-density housing in certain areas, such as near public transit. While this law was a good start, it has not led to the production of nearly as much housing as was hoped for at its passage. We can persuade more cities to take advantage of the program and increase production of housing near transit by adequately and reliably funding 40R incentive payments and creating more flexible funding mechanisms to instill confidence in the program for municipalities. We can also work with municipalities to identify current barriers to development and redesign the way in which the state provides and calculates financial incentives for municipalities. The program could also create more incentives designed to be passed onto affordable housing developers, to encourage the creation of housing at a variety of affordability levels.
Promote the development of affordable housing by permitting the state to sell surplus land at below market rates and expanding funding for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. One of the more significant challenges for affordable housing development is the high acquisition cost for developable properties. The state can help overcome that challenge in a way that doesn’t add to the state budget, by prioritizing the sale of public land for affordable housing production and permitting the state to dispose of surplus land below market value to affordable housing developers. We should change the statute to allow surplus land to be sold below market rate in certain circumstances and require that land sold by the state to a housing developer at a below market rate must include a minimum of 20% permanently affordable units. We can also increase the annual cap on state expenditures for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, one of our primary vehicles for supporting the development of new affordable housing, and prioritizing projects which create more deeply affordable housing.
Affordable Housing for All
Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states in the country to live in, which is driven by the high – and ever increasing – cost of housing. While increasing our overall housing supply will help create more options for middle-income families over time, we must also take action to ensure housing is affordable for everyone.
The increasing cost of housing is an issue for many Massachusetts residents, but it hits lower-income communities and communities of color particularly hard. More than three-quarters of families in Massachusetts with extremely low incomes are rent burdened, with a majority spending more than 50% of their household income on housing. Black and Latino families are also significantly more likely to be housing cost-burdened. These families often have to forgo spending on health care, food, and other necessities in order to make rent, and may be just one financial crisis away from eviction and homelessness.
Seniors and people with disabilities also face both a greater need for affordable housing as well as unique barriers to accessing it. Over 60% of seniors living alone are facing economic insecurity in Massachusetts — one of the highest rates in the nation. And, people with disabilities are roughly twice as likely as people without disabilities to experience homelessness, driven by poverty, employment discrimination, low income limits on critical disability programs, and high rates of housing discrimination.
Making matters worse, as our state’s need for affordable housing options has increased, we have lost support for public housing from the federal government. Over the past few decades, the federal government has not only stopped building public housing units, it has also failed to sufficiently fund even basic maintenance of existing federal public housing. Insufficient funding for maintenance and capital improvements is also a significant challenge for state-aided public housing facilities. As a result, many public housing units across the state are in serious disrepair.
To make our state livable, and competitive, for all families Massachusetts must:
Pass and implement legislation to significantly increase funding for new affordable housing. Expanding the availability of affordable housing will require a significant investment from our state. The HERO Act, which I am proud to co-sponsor, provides a path for generating as much as $300 million annually – half of which would be dedicated to affordable housing and half to climate change mitigation and resilience – by doubling the deeds excise fee collected when real estate is sold. The current deeds excise rate in Massachusetts is among the lowest in our region; the rate increase would make it possible for the state tosignificantly expand funding to create and preserve affordable rental housingand expand housing subsidies for families with low incomes. We should also give local communities the ability to increase funding for affordable housing by passing legislation that would permit municipalities to levy a transfer fee on high end real estate sales and use this money to create more affordable housing in their communities.
Give cities and towns the tools they need to help stabilize sky-rocketing rents. The cost for rental housing in many parts of our state has become nearly impossible to afford for young families and lower income earners. Rent stabilization programs allow cities and towns to place reasonable restrictions on annual rent increases, such as tying annual increases to the Cost of Living index, preserving rental housing affordability and preventing displacement. We must pass and implement legislation to repeal the statewide ban on rent stabilization programs, and give local cities and towns the option of establishing such a program if it makes sense for their community.
Protect our existing stock of affordable housing by investing in maintenance and redevelopment of state and federal public housing units. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that dedicates funding to the development and operation of public housing units, over and above federal public housing. But years of both federal and state disinvestment as well as age have taken a toll, impacting tens of thousands of units of public housing across the state. To protect our existing stock of affordable housing, the state must help our local housing authorities fund basic and deferred capital maintenance, planning, an investment that is decades overdue. As our state continues to roll out ARPA funding, the state government should work with our Housing Authorities, cities and towns, and other partners to increase investment in renovations and repair of public housing units. We should also increase technical assistance for housing authorities seeking to implement cost- and energy-saving renovations, and for smaller local housing authorities in need of support with financial and project planning and implementation for larger capital projects.
Where public housing unit repair is unfeasible or unrealistic, we should partner with local communities to support redevelopment, using recent creative public-private partnerships like the ongoing redevelopment of the Orient Heights and Mildred Haley housing developments in Boston as a model. Projects like these rebuild public housing and protect all affordable units by creating larger, mixed income developments, using the profits from the sale or rental of market rate units to subsidize the costs of rebuilding the deeply affordable units. These projects can help preserve deeply affordable public housing options while increasing our overall housing stock, but state investment and technical assistance is needed to bring them to fruition, particularly in smaller communities.
Significantly expand the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and other state rental assistance programs, prioritizing housing support for our residents with the lowest incomes and those most at risk of homelessness. Rental vouchers are a proven tool for promoting housing stability and giving families greater choice about where they live, which a significant body of research shows is critical for breaking multi-generational cycles of poverty. Yet the number of families who need longer-term housing support far outstrips the current supply, as evidenced by long waitlists for rental vouchers. Our state must increase funding for MRVP and other state rental assistance programs, as well as pass legislation that would codify the MRVP program to increase its predictability, efficiency, and usefulness to program participants.
Expand wheelchair-accessible affordable housing options. The supply of wheelchair-accessible housing is particularly limited in Massachusetts, as our state has the nation's second-oldest housing stock in the country, with most units being built long before the Americans with Disabilities Act. New apartment buildings are required to include wheelchair accessible units, but these are often luxury units that many people with disabilities cannot afford. To increase the availability of accessible housing, the state should pass legislation revising our current building codes to require that wheelchair-accessible units are included in renovated apartment buildings. We can also increase funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, Massachusetts' largest housing program for low-income people with disabilities, and tie some of those vouchers to specific wheelchair-accessible units, creating permanently affordable accessible housing for people with disabilities.
Expand subsidized housing options for individuals who have a serious mental illness, a developmental disability, and/or who are in recovery from substance use disorder. Individuals who are working to maintain their sobriety or who live with a serious mental illness or a developmental disability often face steep barriers to accessing affordable housing. In addition to increasing the availability of rental subsidies targeted toward these populations, such as the Department of Mental Health Rental Subsidy Program, we can better leverage existing capital funding available through the Facilities Consolidation Fund to support construction of new units for clients of DMH and the Department of Developmental Services by pairing that funding with long-term services that help ensure these individuals remain successfully housed.
Housing Equity and Homeownership
Homeownership remains one of the most effective ways to build generational wealth — and yet here in Massachusetts, Black and Latino residents are half as likely to own their home as white residents, which is among the worst disparity rates in the nation.
The result? A 2015 Boston Federal Reserve Report estimated that the average white household in the Greater Boston area had $250,000 in savings, while the average black household had $8. That’s not a typo — and it’s also not an accident, given the long history of redlining, exclusionary zoning, inequitable access to mortgages, and so many other discriminatory and poverty-reinforcing policies that have systemically and deliberately held back Black and brown residents, to devastating effect.
The impact of these policies continues to this day: a 2019 study found that there were 130 municipalities in Massachusetts that year (out of 351) in which not a single Black borrower received a home loan. And, Black and Latino households are three times more likely to be denied a mortgage at all income levels: for example, a Black household making $200,000 per year is twice as likely to be denied a mortgage as a white household in that same income bracket.
This has led to significant segregation in our state, with the majority of Black and Latino residents in Massachusetts living in just 10 cities.
Real equity demands that we build systems and programs to deliver justice to those families who have faced discrimination in the past. We can do this through housing policy. It’s time for our Commonwealth to take meaningful action to close the racial wealth gap by promoting homeownership programs and equity in development. Our state should:
Expand homeownership assistance programs such as down payment assistance and interest rate buy-downs, housing and financial counseling, and state-sponsored mortgage products that support homebuyers who have low-to-moderate incomes in breaking into the housing market. We should also explore innovative approaches that are specifically designed to close the racial gap, such as the Stash Program pilot recently launched by the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. Finally, we must expand communication and outreach efforts, in a variety of languages, to make sure residents across the Commonwealth — and especially residents in Gateway Cities — learn about the opportunities all of these programs provide.
Increase the number of homes available for purchase for first-time homebuyers, particularly in communities of color, by providing market-based subsidies to support construction of new, moderately-priced homes. Our state should continue to prioritize new funding into the Commonwealth Builder Program, which is designed to spur construction of single-family homes and condominiums that are affordable to households with moderate income, particularly in Gateway Cities and the City of Boston. Expanding homeownership assistance programs can help more individuals buy their first home, but only if there are enough homes on the market for them to purchase, and this program can help increase production.
Create pathways for individuals and families currently receiving rental assistance to become homeowners. Despite the fact that homeownership is a powerful tool for achieving long-term economic stability, right now our housing assistance programs are not set up to encourage program participants to transition from renting to homeownership. Our state should work toward an approach similar to the federal Family Self-Sufficiency program for Section 8 voucher holders. When an individual who is receiving state housing assistance receives a pay raise, the extra that would have gone toward increased rent should be held in an escrow account that can be tapped in the future for a downpayment on a home or tuition assistance, with a state match to further incentivize income growth. A similar model has been tried with success in Lynn, Cambridge and Boston, with evaluations demonstrating that participants saw stronger growth in their earnings and assets than a comparison group, which in turn led to reduced government expenditures on cash assistance.
We can also leverage the voucher payments themselves to support homeownership. Currently, rental housing vouchers are paid to that property’s owner – essentially paying that landlord’s mortgage with state tax dollars. A more equity-focused approach would be to give residents the option of having that housing voucher put toward a mortgage of their own. The federal government has done this for years in partnership with Public Housing Agencies – although its impact has been blunted in some areas due to programmatic barriers and obstacles that participants faced to getting a downpayment. Massachusetts could build on this model by adding down payment assistance, matched savings accounts as described above, and financial counseling and credit recovery support. There may also be opportunities to build new affordable housing developments with project-based “ownership” vouchers rather than rental vouchers, so that residents of these new units are building equity. Adopting Small Area Fair Market Rent payment standards for Section 8 and state housing voucher programs could also make it possible for low-income families to move to a wider range of neighborhoods across the state, reducing segregation and expanding opportunities for these families. With the right set of supports, more lower-income families in Massachusetts can experience the benefits of homeownership.
Support and fund Community Land Trusts at a local level to help prevent displacement, address gentrification, and create opportunities for people with low- and moderate-incomes to build equity. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure long-term stewardship of the land by residents, with the ultimate goal of preserving housing affordability. An individual or family buying a home located on a CLT pays a monthly fee and enters a land lease with the CLT, which includes an agreement that, if they resell, it will be at a restricted price that allows the property to remain affordable in perpetuity. Studies have found that homeowners on a CLT have much lower rates of payment delinquency and foreclosure than homeowners in the regular market. State government should partner with cities, towns, and local nonprofit developers to support the development of CLTs, including establishing a seed grant and technical assistance fund to support the development of more Community Land Trusts similar to those we already see in neighborhoods across the state.
Pass and implement legislation giving cities and towns the power to require that sellers of multifamily buildings give tenants the right to match an offer. The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act — which was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Governor Baker in 2021 — would create a mechanism by which a local community could ensure that tenants receive the “right of first refusal” on their home, and also allow tenants to designate their rights to a non-profit or local housing authority. This gives local communities a chance to prevent mass eviction and preserve affordable housing.
Prioritize diverse ownership and hiring performance as a key part of the score for bidding on public land and contracts. In the Legislature, I’ve been a leader on efforts to create goals and accountability measures for state agencies in contracting with minority-owned businesses — an area where Massachusetts has performed poorly — including sponsoring legislation to prioritize equity in contracting and investments. Adding equity considerations to the procurement scoring criteria is a proven approach that was recently piloted at Massport, where 25% of the final score on bids for public land is now based on bidders’ diversity and inclusion efforts. Ensuring diverse contracts is a key way to build wealth in communities of color and spread success more broadly across economic strata.
Housing should be a human right. Nevertheless, thousands of individuals – including many families with children – in Massachusetts have no place to call home tonight. Just prior to the pandemic, Massachusetts ranked first in the nation in the rise of family homelessness in the U.S, and over the past year, nearly 18,000 people experienced homelessness in our state.
Our shelter system is overcrowded, and hundreds choose to camp outdoors rather than take a bed in a shelter where they feel unsafe and alone, or navigate the complexity of securing transitional housing or a treatment bed. At the same time, thousands more are at risk of losing their homes. Temporary COVID-related protections have helped, but they only go so far, and the circumstances of the pandemic have shown just how precariously close to homelessness so many of us are.
Unfortunately, all too often our approach to funding services to address homelessness is penny-wise and pound foolish. Instead of spending money on housing support, we spend it on emergency room visits, jail and prison costs, and emergency shelter — despite the well-documented negative effects on the health, well-being, and educational outcomes of children in particular.
Proven emergency housing assistance programs also help keep families housed at a significantly lower cost than shelter: pre-pandemic, for example, the Commonwealth spent an average of $3,000 per family on the Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, compared to $46,000 for each household that entered the family shelter program. An influx of state and federal funding for emergency housing assistance during the pandemic, as well as program improvements to make it less burdensome for individuals to apply, helped keep thousands of families housed, but as those funds dry up, an increasing number of families are at risk again.
It’s time to meet these challenges upstream, by expanding homelessness prevention programs designed to keep people in their homes while building out a statewide network of transitional housing that provides pathways to permanent housing. Our state must:
Help struggling individuals and families stay in their homes through emergency housing assistance and transitions to rental subsidies. The economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact low-income families and will do so for some time. I’ve been proud to support increased funding for emergency housing payment assistance programs during the pandemic. These have helped stabilize families in their homes, but now we must connect those still at risk of eviction due to their economic circumstances with longer-term assistance. As described above, we must expand the availability of rental vouchers, and we must maintain funding for our emergency housing assistance programs – including directing more ARPA funding toward this as necessary – to prevent families waiting for subsidies or in need of short-term assistance from becoming homeless as the economic impacts of the pandemic linger. We must also dedicate funds for intensive community-based, multilingual outreach to families at risk of displacement, particularly in immigrant communities where families may not be aware of services that exist or may be afraid to apply for help.
Promote housing stability and reduce displacement by strengthening protections for tenants and homeowners. For now, our state has halted evictions when a tenant is awaiting rental assistance. This common sense policy ensures that bureaucratic delays do not lead to a renter being evicted simply because support they were eligible for did not come in time — and it should be enshrined in statute. We should also go further, and require that landlords participate in rental assistance programs before they evict tenants for non-payment.
Our state must also do more to ensure that low-income renters facing eviction have access to legal protections. Right now, 85% of landlords have legal representation in eviction proceedings, compared to just 7% of renters. Yet a 2020 study estimated that for every dollar the Commonwealth spent on full legal representation in eviction cases, we’d save $2.40 on the direct costs associated with homelessness. We should increase funding for housing legal aid programs and pass changes into law to create a guaranteed right to counsel for low-income individuals facing eviction. Similarly, we should increase legal protections for homeowners facing foreclosure by passing legislation requiring court approval of foreclosures, modeled on legislation I’ve filed as State Senator.
Create a statewide supportive housing system that better meets the needs of individuals and families needing shelter. Our current emergency housing system is designed to be a short-term stop gap, but transitional housing supports are currently so limited that many individuals and families end up sleeping in shelters for months if not years. In other situations, individuals may end up sleeping on the streets because they feel unsafe and disconnected from their community supports at shelters, or simply because they are unable to find a shelter bed, a common occurrence for individuals without children, especially in winter. Many individuals who are homeless have experienced significant trauma, are survivors of abuse or trafficking, and/or live with mental illness or substance use disorders. Yet too often, our shelters are not designed to meet these needs. And, many of the shelters are concentrated in a small number of neighborhoods across the state, which means people seeking help often end up disconnected from their home communities.
As a Commonwealth, we must create more substance use treatment facilities across the state to allow people to seek treatment closer to their home community. We must also increase the supply of low-barrier supportive housing, to provide more stable on-ramps to treatment. To cure both shortages in shelter beds and people getting stuck in shelters for months at a time, our state needs more congregate housing options for individuals seeking both a home and connections to a more robust community setting, and to establish a wider range of supportive housing options for families transitioning from a shelter. To help these individuals and families navigate what can be a difficult transition, we must also ensure they have access to supportive wrap-around services – such as substance use and mental health counseling, job training, support clearing debts acquired while homeless, smoothing connections to a variety of government support programs, and other case management supports.
Make it easier for individuals and families who have been homeless to transition into permanent housing. The ultimate goal is to help individuals and families move into long-term housing that meets their needs. In some cases, that may mean private home-ownership for a family that’s stabilized into economic self-sufficiency; in others, it may be deeply affordable, permanent supportive housing. The state should create more permanent supportive housing by acquiring temporary housing sites across the state, such as nursing facilities, hotels, and motels, and turning them into supportive housing. Father Bill's & Mainspring’s purchase of an under-used Brockton hotel is an example of how creativity and leveraging neighborhood assets can help reduce homelessness.
In other cases, individuals and families simply need help overcoming barriers to accessing permanent housing. For example, many individuals see their housing applications rejected due to past evictions, which disproportionately impacts women who are victims of violence, or having a criminal record (CORI). As State Senator, I’ve been proud to co-sponsor legislation that would allow for sealing of prior eviction records as well as expungement of minor criminal charges and this legislation should be passed into law. We should also increase mandatory training for real estate brokers on fair housing practices, increase funding for fair housing testing programs to address discrimination against individuals with housing vouchers, and curtail broker fees, which often pose a huge barrier to individuals seeking housing.
Finally, in addition to expanding the availability of rental subsidies like the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and other affordable housing programs, as described above, we can work with and encourage small property owners to rent to formerly homeless individuals by offering state-funded bonuses after a family has lived there for one year.
Simplify all emergency assistance, rental and housing support application processes. Right now, applying for any kind of housing support can be confusing, intimidating and challenging. Most cities maintain their own waiting lists for rental assistance and subsidized housing, as does the Commonwealth. In addition, families in need of basic necessities like food and healthcare have to find their way through another complex application system administered by the state. These unnecessary and outdated systems create a huge time burden on families, forcing them to fill out dozens of applications at a moment when they’re already in crisis, while also creating a strain on taxpayer dollars and hard-working public employees. The Executive Office of Technology Services and Security should work with the Department of Community Housing Development (DHCD) and our local Housing Authorities to dramatically simplify the application processes.