Massachusetts’ Housing Crisis Needs Comprehensive Strategy, Not Piecemeal Band-Aids

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reginauld Williams, rwilliams@massbudget.org

Boston, MA – Everyone needs a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home. But in Massachusetts, like in countless places across the country, this universal need is in severe jeopardy, with COVID-19 further exacerbating a pre-pandemic housing crisis. To meet this moment, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) has released Piecemeal Progress: An Exploration of Massachusetts Housing Investments, a report that not only explains how the Commonwealth’s uncoordinated efforts have contributed to this crisis, but also offers solutions such as investments that reduce disparities in homeownership.  

At present, a Massachusetts resident earning minimum wage has to work 107 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. This is the consequence of a long history of federal racist housing policies as well as short-term investments in the state budget that are narrowly focused on providing rental subsidies and addressing homelessness. The result is a lack of sustainable, long-term solutions that equitably address the needs of Massachusetts residents across the state, especially those who are Black, Latinx, and those with low incomes.

“When we make decisions around what gets funded, we’re ultimately naming what we value,” said La-Brina Almeida, MassBudget’s State Policy Fellow & Policy Analyst and author of the report. “Our report shows just how haphazardly the state has been making housing investments, which means we’re not stopping the bleeding that this pandemic has caused. Instead, we’re putting band-aids on a broken system.” 

Based on its findings, the report recommends that the Commonwealth fund solutions that address the root causes of not just the housing crisis, but the compounding crisis of income inequity. The state needs a data-driven, cohesive, and coordinated housing strategy that accounts for the historical barriers that led to today’s crisis. Massachusetts policymakers can begin by investing significant funds in tactics that reduce disparities in homeownership by income and race.

“The federal government has historically contributed to worsening the disparate racial impact when implementing housing policies,” said Almeida, “So the onus is on state policymakers to correct for those decisions. In a state as wealthy as Massachusetts, there is ample room to create a multi-sector, comprehensive vision that goes well beyond temporarily putting a roof over someone’s head after they’ve proven their eligibility for rental assistance or homelessness services.”

There is no shortage of initiatives that Massachusetts residents can encourage their policymakers to fund. For example, The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) would give tenants in multi-family properties the opportunity to purchase their homes when offered for sale. Residents can contact the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing here and ask them to pass critical bills, like TOPA, that would support those trying to remain in their communities and push back against gentrification. 

Individuals can learn more by tuning into the Joint Committee on Housing’s hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday, August 12, and following housing advocates like City Life/Vida Urbana and the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA). Staff are available for additional questions or comments upon request.

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