Federal and state funding for affordable housing is not keeping up with demand. As cities around the country continue to gentrify and become too expensive for many to afford, we need new programs to help low-income people remain in their homes.
Housing is a right: it is time for cities to start treating it that way.
Mass Alliance of HUD tenants is working with the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee (BHSC) and Save Our Section 8 (SOS8) organized the City Rent Subsidy Coalition, a coalition of more than thirty groups, to get Boston to protect its low-income residents from displacement and rehouse its homeless population by launching a city-funded rent subsidy program.
This type of program works: we have seen it thrive in DC. Meanwhile, our waiting list is growing and more and more families are being displaced as Boston gentrifies. We cannot allow Boston to become a city for the rich. We cannot continue to allow families who have lived here their whole lives to be displaced.
We propose a pilot program: $5 million for about 400 vouchers. 400 is roughly the number of people displaced when when Boston abruptly closed its Long Island Shelter. With no plan in place, these people were forced back onto the street or into warehouse conditions with people sleeping on floor mats in row after row.
We need housing, not warehousing. Not only is this the only human route, it is a win-win. A HUD study shows that housing-first is at least as cost effective as other options, and frequently more so.
On June 22, 2016, a delegation of the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee, the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, City Mission, Mel King and others, met with Mayor Walsh to urge inclusion of a $5 million pilot program for Housing First Subsidies, as proposed by nine City Councilors, in the 2016 city budget submission.
In our meeting, we proposed a flexible rental assistance program, modeled on the successful Local Rent Supplement Program in Washington, DC. The DC program dedicates $37 million from the regular city budget annually to fund 3,248 low-income families and individuals through a mix of project-based and tenant-based rental assistance, similar to the federal Section 8 program.
As in DC, we propose that the Boston Housing Authority administer the program locally; the BHA currently administers approximately 11,000 mobile Section 8 certificates and 2,500 “Project Based Vouchers”, the latter ensuring that low-income renters can live in new mixed income housing developments. As in DC, we propose that priority be given to currently homeless or near homeless Bostonians, to provide the “Housing First” called for in the Mayor’s Plan to End Chronic and Veterans Homelessness. As in DC, or Cambridge, we propose that Boston’s program pay 130% of FMR for mobile vouchers, to better enable recipients to find housing in the City.
Mayor Walsh did not include the $5 million for a pilot program to house 350 to 400 individual residents and families experiencing homelessness in his 2016 city budget submission citing the lack of a sustainable funding source. He suggested the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and since then we have advocated for the CPA, which passed last November, and identified four other sustainable funding sources which you can read about here.
In March of 2017, we had another meeting with Walsh to discuss the 5 sustainable funding sources and again he would not included it in his FY18 budget suggesting that there are better options for housing and not agreeing that it can be sustainable.
We continue to fight for this because we know that it is sustainable and it will help get people off the streets of Boston and into safe affordable housing.