Affordable housing advocates have spent the last 18 months scrambling to respond to the immediate crisis before us, in particular the constant threat of an eviction crisis, the looming possibility of a new wave of foreclosures, and the growing challenges faced by landlords who may be seeing reduced revenues and growing expenses. While extraordinary public/private partnerships have so far prevented our worst fears from being realized, we must remain vigilant. And yet we also need to devote attention to dealing with the long-term crisis that continues to worsen across the commonwealth. As the legislature and the governor consider how to invest $5 billion of American Recue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference for families and communities across the state.
I applaud Gov. Charlie Baker for proposing $1 billion in new funding for new rental and homeownership opportunities. He is absolutely right to seek funding for both types of housing and to target those dollars to reduce the deep and unjust racial disparities in homeownership and wealth. At the same time, we also must seize this opportunity to invest in our existing housing stock to make it more affordable, more resilient, healthier, and greener. We have proposed a $100 million Massachusetts Healthy Homes Initiative to remove lead paint and other health hazards from homes. We propose to set-aside funds to help municipalities and cities purchase so-called naturally occurring affordable housing when it comes on the market to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent displacement. We need to attack the backlog of capital needs in our public housing stock. We need to fund a long-term Right to Counsel program to help tenants avoid unnecessary evictions. Finally, whatever gets built or renovated through this effort needs to advance our state’s urgent climate action goals by reducing carbon emissions dramatically.
Real estate and finance professionals should unite in a push to secure this exciting and ambitious vision for the future. If not now, when?
— Joseph Kriesberg, president and CEO, Mass. Association of CDCs