Councilor Kenzie Bok filed a resolution this week calling on any Boston property owner with residential vacancies to immediately rent to families with Housing Choice Vouchers. Over the past week, Councilor Bok has been working with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) to communicate this urgent need to property owners large and small. More than ever, it is imperative that Boston’s families that are staying in shelters or are otherwise homeless find permanent housing, where they can find stability and properly practice the physical distancing needed to reduce COVID-10 transmission.
“Housing a family in this crisis is an act of great human solidarity and a concrete way that Bostonians of all means can help one another to safely weather this public health emergency,” stated Councilor Bok. Five hundred families are currently holding housing vouchers but have not yet found an apartment, and in a partnership between the Boston Housing Authority and the Boston Public Schools, 1,000 more families will be issued vouchers in the coming months. These vouchers will only serve to house local families experiencing homelessness in this emergency if property owners accept them. “Whether you have one open unit in a triple-decker or a number of units across a multifamily portfolio, I’m urging property owners across Boston to actively reach out to the Boston Housing Authority and try to get one of our families safely housed in each vacant unit,” said the Councilor.
Housing Choice Vouchers not only provide homeless families with permanent housing, but they also provide landlords with financial stability at an uncertain time. Housing vouchers are guaranteed by the federal government, with the Boston Housing Authority paying the difference between what the renters are able to pay (30% of their income) and the median area rent. In 2019, Boston Housing Authority switched to utilizing zipcode-specific Small-Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs) as its maximum payment standard, thereby allowing maximum voucher rents to match market rent in most Boston neighborhoods.
Property owners with vacancies are urged to connect with Boston Housing Authority and express the willingness to house families with Housing Choice Vouchers by reaching out to Thomas White at [email protected] or 617-988-4540. The BHA is committed to expediting its administrative processes to house voucher-holder families as quickly as possible during this time.
“For many years, housing discrimination and administrative barriers have made it too difficult for our low-income families to use Housing Choice Vouchers to stay in Boston,” noted Councilor Bok. “This pandemic is highlighting every respect in which our society’s greatest injustices put us all at risk, and showing us what we already knew: that everyone needs a home to be safe. I’ve seen so many Bostonians reaching out to help one another during this crisis already, and renting vacant apartments to families with vouchers is another crucial step.”
Councilor Bok will provide further remarks on this important effort at this week’s Boston City Council meeting on Wednesday April 8, 2020 which begins at 12PM.