As proposed federal cuts threaten to increase housing instability and homelessness, more than 500 residents, housing advocates, and policymakers from across the Commonwealth rallied Monday, July 31 in front of Faneuil Hall in support of federal investments in affordable homes and our communities. Congresswoman Katherine Clark and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh also attended and spoke.
“I believe in a Boston that works for everyone – and for that to exist, we need affordable housing,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Boston is on track to meet the housing goals we set in our Boston 2030 housing plan, but our City and our region relies on support from our federal partners. We need stable, affordable housing for all families, and it’s time to move forward and do even more.”
Since the 2014 implementation of Mayor Walsh’s housing plan Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030, 13,551 new units of housing have been completed, 40% of which are affordable for low and middle income households. With an additional 8,412 units currently under construction, the City has secured housing for an estimated 25,000 residents, making significant progress in meeting Boston’s rapid population growth. From April 2017 to June 2017, the City set a new 20-year record for the number of units permitted in a single quarter.
“It’s often said that where we invest is a reflection of our values,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark. “If we value ensuring economic opportunity for every family, we should invest in ensuring access to safe, secure, and affordable homes.”
As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Congresswoman Clark is one of four Members of Congress responsible for writing the laws that fund the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ensuring access to safe, affordable housing and reducing homelessness are among Congresswoman Clark’s top priorities in Congress.
At the ‘Our Homes, Our Voices’ rally, hundreds of residents held up hand-made signs, chanted, and called on Congress to invest in affordable homes and our communities and to ensure that everyone has the right to a safe, accessible, and affordable home.
“Homes are the foundation of our lives, providing the base we all need for health and success in school and work. Homes build our economy, creating jobs and providing places for employees to live,” said Rachel Heller, CEO of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), the non-profit umbrella organization for affordable housing and community development activities in Massachusetts, which organized the rally. “Massachusetts and many of our communities are making progress in decreasing housing instability and homelessness. But, we cannot do this on our own. We need Congress to fully invest in resources that help people keep a roof over their heads.”
Nationally, only 25% of families in need receive housing assistance, which means millions of people do not have an affordable place to call home.
The President and Congress are proposing devastating cuts, including cuts to Section 8 and public housing. These cuts would undermine the progress that cities, towns, and the state are making in affordable housing and community development.
“In November, 74% of Boston voters said yes to affordable housing thanks to the leadership of Mayor Walsh, City Councilors and Yes for a Better Boston,” said Thadine Brown, Hyde Park homeowner, board member of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, and Treasurer of the YES for a Better Boston campaign. “That is a major step forward for renters and first time homebuyers, but cuts to the HUD budget would be devastating to those families looking to find affordable housing in Boston.”
Investing in affordable homes produces long-term benefits, from increased employment and economic mobility to improved health and better education. In 2012 alone, housing assistance lifted 4 million people out of poverty—including 1.5 million children— according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“When I was in the nursing home the space I owned was limited to a bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. I shared the room with two other people who I had no say in whether I wanted to live with,” said Olivia Richard, a disability rights activist, member of the Boston Center for Independent Living, and a tenant of a Boston Housing Authority Elder/Disabled complex funded by HUD. “Now, I’m more than a bed census figure and a commodity. I have an independent apartment I feel great calling my home.”
A wide body of research indicates that a child’s neighborhood and home life have a significant impact on their performance in school. Children in low income households that live in affordable housing score better on cognitive development tests than those growing up in households with unaffordable rents.
Safe, decent and affordable homes are critical to an individual’s physical and mental health. When housing is affordable, quality medical care and healthier foods are more within reach for low-income families. And affordable housing provides a useful platform for delivering health services to seniors, people with disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness.
Families, a statewide advocacy organization working to end family homelessness. “We’re sending postcards, calling Congress, and reaching out to friends and family in other states to demonstrate the strong support for investing in affordable homes and our communities!”
“As a doctor, I can fill many prescriptions, but I can’t fill a prescription for stable decent affordable home yet,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, a Pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch. “The only people who can fill those prescriptions are in Washington and we need to tell them to create more decent affordable homes, not less.”
Investing in affordable housing infrastructure has numerous benefits for the economy—it creates jobs, boosts families’ incomes, and encourages further development. According to a report by the National Association of Homebuilders, building 100 affordable rental homes generates $11.7 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 161 local jobs in the first year alone.
“We’re here today to send the message that our communities need these federal investments so that no one is forced to sacrifice basic necessities like food, child care, and health care in order to keep a roof over their head,” said Nilaya Montalvo, Director of Leadership and Community Building at Homes for