Horizons’ Housing Policy Priorities in Massachusetts

Despite its position as a national leader in the innovation economy, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has also been a leader of a different sort: in the proliferation of families with children experiencing homelessness. By one measure, the number of people in families experiencing homelessness in shelters during a single night grew nearly 72 percent from 2007 to 2020. Other (conservative) estimates for Massachusetts suggest that some 10,000 children under six experience homelessness at a given point in time, including those in shelter and those doubled up due to economic necessity.

High Costs Mean Instability for Many

High housing costs in Massachusetts are a significant cause of family homelessness. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the statewide average Fair Market Rent of a 2-Bedroom apartment is $2,165 a month. This means that a worker at minimum wage would need to work more than 144 hours a week to afford an apartment large enough to fit a family with children.

Given this reality, NLIHC developed a concept of a “housing wage,” or the wage that a worker would need to earn in order to pay no more than 30% of their income on rent. This wage would need to be $41.64 an hour statewide, and even higher in Metro Boston.

For too many families, such incomes are unattainable. Indeed, over 70% of very low-income households in Massachusetts spend more than 30% of their incomes on rent. Families burdened by high housing costs may find themselves a small setback—be it a layoff or a fender-bender—away from losing their home and entering shelter.

What Can be Done Legislatively?

Disentangling the causes of high housing costs and solving them can be difficult. While local restrictions on new housing construction are a major contributor to high prices, so too is the state’s innovation economy, which attracts high-wage workers of many types. Rather than pursue all possible housing issues, Horizons tends to focus on policies that directly affect housing stability for families at lower-income levels.

  • Facturas de nivel 1: In the 2023-2024 Session of the Massachusetts Legislature, Horizons is prioritizing at Tier 1 a single bill that codifies the state’s housing voucher program.
      • H1351/S888: An Act relative to the Massachusetts rental voucher program/An Act codifying the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
  • Tier 2 Bills: These bills seek to improve the state’s family shelter system, improve Fair Housing enforcement, and reduce the impacts of eviction on family stability. Finally, we also support a key housing production bill, as new housing production is essential to bringing relief to families seeking rental opportunities.
      • H1312/S856: An Act providing upstream homelessness prevention assistance to families, youth, and adults
      • H145/S86: An Act improving emergency housing assistance for children and families experiencing homelessness
      • H1301/S868: An Act to eliminate asset limits for homeless shelters
      • H1690/S956: Eviction Sealing (HOMES Act)
      • H1731/S864: An Act promoting access to counsel and housing stability in Massachusetts Office of Fair Housing
      • H1377/S866: An Act to promote Yes in My Back Yard

Horizons' Key Partners in Housing Policy

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