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 during a single night grew nearly 72 percent from 2007 to 2020. Other Massachusetts estimates suggest that some 20,200 children under the age of six experience homelessness over the course of a year, or one in every nineteen children in this age range.

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 almost $1,900 a month. This means that a worker at minimum wage would need to work more than 107 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. As of 2021, this wage would need to be $36.24 an hour statewide, but as high as $45.00 in higher-cost 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.

  • Tier 1 Bills: In the 2021-2022 Session of the Massachusetts Legislature, Horizons is prioritizing bills that affect housing vouchers, rental assistance/eviction avoidance, and re-housing programs.
    • H.1428/S.898 An Act codifying the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
    • H.1385 An Act providing upstream homelessness prevention assistance to families, youth, and adults (RAFT rental assistance program)
    • H.1372 An Act promoting housing stability for families by strengthening the HomeBASE program
  • Tier 2 Bills: Horizons is also following and supporting several bills in the 2021-2022 session that make improvements to programs that serve homeless families and measures that would reduce evictions.
    • H.202/S.111 An Act improving emergency housing assistance for children and families experiencing homelessness (EA and HomeBASE fixes)
    • H.1808/S.921 An Act promoting housing opportunity & mobility through eviction sealing (HOMES Act)
    • H.1436/S.874 An Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention in Massachusetts
    • H.1434/S.891 An Act to prevent COVID-19 evictions and foreclosures and promote an equitable housing recovery.

Horizons' Key Partners in Housing Policy

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