MA Residents Could See Some Relief In Housing Expenses
There is no doubt the cost of living has spiraled out of control as fewer than half of Bay State households are eligible to receive state rental aid as they are currently unable to tap into a mix of available subsidies. However, policymakers could address this controversial issue by committing to a massive, multibillion-dollar expansion of rental vouchers.
An extensive analysis represents a costly, dramatic investment, as there is no doubt that state government could help hundreds of thousands of families statewide navigate the housing crisis by building out the existing Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, The report published by the Boston Foundation indicates universal access for all eligible households would cost about $3.2 billion per year. You might call this a hefty price tag, but in the long run, this can reap benefits for all involved.
Massachusetts lawmakers and Governor Charlie Baker appropriated about $154 million towards this program for the upcoming 2023 fiscal year as a "gradual phase-in." would be taking place, but a universal voucher option warrants consideration due to the significant impact it would have on homelessness prevention and family budgets.
Fifty years ago, Massachusetts was the first state to create a rental assistance program. In 2023, they are planning to implement this measure so it could work for all those who are facing economic hardships. To be eligible for MRVP, a household needs to earn less than 80 percent of the median income in their area, however researchers added that typical recipients earn less than 30 percent of area median income. To paraphrase: "It's a number's game".
Research from analysts found about 585,000 Massachusetts households would qualify for rental assistance based on their incomes, but only about 250,000 receive any range of available benefits including federal Section 8 vouchers, state and federal public housing. Statistics also show the roughly $150 million state government currently spent on MRVP covers only about 9,000 vouchers, leaving most who are eligible "locked out" from other government programs which includes Medicaid.
The Boston Foundation produced this eye-catching report in conjunction with the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University, Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, Metro Housing in Boston, the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, and the Bay State's chapter of the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials. And the need is strong as one organization administering the program recently received 10,000 applications for 54 vouchers as the program would cost a minimum of $3.2 billion per year to assist 240,000 new households.
Policymakers would also need to take steps to prevent unintended negative consequences, such as a jump in rents fueled by increased demand once more families seek out housing with the aid of vouchers. An alternative would rely on the state to focus on incentivizing new construction, loosening zoning rules and setting limits on "unreasonable rent" hikes to manage those risks.
Other options include ensuring that MRVP keeps those in the Bay State participating in the program will reduce state costs, as vouchers should not be a "more desirable" alternative than federal aid, noting that keeping those in the Bay State participating in the program will reduce state costs as prospective pay raises could push them above the eligibility factor. Again, it's a number's game!
A detailed report is on the way as this will attempt to codify the voucher program's core rules rather than reestablishing them annually in the state's budget. A universal direction would fare better with a better oversight and management to assure all those eligible will be able to receive their fair share of benefits in this program. We'll keep you posted as to how this is progressing in the capital city of Boston.
(Some information obtained in this article courtesy of www.wcvb.com)
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