Recently released statistics by the National Low Income Housing Commission indicate that across Massachusetts, there is a significant shortage of rental homes that are affordable and available to extremely low income households, whose earnings are at or below the poverty guideline or 30 percent of their area median income.
This inadequate supply restricts housing choice and limits opportunities for many residents. For a state that is known for leadership in the fields of healthcare and technology, it is disappointing that we lag far behind in housing that is accessible to households of all income levels.
So, what can be done on the South Shore to increase affordable housing and literally open the doors to those who want – but are unable financially – to live and work here? The word “partnerships” immediately comes to mind.
Since its inception in 2001, Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative (AHSC) has worked with strategic partners to establish a leadership role in the preservation and creation of affordable rental communities. As a non-profit organization, we have been involved in many complex affordable housing developments – either new construction, historic adaptive use, or occupied rehabilitation.
If numbers tell the tale, then we have some to share! Throughout our history, AHSC has been involved with 30 projects, which have helped to keep over 2,500 units affordable. We have also assisted in the creation of 179 new supportive housing units within four communities for formerly homeless veterans. Our involvement on the South Shore and Cape includes affordable housing communities in Middleboro, Lakeville and Mashpee.
Many of these projects might not have come to fruition without the involvement of corporate and governmental partners, such as Citigroup, Massachusetts Housing Investments Corp., MassHousing, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For example, our organization recently received funding from Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development to preserve and extend affordability for 91 units at Columbia Road/Uphams Corner in Dorchester.
As a result of this commitment from the City of Boston, AHSC is now moving forward with plans to preserve and reposition the affordable housing units at the property. As this is an architecturally and historically significant commercial district, AHSC can apply for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit through the Massachusetts Historical Commission for the development project. This project serves as a case study in partnership between a nonprofit, a city agency and a state commission – working together to renovate and financially restructure a property that will ensure the sustainability of continued affordable housing while also revitalizing the building that will benefit an entire community.
Speaking of benefits to entire communities – when people are able to reduce the percentage of income earmarked for rent, they have an increased amount of available funds to spend at local businesses, creating a positive domino effect of job creation and economic growth. Indeed, this cycle of enhanced spending power, job creation, greater tax generation, and economic growth is one of the most impactful community benefits of affordable housing.
And let’s not forget the impact that affordable housing has on children. In addition to health benefits, studies have found that improved school attendance is a direct consequence of stable housing, leading to better classroom performance and increased opportunities later in life.
The affordable housing equation is truly a sum of its parts and a partnership between developers and investment teams, supportive private and governmental agencies, those seeking housing they can afford, the local businesses that serve them, and communities in general.
Stable, affordable housing lays the groundwork for improving lives and creating opportunities – for individuals, families, and communities. It is a foundation we need to build on.
Michael Mattos is president and executive director of Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative, Inc.