By An Peng
BU News Service
BOSTON — Public housing advocates are calling for an increase in state support for the more than 160,000 Massachusetts residents on a waiting list for affordable, safe and decent housing.
The Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials — which includes 242 local housing authorities and four community development agencies that own or manage 43,000 state and 38,000 federal public housing units — took to the Statehouse recently to call for $72 million in funding to public housing authorities. The group says Gov. Charlie Baker recommended the level funding line at $65.5 million in fiscal 2020.
MassNAHRO President Brain Costello said that the housing crisis in Massachusetts is “only getting worse with every online application that ensures transparency and convenience, but offers little, if any real, hope.”
“We need to meet the demand. The demand is absolutely phenomenal. Sustainable housing is the key to a good economy and a healthy commonwealth,” he said.
MassNAHRO director Paul Dumouchel, also the executive director at Attleboro Housing Authority, said that his agency fully supports the request for the $72 million. He said the advocates maintain very good relationships with the chairs of the Legislature’s Housing Committee, and he also thinks that the state has been trying to be as generous as it can.
“We are very fortunate here at Attleboro because we are blessed by the fact that the infrastructure here at Attleboro was very strong. We have a very engaged legislative representation on Beacon Hill. We have a mayor that is very committed to low-income folks and public housing residents,” he said.
Dumouchel said there is no immediate plan for Attleboro to build more public housing, but having more affordable housing is part of something he will look at moving forward.
Dan Ouellette, executive director of the North Attleboro Housing Authority, said the $72 million budget request is a reasonable one that has been made for years.
Ouellette supported the MassNAHRO legislative agenda, such as raising the minimum rent in state public housing from $5 to $50. He also emphasized the importance of the Group Insurance Commission dental and vision benefits for housing authority employees bill, saying that without changing the current situation, it would be hard to get people to work for housing authorities.
Andrea Downey, executive director of the Norton Housing Authority, said MassNAHRO is doing a terrific job for housing authorities across the state.
“In order to continue to run our programs efficiently and keep our housing portfolio in a safe and sanitary condition that our residents deserve, we certainly do need the requested $72 million for our annual operating budget. We’ve been underfunded for several years. Our budget was level funded at $64.5 million since 2013. In fiscal year 2019 we received a $1 million increase to $65.5 million. The increase was a great help, but we need more,” Downey said in an email.
Downey also said the Norton Housing Authority is currently collaborating with the Town of Norton and tying the Woodland Meadows development into the town’s sewer main project targeted for West Main Street.
“Last budget, we did fairly well, we added some money. And we’re going to try to do that again this session,” said Rep. Kevin Honan, D-Boston, House chair of the Housing Committee.
This article was previously published in The Sun Chronicle.