A historic glimpse: permanent housing voucher distribution to reduce reliance on motels


In the late 1980’s, under Governor Dukakis, family homelessness was on the rise and the Commonwealth began using motels to keep families safe and off the streets.  As the number of households in motels increased, there was an urgency to address the lack of housing affordable to low income families. An investment was made in the state’s rental voucher program (then called 707’s, now called the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program), restrictions were made to eligibility and prevention programs funded.  Thirty years later, we are facing a bigger crisis…the gap between rents and wages have continued to rise, affordable housing stock has continued to decrease, unemployment is up…and the number of families in motels is higher than ever before.  DHCD has implemented the restrictions to eligibility, funded some prevention…but the investment in permanent housing subsidies has been insufficient to make a dent in the homelessness crisis. The graphic below demonstrates the investment in state housing subsidies compared to the point in time shelter/motel census in 1987 and in 2012.  The increase to the MRVP line item in the FY13 budget provides funding for 500 vouchers, or approximately 13% of the nightly EA caseload. The investment in 1987 was for 900 vouchers, or 75% of the nightly EA caseload; they were successful in eliminating motel use (for a few years).  The current EA caseload has not declined- something to think for the FY14 budget.  If we really want to address the over-reliance on motels- then we need a serious investment in housing.  The question is if the Commonwealth serious about ending homelessness?

LH

voucherdistrib

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