On May 23, the Massachusetts State Senate voted to approve its final budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) thanks the Senate for prioritizing investments in affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and community development that will help families succeed and build thriving communities.
The Senate budget provides increased support for resources that will help address the needs of people with the lowest incomes and some of our most vulnerable residents, including persons with disabilities, through additional housing vouchers and desperately needed funding to support housing authorities and their residents.
The Senate budget increases funding for our state rental assistance programs, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP).
In addition to investing $10 million more in MRVP in FY2020, the Senate budget makes a critical program improvement that will make the rental vouchers more effective for families looking for an affordable home. Specifically, the budget raises the rent standards for new vouchers, which were last updated in 2005. Historically, families with a voucher had to find a 2-bedroom apartment in Boston with a rent of less than $1,400 per month. By raising vouchers to current fair market rents, vouchers will now support a monthly rent of $2,194 in the Boston area.
The Senate budget prioritizes affordable housing programs that serve persons with disabilities. $8 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance for persons with disabilities, will create nearly 200 new vouchers. This restores AHVP to the number of vouchers supported by the program when it was created in 1995. In addition to funding for AHVP, the Senate provides $2.7 million to improve or create accessible and affordable homes.
The Senate also gives Public Housing a 10% increase in funding, the first significant increase for housing authorities in a decade. This will better support the more than 45,000 households living in state-assisted public housing.
The Senate promotes and protects homeowners by investing $800,000 more in homebuyer education courses and foreclosure counseling programs.
The Senate budget also expands critical homelessness prevention programs. The budget provides an additional $1 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), to serve more low-income households facing housing instability. The Senate also creates a new $500,000 program within RAFT to provide housing assistance to survivors of domestic violence.
The Senate expands the Home and Healthy for Good program to create a statewide supportive housing pilot program for chronically homeless individuals. Finally, the Senate provides $2.7 million more for housing and services for unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults.
The Senate budget increases funding for the statewide Community Preservation Act (CPA) Trust Fund through increased recording fees at the State’s Registries of Deeds. This will provide a higher state match to CPA communities, generating an estimated $36 million more each year to support affordable housing, open space preservation, and outdoor recreation.
At a time when the affordable housing crisis in Massachusetts continues to reach new heights, leaving more families at risk of homelessness, CHAPA thanks the State Senate for demonstrating its commitment to addressing this crisis.
CHAPA thanks Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Senator Brendan Crighton, Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, for their leadership on this budget. CHAPA thanks all of the Senators who sponsored and co-sponsored amendments for affordable housing programs as well.
Finally, thanks to all of the tireless and effective advocates and organizations for raising their voice in support of affordable housing by contacting their legislators.
While there is much left to be done, we look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature and the Administration to help everyone in the Commonwealth have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home.
More information on CHAPA's budget priorities can be found on this page of our website.