The state of Massachusetts is pushing an all-inclusive idea to partner some of the state’s neediest residents with affordable housing and government services they may seek.
All 40 members of the Massachusetts Senate approved Senate Bill 607 that will offer 1,000 units of affordable housing to the low-income elderly, disabled, and chronically homeless population. Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) sponsored the bill.
With the new legislation, the state has an opportunity to eliminate red tape that can arise when serving these groups. The idea is to keep clients as close as possible to the services they need, allowing them to be more successful and independent faster.
“What this program is designed to do is to help those families, particularly who have been in motels and hotels, who have been staying in shelters for a long period of time, and help place them in more permanent housing — into an apartment — and also provide wraparound supportive services,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the chair of the housing committee.
Particularly in homeless communities, the need for streamlined housing and social services is key to keeping people and families off of the street. Supporters feel the housing efforts will help residents become independent more quickly since it targets those suffering from chronic homelessness. For the elderly and disabled, combined services also translate into easier access in a familiar location.
The state’s costs for the rental housing are substantially lower than those for homeless shelters. According to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and the Associated Press, the costs for a family living in a shelter are about $40,000 per year. On the other hand, the same family receiving rental assistance and housing only costs the state $13,000 per year. The cost savings for the state made sense during these tough economic and budget times.
The costs to start the program are also limited. The units will be built from state funds already budgeted for housing. State agencies will provide services as planned, such as mental health treatment, addiction therapy, and job training, using existing approved budgets.
The housing units will be built over the next three years.