[Hpn] Bottom line housing;Boston Globe Editorial;10/15/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Mon, 15 Oct 2001 07:42:28 -0400


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-------Forwarded Editorial-------

Monday, October 15, 2001
Boston Globe <http://www.boston.com/globe>
[Massachusetts]
Editorials/Opinions section
Boston Globe Editorial
Bottom line housing
<http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/288/editorials/Bottom_line_housing+.shtml>


10/15/2001

STATE LEGISLATORS face a real estate problem. Affordable housing, despite 
its name, isn't always affordable - especially for those who need it most.

In Concord, for example, 12 proposed affordable homes will range from 
$150,000 to $300,000. These prices are cheaper than the town's median sales 
price of $580,000 for one-family homes. But to afford even the cheapest of 
these homes, families must earn at least $52,500 a year.

Brockton has an appealing proposal to convert a shoe factory into 90 
apartments. Half the units would rent at market rate, with the other half 
reserved for renters earning 60 percent of the area's median income.

These efforts are part of a positive trend. According to a Department of 
Housing and Urban Development report released in May, the number of units 
available to those earning 51 to 80 percent of area median income has 
increased. From 1991 to 1999, there were 1 million more units, a 7 percent 
jump.

Unfortunately, this does not help what the report calls ''extremely low 
income'' earners, making up to 30 percent of area median income, or $14,700 
for one person in Boston. This group is more likely to have ''severe 
problems'' such as spending more than half their incomes on rent and 
utilities, or they live in what the report euphemistically calls ''severely 
inadequate housing.''

These people also face a housing drought. Between 1991 and 1999, the number 
of units they could afford dropped by 14 percent nationwide, a loss of 
940,000 units.

In Massachusetts, these statistics translate into social service disaster 
stories. People end up homeless. State officials scramble to put people into 
already overcrowded shelters. Many get stuck, unable to make the financial 
leap into a home.

There are solutions. First, state legislators should champion the HUD study. 
Its analytical approach can help put money where the problem is in a logical 
way. Assessing the impact of this spending in the future would be simple. 
State officials could just crunch the numbers and see how many units are 
available to extremely low-income earners.

In Massachusetts, a proposed housing bill requires that 25 percent of 
certain funds be set aside for extremely low income earners. Sadly, the 
Senate version exempts $350 million from this requirement, using some of the 
money on renovations and job programs.

State legislators should invest more, following US Senator John Kerry's 
lead. He backs a federal housing trust fund bill that would have states 
spend 75 percent of funds on those with extremely low incomes.

Using HUD's insights, Massachusetts leaders could make moral and practical 
progress. If state officials neglect truly affordable housing, the words 
could become little more than a cruel contradiction in terms.


This story ran on page C14 of the Boston Globe on 10/15/2001.

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA



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