Housing advocates seek MA state funds as economic boom hikes

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 18:55:39 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 23, 1999 14:18


BOSTON (AP) _ Affordable housing activists have asked state
officials to spend more on housing programs.

Testifying at a hearing before officials developing the
governor's budget for the next budget year, the activists said the
demand for low-cost housing had reached crisis levels throughout
the state.

They lobbied for a variety of new programs for next year,
including new homeless shelters and a $4 million hike in rental
assistance to prevent thousands of low-income families from being
forced out of apartments.

``There has emerged a growing consensus among business,
community and religious leaders that the housing crisis is both a
moral and economic issue that should be a top priority for the
state,'' said Joseph Kriesberg, deputy director of the
Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations.

>Activists are concerned that Gov. Paul Cellucci will hold
spending for housing and community development level, or even cut
it, in next year's budget.

The state budget has risen 55 percent during the past decade,
while spending on housing programs has declined 37 percent to about
$137.5 million.

Figures generated by the Massachusetts Association of Community
Development Corporations indicate about 355,000 renting households
in the state were paying more than 30 percent of their income for
housing, which exceeds the government-recommended ratio of
income-to-rent, Kriesberg said.

The Department of Housing and Community Development, which
oversees the state's housing programs, has been asked to hold its
budget to about $130 million next year, Thomas Simard, the agency's
deputy director for administration and finance, told The Boston

``It appears the governor will be asking for level funding, and
may even cut funding, at a time when there is tremendous need, and,
we believe, strong support from many different sectors for
affordable housing,'' said Aaron Gorstein, executive director of
the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association.

Activists say the current economic boom has actually worsened
housing problems by driving up demand _ and driving up rents and
house prices.

Cellucci has said he recognizes the problem of affordable
housing and a task force within the Administration and Finance
Department was working on a solution.

But the Republican governor has said he is wary of big
government subsidies and is looking for other solutions.

AP-ES-12-23-99 1518EST
Received  Id AP99357BCE585FA on Dec 23 1999 14:18


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