Stabilizing the Housing Market: Recent Initiatives Focused on Increasing Availability and Reducing Displacement
The burden of rising living costs and a competitive housing market are pervasively shaping the constitution of our communities. According to a recent survey that polled 115 mayors across 39 states, 51 percent of respondents indicated that a lack of affordable housing is the top reason why residents move out of their cities. This devastating finding is unfortunately unsurprising, with one-quarter of Massachusetts residents alone “severely cost-burdened,” or forced to spend 50 percent or more of their earnings on housing.
Since the launch of Imagine Boston 2030, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has permitted 2,234 low-income housing units, and continues to dedicate significant resources toward stabilizing Greater Boston’s residential market. As we continue to track the progress of his administration, here is a breakdown of two recently-announced initiatives that aim to increase the region’s housing stock and protect vulnerable residents against displacement.
- Ordinance on Short-Term Residential Rentals: In many instances, programs like Airbnb have taken long-term housing units off of the market. A UMass study found that these types of short-term rental programs have influenced housing costs in Boston, with an increase in Airbnb listings directly coinciding with a 4% rise in rental prices.
Recently, Mayor Walsh filed a proposal to regulate the home-sharing industry. If approved by the Boston City Council, the regulation would categorize listings based upon whether or not the tenant or owner of the unit occupies the space throughout the year. The city would then charge an annual fee based upon how much the listing impacts the surrounding neighborhood. The ordinance would also restrict the number of nights a unit is booked. By making it less profitable to list residences, Mayor Walsh hopes owners will decide to rent out units to long-term tenants, as opposed to tourists.
- Office of Housing Stability Online Guide to Eviction: Part of stabilizing the housing market is helping tenants understand their rights. In order to help residents of all income levels navigate the potential loss of housing, the Office of Housing Stability recently published an online portal on how to interpret and respond to an eviction notice. Explaining what is expected throughout the process – from receiving a “Notice to Quit,” to going to court, to being ordered to leave a property – the online guide provides vulnerable tenants with information on their legal protections, options for responding or contesting the complaint, and means of contacting local aid organizations for assistance.
In Greater Boston, housing stability requires more than adding new units to the market; rather, it requires helping residents feel protected and empowered by the law, as well as the local resources that are available to them. Through our Resident Services Program, we address the needs of our community by offering case management and translation assistance services as part of our mission to support low-income families and individuals. In coordination with our partners, we will continue to develop programs that foster safe, healthy and happy neighborhoods.
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