BOSTON – Communities across the state are reaping the benefits of legislation filed by Senator Patricia Jehlen that passed in 2012, An Act
Relative to Community Housing and Services. This legislation increased the state’s focus on the development of permanent supportive housing, determining numeric benchmarks for the creation of supportive housing, and establishing a target of 1,000 units of new supportive housing by 2015.
On Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick announced that the Commonwealth is allocating $25 million in funding to create 335 new units of supportive housing statewide. These units mean that Massachusetts has met the target of 1,000 new units of supportive housing well ahead of the 2015 deadline. Supportive Housing – defined as affordable housing linked with supportive services designed to help tenants with modest incomes maintain housing stability and maximize their independence – is a national best practice to end homelessness and is critical to enabling persons with disabilities and seniors with service needs to live independently in the community.
“I am thrilled to see that Massachusetts is focusing on ensuring that residents of all ages, incomes and abilities have choices when it comes to securing an affordable home,” said Senator Jehlen. “This initiative expands opportunities for people that have too few options to live in an affordable home near friends and family today.”
Many families and individuals that face considerable social and economic challenges spend a significant amount of time in shelters at a great expense to the Commonwealth, to the person’s quality of life and to the Medicaid system. Supportive housing provides both housing and the services tenants need so they can live up to the terms of a lease, and avoid the costs of eviction, shelter, poorer health and related healthcare costs, and other government resources.
One of the major challenges to independent community living is the lack of affordable housing linked with supports for persons with disabilities in Massachusetts. The gap between the high cost of housing in Massachusetts and the income levels of persons with disabilities is a serious challenge. Over 26% of persons with disabilities are living with incomes below the federal poverty level, a rate of poverty that is 2.5 times Massachusetts’ general population. With our high housing costs, there simply aren’t enough opportunities for people with low incomes who have a disability to find affordable housing.
Our state population is aging at a tremendous rate, which creates additional demand for housing that has support services. According to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, our population of seniors aged 65 and over will grow by 37% to over 1 million between now and 2030. Many frail seniors need personal care and other levels of service to avoid a nursing home placement. The wave of aging baby boomers is going to create a large demand for affordable housing linked with services in the coming years.