Report identifies Somerville’s fair housing-related goals and further illustrates the city’s critical need for greater housing affordability.
SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville recently received formal notification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the city’s Assessment of Fair Housing Report has been accepted without conditions. The 166-page report, prepared by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development Housing Division and submitted in October of 2017, identifies fair housing-related goals in six specific focus areas: segregation and integration; disparities in access to opportunities; disproportionate housing needs; publicly supported housing; disability and access issues; and fair housing enforcement, outreach capacity, and resources.
The Assessment of Fair Housing Report was developed with careful consideration of community input. Residents were able to participate in the process and provide feedback through a variety of channels including a resident survey (available in Somerville’s four most commonly spoken languages), public meetings, focus groups, and target outreach in coordination with local community groups like public housing tenants associations, homeless shelters, the Somerville Public Schools Parent Information Center, and more.
Municipalities, like Somerville, that receive HUD funding have been required to submit comprehensive housing assessments in accordance with the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule introduced under the Obama Administration. The rule intended to ensure that cities and towns were developing plans to address segregation and discrimination in housing. In January 2018, under the Trump Administration, HUD suspended the 2015 rule, and put on hold the requirement for cities to submit fair housing assessments. Somerville’s Assessment of Fair Housing Report was submitted and accepted before suspension of the rule.
“The current federal administration may be taking a step backward on fair housing issues, but Somerville is committed to moving forward,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone. “The Assessment of Fair Housing Report is an important step in identifying our challenges around housing needs and creating goals to ensure that Somerville remains a diverse and welcoming community for all.”
Key takeaways from the Assessment of Fair Housing Report include:
· East Somerville and Winter Hill residents have the highest incidence of poverty.
· 44% of the city’s Native American households and 32% of the city’s Hispanic households have the highest percentage of households in Somerville experiencing any of the four severe housing problems: incomplete kitchen facilities, incomplete plumbing facilities, more than one person per room, and cost burden greater than 50%.
· Family households of five or more people experience any of the four severe housing problems 11.66% more often in Somerville than in the region. Non-family households, however, experience any of the four severe problems 6% less often in Somerville than in the region.
· Many residents and stakeholders reported that private discrimination, particularly in the rental market, takes place based on race, ethnicity, perceived accent, and familial status.
The City has taken – and will continue to take – meaningful actions to address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity. For a list of housing initiatives and efforts currently underway, review Mayor Curtatone’s affordable housing agenda at www.somervillema.gov/afa.
To review the Assessment of Fair Housing Report, visit www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/assessment-of-fair-housing.pdf.