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Massachusetts affordable housing for lowest-income households in dire straits: Report

Several towns and cities at risk of losing every unit for extremely low-income households, Boston Fed says

A December 2018 rally against evictions in Cambridge’s Central Square.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Some 25 Massachusetts cities and towns risk losing all of their subsidized housing by 2025, a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston says. That is because of the likely expiration of subsidies and the expected conversion of subsidized housing to market rate.

The Fed report analyzed federal data surrounding what are defined as extremely low-income households—those with a total annual income at or below 30 percent of the area median income.

The state overall is expected to lose 9,110 subsidized housing units by 2025 that extremely low-income households occupied in 2016. The losses are expected to mount from there.

In general, these households already spend a disproportionately high share of their income on rent—or what analysts call being rent-burdenened. The trend is particularly acute beyond Boston proper, despite these cities and towns having lower rents to begin with.

As for the expiring subsidies and the loss of affordable housing, stemming the decline will be costly, the Fed report says: “[B]etween $843 million and $1.03 billion will be needed annually to preserve expiring use units and increase the subsidized housing inventory sufficiently.

“Advocating for resources at the federal level and finding new ways to foster private and nonprofit development will help spread the cost and prevent the state from having to pick up the full tab.”