|Eric Shupin (left) and Brenda Clement (right) of CHAPA and William Dunn (middle) of MassHousing talk with talk to Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of Cape Community Real Estate.
The continuing struggle to create affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth was the focus of a meeting of regional housing advocates last month in HAC’s Hyannis office. HAC hosted the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) spring regional meeting on April 1.
“You can’t do affordable housing without subsidies,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to the more than two dozen people gathered for the session. “There is no return on the investment for rental housing for even middle income levels.” That was just one of the issues discussed at the meeting, as CHAPA officials outlined their priorities for the coming year.
Each year, CHAPA officials travel across Massachusetts to meet with housing professionals, advocates, community members, elected officials and other stakeholders that want to expand access to safe, quality, and affordable housing.
The meeting in HAC’s conference room was an opportunity to hear updates on affordable housing and to help CHAPA develop its agenda for public policy, research, and programming for the year.
Besides affordable housing, two areas of focus for CHAPA are homelessness prevention and community development. Those top the list of capital budget priorities that CHAPA is working on with legislators on Beacon Hill.
Seeking State Support
Among the state-financed programs promoted by CHAPA that HAC provides access to for its clients is the HomeBASE program, which offers families an alternative to shelter by providing stabilization funds. State funds for the program have been severely cut in the past several years, from a high of $88 million in Fiscal Year 2013, to a low of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2015, according to figures from CHAPA. This year, CHAPA is asking state legislators for $39 million for the program because of the rising need for the funds.
Another state-funded program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), also helps families who are at risk of homelessness remain housed. CHAPA is asking for the state to fund the RAFT program at $18.5 million, a significant increase from this year’s $12.5 million in funding.
In the area of foreclosure prevention counseling, another program HAC offers to its clients, the state has provided an average of $2.5 million over the past several years. This year, CHAPA is requesting $3.6 million.
Among the initiatives outlined by Brenda Clement, CHAPA’s Executive Director, was the National Housing Trust Fund, which CHAPA officials believe will help create lower income rental housing. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development will be holding hearings on the fund.
Eric Shupin of CHAPA gave a legislative update on several bills that have been filed including a zoning reform bill that is a major priority of Cape & Islands Senator Dan Wolf. The bill would encourage more housing and mixed use developments, as well as promoting land conservation and incentivizing growth.