Squeezed: Funders Grapple with Affordable Housing in a Pricey City
Inside Philanthropy - 07/08/2016
According to Citizens for Adequate Housing, Massachusetts’ housing wage (the minimum hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment) is $24.08, which is 282 percent above the state’s minimum wage of $8.50 and well above the national average of $18.62.
Those numbers explain why the family shelters here are full. Over 4,500 families are part of the state’s shelter system, including more than 1,900 living in motels. A housing report published by the Boston Foundation (TBF) pointed to the demographic revolution happening in the city with an influx of millennials, baby boomers looking to downsize, and low- and middle-income families being priced out of their neighborhoods.
In short, as we’ve reported before, affordable housing is a huge issue in Boston, and quite a few local funders are paying attention. Whether philanthropy can ultimately do much to address this challenge is an open question—few issues are tougher for the sector—but there are several efforts underway in Boston to enable families to find stable homes, with some interesting elements.
In its most recent grant cycle, TBF awarded its largest grant ($500,000) in its neighborhoods and housing category to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Boston chapter. This group does capacity building and lending to community development corporations on the local level.
Meanwhile, some grant money is going to policy and research, to help everyone wrap their heads around a problem with multiple drivers. For example, TBF recently awarded a $30,000 grant to the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies to create a policy brief and interactive online map to demonstrate demographic and economic shifts in Boston neighborhoods over the last 25 years. On a similar note, TBF also just gave they Northeastern University-Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy $75,000 to create a Greater Boston Housing Report Card and do research for the Commonwealth Housing Task Force.