BOSTON (WWLP) - Housing authorities in western Massachusetts say there's an affordable housing shortage. In Springfield, they say foreclosures have turned families out of their homes and the June 2011 tornadoes destroyed many affordable rental units available.
"We did lose about 500 rental units in that storm," said HAPHousing Chief Operating Officer Ellen Hatzakis. "We've been dealing with an inadequate supply and that's made it very difficult for households in out area."
Housing advocates say there are more than 100,000 Massachusetts families on waiting lists for subsidized housing. The problem isn't limited to the cities either. It extends to rural communities like those in Franklin County where housing is typically perceived to be cheaper.
"There has been a growing problem of, in particular, family homelessness," said Robin Sherman, the executive director of the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority. "They're typically families who grew up in Franklin County in our communities and just don't have sufficient income to be able to afford stable housing."
Governor Deval Patrick has proposed increasing a key rental assistance program, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, to $46.5 million dollars. Advocates came to the State House Monday requesting $60 million dollars. They also asked for more than $83 million dollars for the state's HomeBASE program, the governor has proposed nearly $60 million dollars for the emergency housing assistance program.
"I'm supportive of increasing their share of the pie, so to speak, of the taxpayer revenue," said Rep. Denise Andrews (D-Orange). "The challenge will be with all the requests coming in, what can the collective taxpayers afford and where will they invest."
Advocates say more than 200,000 Massachusetts families pay more than half their income toward housing costs, which they say is unsustainable.