Northampton releases Fair Housing report

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Pioneer Planning Commission has issued a new report addressing barriers to affordable housing and opportunity in Northampton.

The report, “Unlocking Opportunity/ An Assessment of Barriers to Housing Choice in Northampton” included a review of census data; laws, regulations, and policies of the city; and community engagement. Focus groups included some of those at greatest risk of housing discrimination.

The 108 page report identified 16 barriers to accessing affordable housing and opportunity and suggested 40 potential solutions to address them. The report finds that the biggest barrier is the increasing cost of housing in Northampton.

  • 52% of tenants are spending more than 50% of their income for rent and utilities
  • 30% of homeowners are spending more than 30% on their mortgage and utilities

Other barriers identified in the report include:

  • Generational wealth disparity between white people and people of color
  • Insufficient accessible housing for the disabled
  • Limited knowledge of fair housing laws and resources
  • Inadequate supply of housing needed for economically challenged families with children
  • High percentage of houses with lead paint
  • Inadequate federal and state payment maximums for subsidized housing vouchers to use in Northampton’s high rent market
  • Difficulty navigating the affordable housing systems

Many of the recommended solutions would require a longer-term approach and will require increased affordable housing funding from the federal and state government.

Short term solutions would be translating housing applications into multiple languages and reducing the high rental application fees charged by some agencies. Others would be supporting new pilot projects with higher housing subsidy maximums, expanding lead paint remediation programming, and increasing fair housing education for tenants and property owners.

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Massachusetts General Law prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing by property owners, landlords, property managers, mortgage lenders, and real estate agents.

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