Last Thursday, January 18, hundreds of supporters for affordable housing investment and tenant protections showed up at the State House (and virtually) for the Joint Committee on Housing hearing on the Affordable Homes Act.
Western Massachusetts was in the room, both real and virtual!
Here are a few highlights:
- I testified on behalf of our Network, drawing special attention to critical amendments needed to the transfer fee for affordable housing, eviction record sealing, and the supportive housing pool fund (to accomplish their intended goals) and the urgent need to include Access to Counsel, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act and the Local Option to Stabilize Rents and Protect Tenants (see Network testimony here).
- Our western MA legislators—Senator Jo Comerford, Representative Carlos Gonzalez, and Senator Jake Oliveira—testified on behalf of many in our delegation, and presented the delegation letter to Housing Committee Chairs urging the adoption of the Western MA Housing Coalition (and Network) recommendations. That got picked up in a number of media outlets, including the Daily Hampshire Gazette which you can read here. Thank you to our legislators for their support and leadership on behalf of our region!
- We also heard directly from some of our western MA housing leaders, Keith Fairey, President and CEO of Way Finders, Gina Govoni, Executive Director, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Eileen Peltier, Executive Director of Berkshire Housing Development Corporation and virtually Brad Gordon, Executive Director of Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority who testified on behalf of the Western MA Housing Coalition (see their testimony here).
Unfortunately, there was also something that did NOT happen. Twelve members of Neighbor to Neighbor traveled from western Massachusetts (I had the fun and privilege of traveling with them) with the intention to testify, to share their daily lived experience of the affordable housing crisis and lack of tenant protections and their call for action.
They sat in Gardner Auditorium for eight hours until they had to return home—without being called. As Neighbor to Neighbor Policy Director Miles Grisham put it in his written testimony: “We are dismayed at the fact that our members, who took off work and traveled hours to speak, were not given so much as an estimated time to speak, or a list of speakers so that we could approximate the time ourselves.”
We can and must do better.
Finally, on a brighter note, yesterday the Boston Globe published a powerful op-ed by Yvonne Abrams in support of Access to Counsel: Tenants facing eviction need representation. Let’s give it to them.
The momentum for action is HAPPENING, thanks to so many of you. Stay tuned for how we can keep growing it. We’ve go so much more clamoring to do!