Update: Program Gets an Increase in Funding
The final Boston budget approved on June 30, 2022 increased the City Rent Subsidy Program to $9.75 million/year! This is a major victory for the coalition and MAHT—we had advocated to increase the $5 million pilot program, by doubling it this year!
Mayor Wu had originally requested $7.5 million/year in her budget, an increase of $2.5 million but short of the CRSC goal. On June 6, the Council voted to increase this, to $10m and offset the extra cost with cuts to the Fire and Police Departments. The Mayor vetoed the police cuts and responded back with a $9.35 million offer.
On June 22, 2016, a delegation of the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee, the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, City Mission, Mel King and others, met with Mayor Walsh to urge inclusion of a $5 million pilot program for Housing First Subsidies, as proposed by nine City Councilors, in the 2016 city budget submission.
In our meeting, we proposed a flexible rental assistance program, modeled on the successful Local Rent Supplement Program in Washington, DC. The DC program dedicates $37 million from the regular city budget annually to fund 3,248 low-income families and individuals through a mix of project-based and tenant-based rental assistance, similar to the federal Section 8 program.
As in DC, we proposed that the Boston Housing Authority administer the program locally; the BHA currently administers approximately 11,000 mobile Section 8 certificates and 2,500 “Project Based Vouchers”, the latter ensuring that low-income renters can live in new mixed income housing developments. As in DC, we proposed that priority be given to currently homeless or near homeless Bostonians, to provide the “Housing First” called for in the Mayor’s Plan to End Chronic and Veterans Homelessness. As in DC, or Cambridge, we proposed that Boston’s program pay 130% of FMR for mobile vouchers, to better enable recipients to find housing in the city.
Mayor Walsh did not include the $5 million for a pilot program to house 350 to 400 individual residents and families experiencing homelessness in his 2016 city budget submission citing the lack of a sustainable funding source. He suggested the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and since then we have advocated for the CPA, which passed in November 2016, and identified four other sustainable funding sources.
In March of 2017, we had another meeting with Walsh to discuss the 5 sustainable funding sources and again he would not include it in his FY18 budget suggesting that there are better options for housing and not agreeing that it can be sustainable.
After years of advocating for renters across the city of Boston, MAHT celebrated a major victory January 7, 2020, at Mayor Walsh's annual State of the City Address. Acknowledging the ever-growing housing crisis, the mayor announced Boston’s first ever city-funded rental vouchers so more low-income families can be stable and secure. The program is a 5-million-dollar pilot that will save the homes of many across the city! Full coalition press release here