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Housing goals must account for low-income pool

Paul McMorrow’S“Housing as a math problem” addresses only one part of the equation in discussing the Patrick administration’s call for new housing to be built.

At the time of a widely reported 2006 finding by the state auditor, 81,000 low-income Massachusetts residents were on waiting lists to enter public housing, and tens of thousands more were on waiting lists for other affordable housing options in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the country. Only a small fraction of this population — among whom children, people with disabilities, and people of color are vastly overrepresented — would benefit from the new building plan.

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The plan’s inadequacy is compounded by recent, substantial restrictions on low-income families’ eligibility for emergency assistance shelter when they’ve run out of housing options. Over the last four months, this has led both to devastating consequences for families with children and to predictable consequences for the health care safety net that treats them.

The Commonwealth needs a housing formula that accounts for the income earned by people who wash linens at the hospitals and universities that employ the higher-earning young talent McMorrow spotlights. Because stable housing is key to stable health, both health equity and health care cost containment depend on an affordable-housing portfolio that accounts for Massachusetts residents at every rung of the economic ladder.

Dr. Genevieve Preer

Pediatrician

Division of Child

and Family Advocacy

Samantha Morton

Executive director

Medical-Legal

Partnership, Boston

Boston Medical Center

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