Current voucher program gives families little choice of where to live
Contrary to the point of the federal housing choice voucher program popularly known as Section 8, and as demonstrated in your July 7 editorial “Baker must do more on integration,” families participating in the program often do not have a real choice of where they can live.
As the largest regional administrator of the housing choice voucher program in Massachusetts, we at Metro Housing|Boston know that implementing the Small Area Fair Market Rent program would help families we work with find affordable homes and, perhaps, job opportunities in more communities.
The current federal payment standards are exactly the same in 31 of the 33 communities we serve. This means the maximum amount that the voucher will cover is the same, regardless of whether the apartment is in Boston, Brookline, Chelsea, Melrose, Newton, or Winchester. This defies logic and keeps families in low-cost, high-poverty areas. Small Area rents would allow true choice.
As a regional organization, we have seen families priced out when previously affordable neighborhoods and communities become too expensive. Moving to stay ahead of the next rent increase destabilizes households and results in near-constant turnover of social supports, such as doctors, schools, and friends.
Christopher T. Norris
Mass. lawmaker’s bill targets bias that blocks affordable housing
I write to thank the Boston Globe editorial board for highlighting the Fair Housing Act and the importance of ongoing work to integrate all communities. Unfortunately, too often, proposals for affordable housing are barred from moving forward solely because the development would house families with lower incomes. To address this, I filed a bill this session that would promote fair housing by preventing discrimination against affordable housing.
This bill would update the state’s fair housing law to make it unlawful for communities to make zoning or land-use decisions that discriminate against affordable housing, and would enable Massachusetts to stand up to rollbacks the Trump administration is making to civil rights and fair housing policy at the federal level. This is one of the many tools we should be using to build strong, integrated neighborhoods all over the Commonwealth.
State Rep. Christine P. Barber
The writer represents the 34th Middlesex District, which includes Somerville and Medford.
A real Boston hero at the BHA
Adrian Walker’s column about retiring Boston Housing Authority administrator Bill McGonagle (“A house united,” Page A1, July 8) did a wonderful job explaining what a gutsy, committed, and trusted person McGonagle is and why his work has been so important to Boston.
I have developed and operated affordable housing in more than 30 US cities, including Boston, with a nonprofit organization called The Community Builders. I know of no other housing authority leader in the country who has earned and received the trust of public housing residents as Bill McGonagle has. When our organization has competed against other real estate firms to partner with the BHA to redevelop its properties, BHA residents were at the table next to McGonagle, posing their own questions and involved in the decision-making.
In the 1980s, I saw him take a lead role explaining to his lifelong South Boston neighbors that racial integration was coming to Southie’s public housing, urging them to make it happen peacefully. It was mostly peaceful and one of the biggest racial integration victories in a major city in the last 40 years. Thank you for telling the story.
President and CEO
The Community Builders Inc.