Local Voucher Program Approved

waltham housing vouchersThose who need help with housing will soon have one more option in Waltham.

The City Council in January voted to use $2.1 million of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) monies to fund vouchers for 50 families in Waltham. The CPA was passed by voters in 2005 and puts a 2% surcharge on property taxes, after the first $100,000. The money collected can be used for open space, recreation, historic preservation or affordable housing.

The voucher program has a proposed three-year timeline during which the funds would go to the Waltham Housing Authority, which would, in turn, give the subsidies to the landlords involved.

According to Waltham Wicked Local, the city has $21.3 million in CPA funds available, but only $300,000 is being used for affordable housing despite a requirement that 10% be used for the cause.

The new Waltham voucher program could breathe new life into the effort around housing accessibility and offer hope to those who haven’t been able to take advantage of outdated programs like Chapter 40B, which has been around since 1969.

Chapter 40B allows new developments to bypass local zoning bylaws in order to increase the amount of affordable housing in towns that don’t have 10% yet. The difference between this and the Waltham voucher program is that 40B doesn’t have subsidies. Rather, it is expected the developer will absorb the difference between the affordable units and the market value units.

The Waltham program, which was proposed by the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing (WATCH) and its Tenant Action Group (TAG), will “ensure that tenants’ rents are only 30% of their income. While more permanent low-income housing options are needed, this was a huge step forward that only happened because of the community organizing efforts of WATCH, and the residents of Waltham.” The program will start as soon as the contract between the city and Waltham Housing Authority is approved.

According to WATCH, “With almost 6,000 households income-eligible for the voucher and 5% of the city’s residents living in overcrowded or substandard housing, the need in Waltham is pressing.”

Paul Brasco, an opponent on the City Council, said that initially the state was matching 100% of CPA funds, but has now cut back. According to Rep. Tom Stanley, that is nothing new. When the CPA passed, the state said it would match as much as it could, but would not be able to maintain 100% matching as more towns adopted it; the funds wouldn’t exist to maintain that level.

To consider: Why does the city need a new voucher system when federal and state programs exist? Would more education help landlords and tenants understand options available to them? MassLandlords will continue to follow and report on this ongoing issue.

YOUR TURN: What do you think about the program? Is it needed? Tell us here: comment@masslandlords.net.

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