Noting that Massachusetts is in the middle of a worsening housing crisis for renters, Gloria Caballero-Roca, Green-Rainbow candidate for State Auditor, has issued a call for a thorough audit of state programs that are intended to assist renters in finding acceptable rental units and avoiding evictions. “Our state assistance programs need to be thoroughly revamped to give renters a chance of surviving punishing rent inflation and continuing shortages of rental units for lower-income families” Caballero-Roca asserted.
“In my hometown of Holyoke, renters make up 64% of the population. In some wards, they make up 90%. Working as an interpreter with Neighbor-to-Neighbor, I’ve seen the rent crisis sweeping across my city like a tsunami, destroying families and threatening their economic future. Business as usual is simply not an option. Something must be done.”
“State rental assistance programs are being battered by unprecedented inflation and the ending of pandemic assistance programs. To get a handle on this crisis, we need the State Auditor to step in and do a comprehensive performance analysis of our housing assistance programs, pointing out the actions that can be taken to avoid disaster. The audit should look ahead to the future to anticipate what is coming. Massachusetts should not become known as a state where families are being tossed out on the street while luxury second homes are being built for the affluent.“
Caballero-Roca noted that over the past two decades “Working people think they are getting ahead a little when they get a modest wage increase. Then a rent increase notice arrives from the landlord that takes away most of the gain they thought they had achieved.”
“Many families are trapped in unhealthy conditions, contending with leaky roofs, rodents in the walls, mildew, and mold. Without rent control, property owners tend to increase the rents as soon as the market makes it profitable to do so. If tenants go to Housing Court that action can leave them with a housing record and difficulty finding a new apartment in the future.”
“Most laws in our housing system are designed to favor profit-seeking landlords. Tenants are disempowered at every turn. And investment in new housing units is left to private investors who tend to focus on building expensive housing in more affluent neighborhoods. We can’t continue down this road.”
“The audits I envision would identify and document the shortcomings of our current programs and would anticipate the stresses that will be faced in the next few years. It would lay out the options for reforming our rental housing investment policies to make it possible for families in Massachusetts to find healthy and safe rental housing without seeing their financial futures drained by exploitation.”
Caballero-Roca noted that among policy options that need evaluation are rent control, a landlord registry, an office of tenant protections, ending of "no-fault evictions", ensuring that tenants receive legal representation in the courts, zoning reforms, and making increased capital available for construction of affordable housing by non-profit community organizations.
“We must all embrace the vision of Neighbor-to-Neighbor that ”No matter how much money you have in your wallet, you should be able to make a home in Massachusetts.“ (“No importa cuánto dinero tenga en su billetera, usted debería poder hacer un hogar en Massachusetts.")