After years of fighting with former President Donald Trump’s administration, national homelessness advocates are, for the first time in a while, feeling hopeful.
Yes, it seems there are more people out on the streets than ever, and homelessness numbers show no signs of decreasing — in fact, if you walk in downtown Boston I fear it could get worse if nothing is done.
President Biden Boston and Boston Real Estate
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden extended the CDC’s eviction moratorium through March, but that will only delay what experts say could be a wave of eviction-driven homelessness — with potentially thousands in downtown Boston and hundreds of thousands across the country in coming years living in their cars, couch-surfing or on the streets.
Boston Rent Vouches
The Biden administration has a plan for housing and homelessness that is extraordinarily aggressive, putting billions into rent vouchers and construction, attacking restrictive zoning, and committing to making housing a human right.
But downtown Boston has a distinct set of problems: a lack of cheap housing, a messy homelessness response system, and disappearing mental health facilities. The Biden plan to take a swing at the problem could miss some of these plans
Housing for all?
In one of the biggest changes, Biden wants to make housing assistance an entitlement, like food assistance, for the first time in the history of America. That would mean anyone who qualifies for housing assistance would get it. This would potentially quadruple the number of people receiving benefits from programs like Section 8 in Boston
It would take a huge infusion of resources, but with Democrats running the White House and both chambers of Congress, these goals are potentially achievable/
But in downtown Boston, there are already people with federal vouchers in hand who can’t find a place in their price range that will rent to them.
Biden’s plan might address that concern with $640 billion proposed for rent vouchers, eviction help and affordable housing construction. It also introduces a plan to use incentives to persuade cities to do away with restrictive zoning rules that limit how much cheap housing can be built.
A “hollowed-out” housing department
To do anything about homelessness, Biden will have to rehabilitate the department that would carry out these sweeping changes — Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Advocates and researchers, as well as media reports, describe HUD as a “hollowed-out” place with many unfilled vacancies after four years under Trump’s secretary, Dr. Ben Carson.
Drug treatment, employment minimized
While housing costs are the main cause of the Boston homelessness crisis — and that housing must be secured before people can work on their mental health or substance use — the other side of that is how much money people make.
In Boston, the lowest earners haven’t been able to afford the cheapest housing for some time; Biden has said he wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $15, but that was done in most sectors of Boston, and housing still remains out of reach for thousands.
Biden’s plans for responding to the drug epidemic have a smaller price tag — $125 billion to make treatment available to everyone who needs it. This is a departure from the Trump administration’s latest guidance for homelessness and housing policy, which pivoted toward drug and alcohol treatment and “tough love” crime strategies.
It’s all about Boston Jobs
Biden has said he wants to expand income tax credits for low-wage workers and create a Public Health Jobs Corp of at least 100,000
Boston Real Estate and the Bottom Line
The bottom line, whether you’re a Boston Democrat or Republican we need to address the issues of Boston homelessness because it’s not going away and its seems to be getting worse.