SOMERVILLE, MA – Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced today the hiring of Ellen Shachter as the City's first Director of the Office of Housing Stability, which will operate as a division of the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. The Office of Housing Stability aims to serve as the central point of contact for individuals seeking housing opportunities or advice.
Shachter most recently worked as a senior attorney at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services and brings with her more than 25 years of experience representing low-income families and individuals on housing and public benefits matters with an emphasis on homelessness prevention. She has represented numerous tenant associations in negotiations with public and subsidized housing providers regarding resource allocations, admissions policies, rent policies, relocation policies and eviction practices. Her range of experience also includes both local and state advocacy campaigns to increase inclusionary zoning requirements, authoring materials about tenants' rights, and current roles as a member of the Cambridge Community Preservation Act Committee, the Housing Task Force of Envision Cambridge, and the Affordable Housing Organizing Committee in Somerville.
"As a City, and a community, we must apply the best strategies, the most effective policies, and the most impactful resources available to us to address the housing crisis facing Somerville and the region, and Ms. Shachter is well poised to advance that effort on every count. She has long been a bold and dedicated advocate for affordable housing, tenants' rights, and equitable housing policies in Somerville and surrounding communities," said Mayor Curtatone. "We've been fortunate to work in collaboration with her over the years and know firsthand the impacts she has made. The range of experience she brings to the table – along with her steadfast determination to make a difference – will set the new Office of Housing Stability up for success and enable the City to better assist Somerville residents with a range of housing issues and concerns."
"I am excited to be working with the City of Somerville to create its new Office of Housing Stability," said Shachter. "Rapidly escalating rents and home prices have led to significant housing instability for Somerville residents, especially those of low and moderate incomes. The Office of Housing Stability will be a central location working to enact policies to preserve and expand affordable housing and ensure that tenants know their rights and are able to access the myriad of housing and homelessness prevention resources in Somerville. The Office will also work to identify and fill gaps in those services, and I look forward to close collaboration with the Somerville non-profit agencies already working so hard to prevent homelessness in the city."
During his inaugural address in January 2018, Mayor Curtatone declared his intent to pursue an ambitious affordable housing agenda. Shachter's hire as Director of the Office of Housing Stability is a key step in achieving the agenda's goals.
Progress is being made on other agenda items as well. Recently, the Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a Home Rule Petition to establish a transfer charge on specific real estate transactions to support the creation and retention of affordable housing. Additionally, a Community Land Trust Working Group has been established, the City's Lead Paint Removal Program re-launch is underway, and community meetings to discuss options for short-term rental regulations have been scheduled. To view the complete affordable housing agenda, along with updates on progress and next steps, visit www.somervillema.gov/aha.
Submitted by city of Somerville; Image via Shutterstock