RACE FOR THE 23rd: Affordable housing in the district

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State Rep. Sean Garballey and challenger Lori Lennon discuss tools they would use to address the region’s affordable housing crisis.

Editor’s note: The Advocate is partnering with our sister publication, the Medford Transcript, as part of our ongoing election coverage. Each week, incumbent state Rep. Sean Garballey and challenger Lori Lennon will answer a question relating to the election and issues of importance to their constituents.

Arlington Advocate: Our region is facing an affordable housing crisis. How will you promote and secure more affordable housing in our communities?

Lori Lennon: There are no cut and dry solutions to affordable housing; however, there are steps the Commonwealth can take to create more housing opportunities for first-time home buyers, the disappearing middle-class, low-income families and seniors who cannot afford million dollar homes or luxury rentals.

Education around affordable housing and its benefits to the community is a critical part of the conversation. Stigma associated with affordable housing often leads to communities fighting against these projects, not realizing the positive benefits these housing opportunities bring. This epidemic is not just affecting the poor; it is directly affecting the middle class and elderly.

As a standard under 40B, communities are required to make at least 10 percent of their housing stock affordable. Many cities and towns are not reaching that benchmark. Our legislature should be working with communities to keep them accountable to meeting this goal.

In our district and around the Commonwealth, we are experiencing an issue of supply and demand. Lack of housing stock, increased property values and stagnant paychecks are leaving many of our residents struggling. Smart zoning, collaboration between towns and developers and rent-restricted housing for middle income individuals is a great way to start.

The answer is not easy, but our legislature has a responsibility to stem the tide. I will work with community groups, banks, developers, local officials and housing advocates to find creative solutions around access and education on this issue. I will promote a smart growth policy that will help keep our communities thriving for generations.

Sean Garballey: I have worked closely with our local officials, our housing authorities, and the Housing Corporation of Arlington to promote and secure more affordable housing. As your State Representative, I filed the amendment to the House budget that increased the appropriation to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) line item, which secured permanent housing for hundreds of families in our district and the Boston area.

This is a crisis that impacts not just low-income families, but also young people just starting out in their careers, as well as our seniors who are looking to downsize or move into supportive housing. The median sale price for a single-family home in Arlington and Medford is now over $800,000. While home ownership is increasingly out-of-reach, renting is also difficult. To meet our affordable housing challenges, we need three things: subsidy, supply and services.

I am proud of the work we have done together securing funding for affordable housing. This past year, we passed a $1.8 billion-dollar bond bill that will help fund the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing. Our state budget has also increased funding for housing vouchers and services that help low-income families and those living with disabilities to avoid homelessness.

I will continue to advocate for more housing in smart growth locations (downtown centers or near public transit). This will allow us to provide more units and will also provide housing opportunities that don’t increase traffic, create negative environmental impacts or add quality-of-life concerns to our neighborhoods.