Excerpted from WGBH
By Stephanie Leydon
‘Our housing system has broken down’
There’s been an uptick in housing construction over the last several years in Massachusetts, but it’s by no means enough to meet the need. State leaders have set a goal of building tens of thousands of new units to disrupt the current dynamic that’s a lot like a game of musical chairs with too few homes for all the people seeking housing.
“People forget that 50 years ago there were not homeless people on the streets of American cities,” said Eloise Lawrence, acting faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. “That has been because our housing system has broken down.”
Lawrence began providing legal services to City Life in 2005. She said the current volume of calls is comparable to the years leading up to the 2008 housing crash.
Many factors are contributing to the current problem, she explained, including wages not keeping up with housing costs, not enough homes being built to meet the need, and inflation straining people’s finances.
“We have on our hands another crisis that is similar to the foreclosure crisis,” she said.
What’s different this time, she says, is the level of corporate investment in housing.
“We’re seeing extreme price pressure from absentee landlords, from speculators, from large entities who are only thinking about profit,” said Lawrence. “They’re not thinking about it as their community.”
Market forces alone, she says, won’t solve the housing crisis.
“Why are we going to build poor people’s housing without a movement? We’re not,” said Lawrence. “If we just rely on market forces that currently [exist] we will have a whole bunch of luxury housing that’s empty and we will not build the housing that we need.”