, Salem, MA

Local News

April 21, 2014

Few affordable units puts squeeze on renters


Recent studies suggest the gap between affordable housing supply and need is steadily widening.

For every 100 low-income renter households nationwide, there are only 29 affordable and available rentals, according to a report last year by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

The report found median rents in the United States increased 6 percent during the previous two years, when adjusted for inflation, while renters’ incomes fell 13 percent.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that renters need to make $18.92 per hour, on average, to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. In Massachusetts, tenants must earn at least $24.05 an hour.

Nonprofits short on funds have focused money where they can get the biggest impact, according to DeFranza and others. Projects are often financed through a patchwork of sources including federal tax credits, banks and private investors, and occasionally local governments.

The Gloucester Crossing project, built by the North Shore Community Development Coalition and North Shore YMCA, was funded by a dozen sources, including state and federal housing credits and historic preservation money.

“We usually have 10 different sources of revenue, but that’s the nature of the business,” said Mickey Northcutt, CEO of North Shore Community Development Coalition.

Getting a slice of HUD funding, nonprofits say, gives them leverage to additional financing.

“Even the small amount of funds we are able to contribute to a project can have significant impact,” Hurley said. “If we devote funds toward a project, it greatly enhances a developer’s ability to go to the state or private lenders and ask for larger sums of money.”

Hill, one of the first tenants to move into Holcroft Park, said she doesn’t want to stay more than a couple of years. She’s started baby-sitting part time, and she and her fiancé — who works as a customer service representative — are saving to buy a house.

“We don’t want to stay here forever. It wouldn’t be fair,” she said. “I want someone else like myself who needs affordable housing to stay here. What happened to us could happen to anyone.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts State House for CNHI newspapers. He can be reached at




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