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City of Boston rental voucher program launches

The locally funded rental voucher will expand housing opportunities for hundreds of Boston residents and families.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the formal launch of the City of Boston Voucher Program (CBVP). The CBVP is a rental voucher program similar to Section 8, funded by the City of Boston's operating budget and administered by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). The voucher program will provide hundreds of low income Boston households with rental assistance.

Mayor Walsh announced the City of Boston Voucher Program in his 2020 State of the City address and included $2.5 million in the fiscal year 2021 budget to create the program. The program is expected to house hundreds of Boston families over the coming years. 

"Boston is a home for all, and these vouchers will allow more of our low-income families to have stable, secure housing, a cornerstone of residents' wellbeing," said Mayor Walsh. "We are using every tool available to us to ensure families in our communities can continue to call Boston home."

Responding to community input, the City of Boston Voucher Program will focus on Project Based Vouchers-tied to a particular site or development-and will further fair housing through equitable neighborhood planning. The City of Boston Voucher Program will efficiently leverage city resources by deepening the affordability of both existing and in-development income-restricted housing, making such housing available to very- and extremely- low-income residents, homeless Boston Public Schools families, households facing displacement and other vulnerable populations. 

Since June, the Boston Housing Authority has convened a stakeholder group of low-income renters, nonprofits and service providers to inform program design and priorities, while the Department of Neighborhood Development has consulted with property owners and developers to ensure the success of the program.

"This historic City investment will be a new and critical housing resource for hundreds of Boston's most vulnerable residents," said BHA Administrator Kate Bennett. "I want to thank Mayor Walsh for his leadership in driving this initiative forward, and creating a lifeline of affordable, stable housing for families who need it the most."

The Boston Housing Authority will formally launch the program by issuing a Request for Proposals from housing operators and developers interested in incorporating Project Based Vouchers into their developments. Similar to Section 8, vouchers are funded by annual appropriation while the commitment to stable affordable housing is secured through long-term contracts between the Boston Housing Authority and the property owner. 

"We commend Mayor Walsh for his bold and historic commitment to create a City funded rent subsidy program," said Michael Kane, spokesperson for the City Rent Subsidy Coalition and the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, which advocated for the plan. "The first $2.5 million being advertised now by the BHA will get hundreds of homeless families with children in the Boston Public Schools off the streets and into permanent housing.  We look forward to working with the BHA to implement and expand this program in the months ahead."  

To efficiently deploy resources to serve vulnerable residents, the BHA will use three existing referral partnerships while incorporating a new partnership with the city's Office of Housing Stability. These partnerships will serve households in shelter, homeless and doubled-up families (multiple families sharing one primary residence) with children in Boston Public Schools, and families facing displacement. The City funding stream will build on the success of these programs while expanding eligibility to a greater pool of Boston residents.

The City of Boston and Boston Housing Authority have partnered for years to deploy Project Based Vouchers into Boston neighborhoods. With this new municipal resource, Boston is introducing a flexible and powerful program to serve populations whose needs are currently unmet by other housing programs.

Under the Walsh Administration, historic investments have been made in the city's public housing stock to renovate facilities and offer additional vouchers to residents and families. Earlier this month, Mayor Walsh today marked a significant milestone in the City of Boston's housing work, as the Boston Housing Authority provided housing choice vouchers to more than 1,000 Boston families experiencing homelessness with school aged children since December 2019. The 1,000 families represent more than 1,700 children who will now have much needed housing stability, an effort made possible through partnerships with Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the state's Department of Housing and Community Development. 

Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston have dedicated unprecedented resources in recent years to expand and preserve affordable housing in Boston. In 2019, Mayor Walsh celebrated a $30 million capital investment to revitalize Boston Housing Authority's Bunker Hill Housing development in Charlestown, the first time in the City's history that City bond dollars have been invested directly into a BHA project. Work also continues on a comprehensive redevelopment of the Whittier Street public housing development in Roxbury that was first built in 1953. The project will rebuild and preserve 200 existing public housing apartments by replacing them on- and off-site with an expanded program of 509 units of mixed-income rental housing and 14,225 square feet of commercial space. Move-ins for phase I of  Whittier Street opened up to residents last summer. The City also invested $10 million for the second phase of Overlook Terrace at Orient Heights, $25 million to Anne Lynch Homes at Old Colony, and $5 million in 2020 to kickstart the renovation efforts for BHA Public Housing for seniors and residents with disabilities.

Today's announcement builds on the goals of Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030, the Walsh administration's plan to stabilize the housing market, accommodate growth, improve housing accessibility, and increase affordability. Since the release of the original Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan in 2014, 26,124 new units of housing have been completed. With an additional 9,204 units currently under construction, the City has secured housing for an estimated 52,300 residents, making significant progress in meeting Boston's rapid population growth. Income-restricted housing stock has grown along with overall new production, with nearly 5,500 income restricted units completed and over 1,700 units under construction. Approximately 20 percent of all newly-developed housing units and 25 percent of new rental units in the City are designated as income-restricted. For more information on the City of Boston's work to create more housing, please visit Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030.

About the Boston Housing Authority

Boston Housing Authority (BHA) provides quality affordable housing for low-income families and individuals through the public housing and Section 8 rental assistance programs. We foster vital communities that are essential to our city's economic diversity and way of life.  As the largest housing provider in Boston, we bring stability, opportunity, and peace of mind not only to the thousands of low-income families we support, but to the city as a whole.

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