24 Jan Offering low-income, homeless Bostonians housing resources
After Chris Moriconi fractured his back on the job in 2006 and was unable to work, he and his son CJ had a difficult time. Although the Woburn father received workers compensation, he said, “I didn’t really have any skills and other training,” aside from being an ironworker. “I found myself just living almost day by day with my son.”
However, after he was connected with the nonprofit Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), Moriconi’s life vastly improved.
“They saved my life. I wouldn’t have anything without MBHP,” he said. Now he, 12-year-old CJ, Moriconi’s ailing mother Carol and their dog Bella, live together and life has improved.
“I can actually live like a normal human being,” said Moriconi, who said CJ feels more secure having a permanent place to live.
Connecting people with lifelines
Lawyer Chris Norris, a West Roxbury resident who has been MBHP’s executive director for nine years, said one of the organization’s main goals is to help the homeless find housing and stability.
“We work to help them increase their incomes …; find housing, increase their education, [and] find jobs,” he said.
“Often, folks get so overwhelmed they don’t know where to turn,” said Norris. “We help guide people through all the different resources that are out there.”
Through MBHP’s Housing Consumer Education Center, MBHP “educates families and individuals, through information and referral services, on how to acquire the necessary tools to access appropriate services to meet their specific housing needs and encourage people to become or remain self-sufficient.
“Through education and information, people learn the tools necessary to attain permanent improvements in their lives,” according to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED).
According to the EOHED, the network of Housing Consumer Education Centers provides training on issues affecting housing (e.g. landlord/ tenants rights and responsibilities; lead paint; code violations; homebuyers education/ mortgage assistance programs; housing search strategies, etc.); education concerning housing issues; mediation/negotiation assistance; inter- (and intra) region coordination and referral; and other programs designed to meet specific or unique housing needs in the nine program regions.
MBHP itself administers rental assistance vouchers for 700 families throughout Hyde Park, West Roxbury and Roslindale, and said there are thousands on a waiting list for vouchers. The organization serves more than 25,000 families annually within all communities inside Rte. 128, according to Norris.
Housing issues in the Parkway and beyond
According to Norris, a typical family of three helped by the MBHP tends to have an annual income of $15,000. Housing options are extremely limited for those families, since many are working minimum wage jobs with no benefits.
“We definitely need more affordable units …; particularly at the lowest income levels,” he said.
After a recent “housing surge” that connected chronically homeless seniors with services, Mayor Marty Walsh said, “We are looking at solving homelessness in innovative ways, with strong partners (including MBHP). Boston is a city that takes care of its people.”
Gentrification plays a role in the lack of reasonably priced homes, said Norris. Not only are many getting priced out of single-family homes in West Roxbury, rents are increasing, too.
“How do you strike that balance with needed improvements while also balancing the desire to maintain housing for a cross-spectrum for the residents in a community,” he asked.
Neighborhoods will need to have discussions about what they want the city to look like in the long term and who will be living there. Otherwise, “we’re going to price out the very people that we want living in our neighborhoods,” said Norris.
He suggested that zoning codes should be reviewed and that communities be allowed to build more multifamily houses.
In fact, in Walsh’s 2017-2018 legislative agenda, which he filed on Jan. 23, he advocated that the city be allowed to amend its zoning code to require inclusionary zoning for affordable housing and provide landlords who are keeping their rents below market rent with a $1,500 state income tax credit, among other proposals
MBHP’s own housing challenge
Ironically, Norris said that when MBHP decided it was time to move from their current headquarters at 125 Lincoln St., Downtown, the organization initially had a problem finding what it was looking for and could afford.
Eventually, they found a vacant two-acre parcel formerly owned by the MBTA and located across from the Roxbury Crossing MBTA Station and close to a major bus corridor.
According to the organization, MBHP is launching the public phase of its $2 million capital campaign designed to help fund the more accessible, efficient and permanent home. MBHP has raised 60 percent of its goal and intends to raise the remaining 40 percent over the course of the next year, or through November 2017.
Norris said it will be more affordable to own their own space rather than rent. The location is also more accessible and is closer to where many clients live.
MBHP’s partner in this project is Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services (MHNHS), according to a press release. Both organizations have a shared vision of building thriving, socio-economically diverse neighborhoods. This redevelopment will be a catalyst to solidify Roxbury Crossing as a viable neighborhood center and entrance to he Mission Hill community, according to the release.
MHNHS will construct a five-story, mixed-use building that will create 40 units of affordable housing along with community-focused commercial space and a 27,000-square-foot new home for MBHP, making it more accessible to at least 65 percent of its clients, according to the press release. The project also aligns with the city’s redevelopment goals.
Norris added that by moving to the new location, it’s an opportunity to rebuild and redevelop that area of the neighborhood.More information
For more on the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), visit http://mbhp.org/.
Those interested in supporting MBHP’s fundraising goals can visit www.buildingonmission.org.
For more on Mayor Marty Walsh’s 2017-2018 Legislative Agenda, visit https://www.boston.gov/news/mayor-walsh-files-2017-2018-legislative-agenda
For more on Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services, visit https://missionhillnhs.org/.
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