MBHP releases paper regarding the fate of HomeBASE program
Findings include: 5,000 families face loss of current housing in coming year
State could save up to $85 million if HomeBASE program is retained

BOSTON- On May 8, the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) co-hosted a policy briefing
with Senator James Eldridge (Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing) and CHAPA (Citizens Housing
and Planning Association) on the fate of the Commonwealth’s soon-to-expire homelessness prevention
program known as HomeBASE. Highlighting the briefing was the release of a paper produced by MBHP
entitled Safe at Home: The Families of HomeBASE, designed to highlight for the public and lawmakers the
importance of ensuring that the families will have real opportunities to preserve their current housing or to
obtain other housing that is safe and secure.

Beginning on July 1, families will start to lose the HomeBASE rental assistance that has kept them stably
housed. 5,000 Massachusetts families (1,400 in Greater Boston) are slated to lose their rental subsidy
during FY 2014. Due to the exorbitant cost of housing in this region, the large majority of these families will
have too little income to pay their rent, will be forced to move, and may then become homeless and enter
the state’s already overburdened shelter system.

Chris Norris, MBHP’s Executive Director, made a strong fiscal case for the retaining of HomeBASE,
specifically on the savings between a family in shelter compared to a family receiving HomeBASE
assistance. “The Commonwealth will spend $120 million if 5,000 families enter shelter and stay for 8
months” said Norris. “But, if $30-35 million is added to the HomeBASE account, these same families can
remain stably housed for all of the upcoming fiscal year and save the Commonwealth $85 million. The
existing program is a wise investment compared to the cost of eight months in an emergency shelter. The
Commonwealth should help families keep their housing, not destabilize them. It makes sense for the state,
and it makes sense for the families.”

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be many alternative solutions being considered in the still-developing
2014 state budget. Senator James Eldridge is one of many state lawmakers attempting to protect current
HomeBASE families. At the briefing, Eldridge did not shy away from stating his support. “This is a very
large concern with many legislators. I hope people realize that a lot of us will be fighting for this program, or
at least for an alternative program to help these families. We need to make sure that we put the proper safety
nets in place.”

Willie Jones is one of eight families featured in Safe at Home: The Families of HomeBASE. Speaking at
the briefing, Jones told the assembled crowd of his experiences as a single dad who became homeless after
loss of employment. After couch surfing for several months with friends and acquaintances, Willie and his
daughter entered HomeBASE and were soon re-housed with a rental subsidy in an apartment in his home
community of Dorchester. Now stably housed, Willie still needs more time to find a permanent job and get
fully back on his feet. The looming loss of their HomeBASE subsidy is causing anxiety. Says Willie, “I am
very thankful for everything that HomeBASE has done for me, and know that a year more of rental
assistance would ensure my ability to survive and provide for my children in today’s economic climate.”

Tamara McMillan, another HomeBASE participant speaking at the event, expressed dismay at the looming
expiration of the program. “After two years of being safe and secure in our home, how do I tell my son we
have to go back to a shelter?”

HomeBASE began in August of 2011 as a way to keep families housed in their communities rather than in a
shelter or motel. Providing a family with a short-term rental subsidy or household assistance (offering limited
support to help with expenses such as security deposits, first/last rent, moving costs, etc.) also happened to
cost the state far less on a monthly basis than the cost of shelter.

Demand for the program exceeded expectations, and the Commonwealth limited who could receive rental
assistance. Then, midstream, HomeBASE was amended again to curtail the subsidy from three to two years
of assistance for existing participating families. Although the HomeBASE program has provided families
with case management to assist with resources, training and opportunities to support self-sufficiency, only a
fraction of the participating families’ income have increased enough to be able to sustain paying market rent
in Massachusetts. Consider this: The current average income for a participating HomeBASE family is
$10,140. The income necessary to afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market rent (FMR) is $33,141 in
Reading, $41,990 in Chelsea, $55,061 in Quincy, and $62,499 in Watertown. That gap is too large to be
bridged in just two years. Families need more time to get back on their feet.

Punctuating the urgency of the situation at the briefing, Chris Norris made an apt comparison. “What should
be our level of concern when 5,000 families may lose their housing?” asked Norris. “98 cities and towns in
the Commonwealth have populations of less than 5,000 people. If the entire population of any one of them
was forced to move, I am willing to bet something would be done to prevent it from happening or to ease
their burden.”

The Senate will be deliberating over the budget in the next few weeks. Let’s hope they remember these 5,000


MBHP is the state’s largest regional provider of rental housing voucher assistance. We serve homeless,
elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Our region spans Boston and 29
surrounding communities.

Our mission is to ensure that the region’s low- and moderate-income individuals and families have choice
and mobility in finding and retaining decent affordable housing; all of our programs and initiatives are
designed to encourage housing stability, increase economic self-sufficiency, and enhance quality of the lives
of those we serve. To achieve our mission and to promote efficient service delivery, we work collaboratively
with a broad array of service providers and neighborhood-based organizations.

We believe that everyone deserves a place to call home.

For more information, contact MBHP Communications Manager Christopher Blagg at (617) 425-6691, or