WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 25, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — On Thursday, May 21st, the Massachusetts Senate passed a $38.1 billion state budget proposal(link is external).
The Senate budget funds the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and other housing and homelessness prevention programs at $432.1 million.
The budget includes increased investments and important language changes in proven programs that help keep families in their homes and prevent homelessness, including:
- Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): $85.4 million for MRVP, an increase of $20.4 million over FY2015 funding.
- Alternative Voucher Housing Program (AHVP): $4.75 million for AHVP, a program that provides housing assistance for disabled persons under the age of 60, an increase of $1.2 million over FY2015 funding. This represents the first significant increase for AHVP since the program began twenty years ago, demonstrating the Senate’s commitment to providing community-based housing options for the disabled.
- Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT): The Senate budget includes an additional $2 million in funding for RAFT over FY2015. RAFT enables families that experience unemployment or other challenges to avoid homelessness through an array of assistance necessary to maintain housing or move into their next home.
- Improved Coordination among Agencies to Support Homeless Families: The Senate budget included language to improve the new Homelessness Prevention Reserve Fund (1599-0017) by making the fund available to families that apply for or receive services through DHCD and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. This will help to better coordinate services across homelessness prevention programs.
- Forward Funding: The Senate budget includes a change to the funding mechanism for HomeBASE and RAFT, allowing for forward funding of these programs. Currently, non-profit agencies collectively advance over $2 million per month to administer HomeBASE and RAFT. This creates a strain on cash flow that can delay payments to the agencies and creates unnecessary borrowing costs. Forward funding will allow these programs to operate more effectively and efficiently, with more resources being directed towards the families who need them.
The Senate budget provided for level funding of other housing programs, including Public Housing and the Tenancy Preservation Program.
Click here for a full listing of housing programs listed by budget line-item.
The Senate also included a 50% increase to the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which will help working families make ends meet. The EITC will be funded by freezing the income tax at 5.15%. The income tax is otherwise scheduled to drop to 5%. The budget also authorized the expansion of Housing Court to the entire Commonwealth, which protects tenancies, prevents homelessness among the disabled, and helps to enforce building, fire, and sanitary codes.
The budget process now moves to a Conference Committee, where three members from both the House and Senate will reconcile the differences between each of their budget proposals. The six conference committee members will likely be announced by next week. The committee will then report a final compromise bill to be put to a final vote in the House and Senate. This will be sent to the Governor for his review.
CHAPA thanks all the members of the Senate for their strong support of affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs. We would like to particularly thank Senate President Stan Rosenberg, the members of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, led by Chairwoman Karen Spilka, and Chairwoman Linda Dorcena Forry of the Joint Committee on Housing for their leadership and continued dedication to making sure that every person in the Commonwealth has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.
CHAPA also thanks the following members of the Massachusetts Senate for sponsoring budget amendments that support affordable housing and homelessness issues:
- Senator William Brownsberger
- Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz
- Senator Cindy Creem
- Senator Kenneth Donnelly
- Senator Eileen Donoghue
- Senator Benjamin Downing
- Senator Jamie Eldridge
- Senator Jennifer Flanagan
- Senator Thomas Kennedy
- Senator Joan Lovely
- Senator Thomas McGee
- Senator Michael Moore
- Senator Michael Rodrigues
- Senator Bruce Tarr
- Senator James Welch
- Senator Dan Wolf