Housing That’s Affordable for First Responders ~ IN YOUR CORNER with SENATOR KATY IVES

By: Senator Katy Ives – Feb. 2017

Senator Ives
Senator Katy O’Connor Ives

As regular readers of this column may know, last session I filed a bill to reduce housing costs for veterans by offering a tax rebate to landlords who rent dwellings below market rate to individuals who receive state Chapter 115 veterans’ benefits. In the past legislative session, a successful amendment I filed in a comprehensive veterans bill called the HOME Act, instructs the newly created Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing to conduct a feasibility study on providing this and other rental cost relief programs to qualifying veterans.

I filed the bill after conducting a roundtable discussion with local veterans’ agents who described how veterans have been increasingly priced-out of the communities in which they wish to live.

Similarly, first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs, have also found difficulty living in the communities they serve. One additional challenge in the case of first responders is that many municipalities across the Commonwealth have residency requirements for these employees.

This session, I filed SD 1270, “An Act Relative to Access to Housing for First Responders,” to address this issue. This legislation would allow MassHousing, an independent, quasi-public state agency focused on providing financing for affordable housing, to create a special home loan program for first responders who are required to live within a minimum distance from the municipality they serve. Those eligible for this program would meet program income limits and live in the eligible home as the primary residence for the term of the loan, in addition to other common-sense requirements required by the program.

Whether you support or oppose such residency requirements for first responders, it remains true that many of these public servants wish to live where they work, but struggle financially to do so.
Nonprofit groups, such as the Everyday Hero Housing Assistance Program, have been established to lower the barriers for first responders to achieve their housing goals, and it is time the Commonwealth of Massachusetts considers adopting a similar program on a statewide level.

According to the Everyday Hero Housing Assistance Fund, 69% of all Americans own their own home, while less than one-third of young police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other service professionals can afford to do so.

Those who stand at the ready to respond and dedicate their lives to the public safety deserve more than platitudes. This session, I’m focused on making progress to advance this bill.
Senator O’Connor Ives can be reached at KATHLEEN.OCONNORIVES@MASENATE.GOV