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News ::
Housing Crisis For Massachusetts Tenants
02 Apr 2001
Some facts about U.S. and Massachusetts Housing Crisis
In his book of 40 years ago, The Other America, a writer named Michael Harrington noted:

"In 1949 the Housing Act authorized the construction of 810,000 new units of low-cost housing over a four-year period. Twleve years later, in 1961, the AFL-CIO proposed that the new housing law should provide for 400,000 units--in order to complete the total projected in 1949. The Kennedy Administration asked for 100,000 new units.

"This has been one of the greatest single domestic scandals of postwar America. The statistics have all been nicely calculated; everyone knows the dimension of the problem; and article appear regularly, predicting the next catastrophe that will come from inaction. But nothing is done to attack the basic problem, and poor housing remains one of the most important facts about the other America."

Today, low-income tenants in the U.S. still face a housing crisis. Between 1993 and 1995, for instance, 900,000 rental apartments that were affordable to very low-income families were lost in the United States. And between 1996 and 1998, there was another 19-percent reduction in the number of apartments whose rents were affordable to low-income tenants.

In Massachusetts in 1996, tenants in 343,000 households--over 36% of all tenant households in the state--were paying rents that they could not really afford. Over 41% of all tenant households now spend over 30% of their household income on rent in Massachusetts.

Because of the high rents that Massachusetts tenants must now pay for their apartments, many tenants in this state end up not being able to pay their rent. So the number of tenants evicted by landlords in recent years for non-payment of rent increased during the 1990s. Between 1993 and 1997, for instance, the number of Massachusetts tenants evicted for non-payment of rent increased by 64 percent.

According to a 1998 study by the University of Massachusetts, entitled "A Profile of Housing in Massachusets," "more than 5 percent of renter households now face eviction each year" and "it may therefore be conservative to estimate that in fiscal year 1997 there were at least 50,000 non-payment evictions" of tenants in Massachusetts.

The same report also indicated that the housing crisis faced by Massachusetts tenants also led to an increase in the number of homeless people in Massachusetts during the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1997, for instance, the number of homeless families in Massachusetts increased by 100 percent, from 5,000 to 10,000; while the number of homeless individuals increased by 70 percent during this same period.

Perhaps the independent media centers in Massachusetts can be used as tools for encouraging more tenants in the state to mobilize politically in response to the worsening housing crisis they are experiencing under the current U.S. economic system of Corporate Totalitarianism and Corporate Landlordism.
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