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Maybe you’ve heard, but Massachusetts isn’t exactly swimming in available housing lately. Affordable housing is even harder to come by.
And yet, a new investigation from WBUR and ProPublica found that a surprisingly large — and growing — number of the state’s subsidized housing units are sitting vacant. Hundreds of units are empty as they wait for needed repairs; others are perfectly fine but officials can’t find anyone to fill them. And the implementation of a centralized, statewide online waitlist in 2019 exacerbated the problem, making it harder for local housing agencies to fill those coveted empty units.
“I think it’s criminal,” said Maureen Cayer, the executive director of the Agawam Housing Authority. “Criminal.”
You can read the full story online. Here’s a snapshot, by the numbers:
- 184,283: The number of people in Massachusetts on the waitlist for state-subsidized housing.
- 41,500: The total number of state-subsidized apartments.
- 2,291: The number of vacant apartments as of the end of July.
- 1,783: The number of units that were vacant for more than 60 days (the legal limit the state sets for local housing authorities to fill a vacancy).
- 731: The number of units that have been vacant for over a year.
- 57 years: The average age of the state’s public housing units.
- $3.2 billion: The estimated amount needed to address a backlog of public housing renovations in Massachusetts.
- 6: The number of maintenance workers Watertown’s public housing agency has to care for its 589 units.
- 500: The number of people that officials contacted who were on the waitlist for a three-bedroom apartment in Chelmsford before they found one who responded and qualified for the unit.
- 7,053: The number of waivers filed in 2022 by local housing officials to keep a unit empty because they couldn’t fill it in the 60-day window — compared to 2,048 in 2018.
- 6,386: The number of families now in the state’s emergency family shelters.
Now, some other local news stories you should know:
It’s election day — again! A baker’s dozen of Massachusetts communities are holding preliminary elections today. The contests include open mayoral races in Revere and Pittsfield. There are also incumbent mayors in Brockton and Fall River trying to fend off challenges from high-profile opponents. Click here for the details.
On the agenda: The state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is also slated to vote today on Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed update to the state’s sex-education standards for public schools. The changes — which include greater coverage of LGBTQ+ issues, sexually transmitted infections and dating safety — would be the first major sex-ed curriculum updates in nearly 25 years. (State officials received over 5,000 public comments on the proposal.)
- Also today: The board is set to publicly release the scores for the 2023 MCAS — the first time the high school test was fully conducted after the pandemic. The release of scores comes as critics renew efforts to end the MCAS graduation requirement.
Coming in 2026: It looks like women’s professional soccer is coming back to Boston for the first time since 2018. The National Women’s Soccer League has reportedly awarded an expansion franchise to a local women-led ownership group. A “major announcement” is scheduled this afternoon at City Hall featuring Mayor Michelle Wu, the NWSL commissioner and the new owners, Boston Unity Soccer Partners.
- What we know: Boston Unity Soccer Partners has proposed $30 million in upgrades to Franklin Park’s White Stadium, where the team will call home when they begin playing in 2026. The ownership group is led by Jennifer Epstein, the leader of a local investment firm and the daughter of Celtics co-owner Robert Epstein.
- What we don’t know: We’ll have to wait until 2024 to learn the team’s official name. But they already have a green-and-black crest, inspired by the Zakim Bridge, which you can see here.
P.S.— Better book your reservations fast. Two local eateries just made Bon Appétit’s national list of the best new restaurants of 2023: Cambridge’s seafood-forward Moëca and Rubato, a Hong Kong–style café in Quincy. (And it’s worth noting, you can get Rubato delivered.)