(BOSTON) – On Tuesday, April 12, Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) hosted the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing, fellow legislators, and Housing Authorities in Cohasset for a meeting to discuss experiences with the Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Programs (CHAMP).
The discussion was attended by Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, State Senator John Keenan (D-Quincy), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, State Representative James Arciero (D-Westford), State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth), State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell), and staff from State Representative James Murphy (D-Weymouth), State Representative Kathy LaNatra (D-Kingston), and State Representative Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate)’s offices. Housing Authorities in attendance represented much of the South Shore.
In 2014, An Act Relative to Local Housing Authorities, which contained a section creating a centralized waiting list for public housing applications, was passed by the Massachusetts state legislature. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) later received funding and momentum to establish the common application, and CHAMP eventually launched on April 10, 2019. Meant to streamline the search for public housing and address compliance issues with housing authorities, CHAMP was also designed to make applicants’ experiences better by focusing on ease of access and use.
Almost exactly three years after its launch, South Shore Housing Authorities met with legislators this week to share insights into the benefits and drawbacks of CHAMP, as well as potential ideas to improve the system. The Housing Authorities in attendance responded to a survey, created and distributed by the Cohasset Housing Authority, which was used to aggregate and summarize experiences.
Housing Authorities in attendance shared that the digitization and scanning of all documents has been a welcome update brought about by CHAMP. They also mentioned the potential for building equity into our housing placements that the system possesses.
However, concerns were also identified by Housing Authority directors and staff. Chief among these concerns was the system’s inability to accommodate emergency situations in which individuals need to be housed quickly. The process by which applicants self-certify emergencies was discussed as another issue exacerbated by CHAMP. Housing Authorities also identified other problems, including difficulties with filling vacancies in a timely manner and increased costs for screening applicants.
“This meeting offered an important opportunity for reflection on the ways the existing housing application process is serving and under-serving our Housing Authorities and applicants,” said State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “I am grateful to Chairs Keenan and Arciero for their excellent work in the housing space and their willingness to meet with our Housing Authorities directly, and it is my hope that this discussion will inspire further review of CHAMP.”
“We must take every possible action to reduce the obstacles that make it difficult to connect people in need of housing to local housing. The system must find the balance among easier access, geographic equity, and serving those most in need, all towards filling available units as expeditiously as possible,” said State Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy). “I thank Rep. Meschino for having organized this event and bringing together so many individuals who can help make this process that much easier for those living in Massachusetts.”
“It was a pleasure to attend Tuesday’s meeting with housing authorities from across the South Shore alongside Representative Meschino, Housing Committee Co-Chair Senator John Keenan and Joint Committee on Housing members Representative David DeCoste and Senator Patrick O’Connor to discuss public housing in the region. The forum addressed how the legislature can effectively reform the current housing application process to help those in dire need of housing within their respective communities,” said State Representative James Arciero (D-Westford). “The discussion was very informative and detailed many challenges faced by the housing authorities in this part of the state, as well as across Massachusetts. The goal is to expedite the housing application process as smaller housing authorities navigate, and look to hire more service coordinators, to help deal with backlogged individuals seeking good, stable housing.”
“I am very appreciative to the Cohasset Housing Authority for hosting me and my South Shore colleagues to discuss the challenges they and other housing authorities face,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “We had an insightful conversation about the struggle to fill vacancies under the current application system and I believe discussions like this will help us provide real solutions.”
“For years we have been hearing from our local Housing Authorities about the application process. I am grateful to Chairs Keenan and Arciero, as well as my colleagues from across the South Shore, for their diligence in keeping the conversation open and ongoing as we continue to strive to make our Housing Authority Application process the best it can possibly be,” said State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell).”
The Housing Authorities in attendance plan to continue gathering data from other regions to identify regional differences and solidify takeaways that can be shared with legislators and DHCD.
Representative Joan Meschino’s commitment to improving issues connected to housing in the Commonwealth is also reflected in her legislative agenda, which includes a bill related to supportive housing that was recently reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing. The legislation would create a flexible funding stream to support trauma-informed service delivery, regional coordination efforts, and integrated services for individuals, youth and families experiencing homelessness.
H.3838, An Act to create and implement a Massachusetts Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool Program to address the medically complex needs of disabled men, women, and children experiencing homelessness aims to expand supportive housing and services for adults, youth, and families experiencing homelessness and enable funds to get out quickly and equitably to those that need it most.
To follow the bill’s progress, create an account on malegislature.gov.