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Advocacy on Air: Keith Fairey and Senator John Velis

June 22, 2023

If housing were a puzzle, there would be a lot of pieces in its box. Could I talk for an hour about the complexities and challenges, nuances and solutions? Absolutely! I recently had the pleasure of doing just that during a TV appearance on the “Beacon Hill to the 413 with your State Senator John C. Velis” program, which you can check out here

I’m grateful for Senator Velis’s commitment to helping the region and state adopt a forward-looking approach to housing. The key words here being “forward-looking.” Housing isn’t just a physical space or tangible place, with walls, windows, and an address. As the Senator and I discussed, housing also exists in our minds, as a philosophical idea—often tied to rear-view memories of how we grew up. As in, “I want my community to be like it was when I grew up here.” But with such nostalgia comes real risks.

Many communities are realizing that if they don’t change now to meet the housing needs of people—families, older adults, young adults, new hires—that these folks will not, and may not be able to, stay. They will move elsewhere, out of the region or state. This shift affects education, through declining school enrollment and budgets. It affects healthcare, through the shuttering of hospitals, maternity wards, and acute care for seniors. All of which can snowball to make a community less attractive to residents. Worst-case scenario? When a region loses population, it could lose a congressional seat and representation—meaning less power to voice a community’s needs. 

With such valuable things in the balance, how do we safeguard them? By thinking bigger. By realizing that change is a constant—communities have always evolved over time. Now is no different, except to say that the need is more urgent. We can not only survive this moment of change, but we can also get to a better place in the end. We can create more vibrant cities and towns that people want to come to, not that they are trying to get out of, by making long-term investments to make housing more affordable and available.

I want the communities of Western Massachusetts to be communities of choice, featuring a range of diverse housing options. Where our kids can start their young adult lives and our aging parents can find options that suit their needs. Where there are housing options for people who work maintenance and service industry jobs, and for nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers, lawyers, and doctors. Because I believe our best communities are not ones that are exclusive, but those that are inclusive. Where we know our neighbors. Where we have shared access to opportunities to climb the housing and economic mobility ladders.

As Senator Velis noted, the question that will define the future success of our state is this: “Are we going to figure out housing?” Yes, we are! But only together, and only by looking forward, moving forward, and investing forward.  

Keith Fairey, President & CEO