The Housing Need in the Pioneer Valley

- Michelle McAdaragh, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development
& Marcus Williams, Grant Writer

At Way Finders, we are committed to lighting pathways and opening doors to homes and communities where people thrive. Way Finders is dedicated to increasing the supply, preserving existing affordable homes, and facilitating the production of affordable rental housing for low-and-moderate-income families and individuals in Western Massachusetts.    

Affordable housing is a challenging issue, no matter what the economic outlook or political climate is. Unfortunately, there are always more people in need than resources available, and the Pioneer Valley is no exception.  According to National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) 2016 “Out of Reach” report, Massachusetts has some of the highest home prices and rents in the Nation, and we rank the 7th least affordable state for renters. NLIHC also says that the Pioneer Valley has 197,840 families that rent. Of this total, 26% spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs, including utilities. For the 70,303 extremely-low-income families, the situation is even more severe, and 60% of these renters are severely cost burdened.

There are affordable housing deficits at every level of low income.  Many renters in the Pioneer Valley are cost burdened, but we also have an inadequate supply of affordable housing units. NLIHC calculates that the Pioneer Valley is in need of 72,000 additional affordable homes to meet the current demand.

Developing affordable housing is hard work and developing housing for the extremely-low income is even more challenging.  It takes securing many different funding sources, satisfying multiple levels of regulations, and obtaining local zoning and land-use rules and regulations can prove almost impossible. But beyond the developer needing to overcome the financial and regulatory barriers often they need to overcome neighborhood opposition.  Many in America are uneasy about affordable housing, and frequently public resistance, especially in areas of opportunity, can cause interruptions, or block developments altogether. Often these obstacles will prevent developers from building new affordable housing anywhere except in low-income communities.

Everyone in the Pioneer Valley deserves a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home, and the lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most pressing concerns facing our region.   Way Finders wants to ensure that growth in Western Massachusetts brings affordability for all—not just the wealthy few. We believe we must provide for more affordable rental housing in areas where people are currently living and working. We need to work together with communities, and with stakeholders who share our values and have a commitment to an affordable Western Massachusetts.