A for sale sign at a house at Sycamore and County streets in downtown New Bedford. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light

As housing advocates press for spending some of New Bedford’s $83 million in ARPA funds to create more affordable housing, The Light is sharing comments from social media and from the Light’s Community Voices essays.

Join the affordable housing debate Wednesday night when New Bedford Light columnist Jack Spillane hosts our third installment of The Chat. The session will be devoted to the city’s housing crisis and finding ideas for confronting the problem.

Josh Amaral from a guest commentary piece in The Light. Amaral is executive director at PACE and chairman of the New Bedford Homeless Service Providers Network.

The once-bountiful inventory of apartments available for less than $1,000 a month has dried up. Rents have increased 70% in a decade. There are only a handful of apartments even listed for rent, and the average monthly cost for a three-bedroom among them is $1,430. Tenements are selling at unprecedented prices, with triple-deckers going for around a half-million dollars. Our region leads the state in evictions, not because of pandemic-related non-payment of rent, but because investors are tossing out families so they can renovate and re-rent at the higher rates they need to make their investments worthwhile.

According to the U.S. Census, New Bedford picked up an additional 6,000 residents over the last decade but lost some 2,000 housing units along the way. As home prices soar, would-be homebuyers stick with renting. Competition for decent rentals is fierce, with landlords taking hundreds of applications per vacancy. Apartment-seekers making less than $50,000 a year need not apply, and even then, the half of the city population that can clear that hurdle better have a spotless rental history, a clean CORI, good references, no pets, and quiet feet. So where will everyone else live?

Greg Jones via Facebook, commenting on Jack Spillane’s recent column about using CPA money for affordable housing:

I think these projects are great candidates for CPA monies! Some of these old, historic buildings deserve a new life. It’s a win-win as far as historic preservation and affordable housing is concerned. I hope they are successful.

Zach Boyer via Facebook:

We need more quality & affordable housing in New Bedford. Plain and simple.

Matthew Daniels via Facebook, commenting on a recent Jack Spillane column about affordable housing plans in downtown New Bedford:

I agree that not enough affordable housing is being built. When we wait for the private sector to do things, we are left waiting. 

We should not be expecting private developers to do anything for the benefit of society. The government’s purpose is to provide quality of life upgrades for its citizens. Folks want affordable housing; they just don’t want THAT KIND of affordable housing. They expect capitalist developers to build it out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s naive at best.

Craig Ptaszenski via Facebook:

The rents are out of control and only reason is Landlord Greed. Continue elect landlord plants and this is what you will get. Taxes haven’t doubled in year, so excuse for these rent prices.

Melissa Chester-Letendre via Facebook, in response to Craig Ptaszenski:

Out of control compared to what/where? I don’t know where the people being driven out of the city by high rents will go. We are still the most affordable in Eastern Mass. Taxes didn’t double but they went up, water went up, gas and electric went up, labor … especially in the skilled trades went up, but the biggest factor that is driving up rents is the fact that so many landlord lost rents during the moratorium. We need a bigger financial cushion in case the government decides to screw us again. We are not all greedy, awful people but we still need to survive.

Jack Spillane from a recent column on using COVID-19 relief money (ARPA funds) to ease affordable housing crisis:

It’s even worse in the city for those with very low income. Some 23% of city residents are “severely cost burdened,” which means they are paying more than 50% of their income to housing. The statewide figure for severely cost burdened is 14%, or 9 percentage points lower than in New Bedford.

Perhaps the most distressing statistic comes directly from the New Bedford Housing Authority. There are currently 4,087 individuals waiting on the city’s federal public housing list; there are 4,378 people waiting on the state public housing list; and 4,131 people are waiting on the so-called Section 8 list for federally subsidized private housing. 

According to the numbers it’s a no-brainer. New Bedford has one of the worst affordable housing problems in Massachusetts.

Editor’s note

Comments from social media may be edited to correct grammatical errors and to delete language that may be offensive to others.

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