Vacant Unit Victory

The state’s waitlist for public housing has climbed to an astonishing 184,000 people. The state manages 43,000 units of public housing but only about 3,000 units turn over per year. Massachusetts is also experiencing a shelter crisis and housing advocates have identified the need for 190,000 more affordable homes. In other words, housing is desperately needed.

Meanwhile, 2,300 public housing apartments are sitting vacant or offline, as reported in great detail by WBUR.

In a recent meeting with the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC; formerly DHCD), Mass Union and its members brought the issue of vacant units to the attention of key staff. Our partners have also been highlighting this issue and our attorney, Annette Duke, was interviewed on WBUR about this topic.

These efforts have resulted in new action by the state. On September 22, EOHLC announced a new initiative that will provide money and technical assistance to LHAs in order to get more units back online. EOHLC is making a 90-push to assist in reoccupying units.

Mass Union’s Executive Director, Sarah Byrnes said “Our members, who are public housing residents, are frustrated to see vacant unused apartments. They know that these these apartments are desperately needed and they were able to bring this issue to key decision-makers.”

“Mass Union would like to thank EOHLC for taking action to restore vacant units for occupancy,” added Byrnes. “We applaud this initiative and look forward to ensuring that the new funds and assistance effectively accomplish the goal of bringing units back online and housing people who need it.”

Media Coverage

Listen to Mass Union’s attorney Annette Duke on WBUR talk about the vacant unit crisis and how public housing can help.

Read WBUR’s full report on vacant units here and find out how many units are offline in your community with an interactive map: “Mass. has a huge waitlist for state-funded housing. So why are there 2,300 vacant units?”