Housing and Homelessness Prevention

This Action Project focuses on prevention-based models to address housing and homelessness inequities that persist in MetroWest. The goal is to provide paths to safe, stable, and permanent housing for under-resourced residents.

Housing is the key to reducing intergenerational poverty and an important factor in increasing economic mobility and addressing community safety and wellbeing. For many decades, zoning barriers, insufficient affordable housing development, and population growth have created a complex and multifaceted housing problem in the Commonwealth. As a result, we have an affordability crisis, a supply and demand imbalance, and, most critically, an increasing homelessness crisis. To put the homelessness crisis into perspective, from 2020-2023, 3,141 more people in families with children experienced homelessness in Massachusetts, more than any other state in the U.S.

In MetroWest specifically, root causes such as rising rents in our dense population hubs of Framingham, Waltham, and Milford, exponential increases in home prices in both wealth communities like Wellesley and middle-income communities like Medfield and Hopkinton, and a lack of available public transportation infrastructure in Marlborough contribute to a complex housing system that requires a multilayered solution.

To understand the complex problem more fully, Impact MetroWest data indicators show many disparities across racial and ethnic lines. Here are some key statistics related to Housing and Homelessness Prevention:

  • 8% of Massachusetts residents live in poverty, but in MetroWest, the disparities fall along racial and ethnic lines.
  • 14% of black residents in MetroWest live in poverty while 19% of Hispanic residents live in poverty.
  • Median household income in MetroWest also sees sharp differences along racial and ethnic lines. From 2016-2020, white resident incomes averaged $100k, while black resident incomes averaged $66k and Hispanic resident incomes averaged $60k.
  • An important driver of homelessness is the high cost of living in MetroWest. A family with one earning adult and two dependent children must earn $49/hour to adequately pay for food, shelter, and other basic needs.
  • An important cost of living indicator is the percentage of income spent on rent where 30% is the national standard for affordability. Hispanics in MetroWest pay 35% of income on rent on average.

Successful prevention-based solutions to housing issues are well documented, but difficult or expensive to maintain and balance with the pressing and crisis-oriented needs that continue to exist. The Department of Housing and Urban Development identified several strategies including blending supportive services for individuals and families with access to permanent housing as well as a focus on mediation in Housing Courts. The Housing First philosophy which prioritizes permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing has been a well-documented model in Massachusetts.
We believe that government solutions are essential to tackling housing and homelessness prevention, but that philanthropy must play an important part in prioritizing housing and homelessness prevention as a significant and strategic investment.

In our community, and through the new MetroWest Homelessness Prevention Action Project, we will invest in a multilayered solution that combines effective and direct strategies to prevent homelessness with coalition building and sustainable collaboration across the sector.

Data Driven & Issue Focused

This project is aligned with the mission of the Community Foundation for MetroWest. In 2019, the Foundation in partnership with Middlesex Savings Bank launched Impact MetroWest, a comprehensive community needs assessment of over 60 indicators that increases awareness around the strengths and challenges facing the 30+ communities of MetroWest.

Credible and independent data is vital to inform decisions and determine priorities, so we can collectively take action to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Based on the data and collaborative conversations, the Foundation has determined that addressing homelessness is a community priority and will concentrate efforts to move the needle on specific indicators, allowing opportunities for Foundation donors and fundholders to join the effort as investors and partners in the work.

Styled map of MetroWest area. White background with orange lines representing highways 95, 93, 90, and 495 as well as routes 2, 128, and 3. Cities are represented with text labels, including Carlisle, Action, Lexington, Harvard, Boxborough, Concord, Stow, Maynard, Lincoln, Hudson, Sudbury, Wayland, Waltham, Boston Marlborough, Southborough, Weston, Westborough, Framingham, Wellesley, Needham, Ashland, Natick, Dover, Sherborn, Dedham, Hopkinton, Holliston, Westwood, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Walpole, and Milford.

Key Data

By looking at median household income, poverty rates, and homeownership rates, inequality becomes clear. For example:

  • Hispanic/Latino households average $52k in annual
    income, compared to White households at $92k
  • Asian, African American, and Hispanic/Latino households
    have higher rates of poverty than White households
  • 35% of African Americans own a home in MetroWest,
    compared to White households at 68%
Bar chart titled "Median Household Income". Y axis represents 2017 Median Household Income in dollar amounts up to $125,000. X axis represents four racial groups "Asian", "Black or African American", "Hispanic/Latino", and "White". The Asian population has the highest median household income according to this data, followed by White population, and then Black or African American population followed by Hispanic/Latino with the least Median Household Income of these groups. Source: Impactmw.org
Bar chart titled "Poverty Rates". Y axis represents percentages from 0 to 30%. X axis represents four racial groups "Asian", "Black or African American", "Hispanic/Latino", and "White". Generally, Black or African American and Hispanic/Latino populations have the highest level of poverty. Source: Impactmw.org
Bar chart titled "Homeownership". Y axis labelled "Total Occupied Units" with percentages from 0 to 75%.. X axis represents four racial groups "Asian", "Black or African American", "Hispanic/Latino", and "White". Generally, Asian and White populations have the highest percentages of homeownership, and Black or African American and Hispanic/Latino populations have the lowest. Source: Impactmw.org

Inquire Now

To learn more about our Action Projects and how you can support them, contact Matt Jose, Senior Program Officer, Action Projects.