There’s one word that seems to be on everyone’s mind in Eastern Massachusetts these days: affordability. For longtime residents feeling squeezed by rising rents and mortgages, to new arrivals unsure how they can afford to live in Massachusetts, to businesses trying to encourage talent to move to the Commonwealth, affordability is top of mind.
Issues of affordability are central to our work at GBFB. One in three of our neighbors’ face food insecurity, a historic level of need, and among those facing food insecurity, 64% had to choose between paying for housing and paying for food. By providing over 90 million meals across 190 communities in Eastern Massachusetts, twice as many as before the pandemic, GBFB is helping families make fewer tradeoffs and fulfill their basic needs.
Across the nation, people are struggling to make ends meet due to issues of affordability. According to a study by the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, in October 2023 the typical American household must now spend nearly $11,500 more annually to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed in January 2021 (that number is $11,624 in Massachusetts). The cost-of-living crisis is even more pressing in Massachusetts. Fifty years ago, home prices in the Commonwealth were in line with the national average – but today, they are double the national average. A Boston Public School teacher in the 1980s could buy the median-priced home in Boston for 4.5 times their salary. Today, that median home price is 11 times the average BPS school teacher salary. Renting is no rosier – just in 2022, rents in Boston rose by 14%.
These issues are experienced differently depending on race. Unequal access to home purchasing historically has been a major contributor to the racial wealth gap. In 2015, only one-third of African-Americans and less than 20% of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in Boston were homeowners. Disparities of home ownership between Black and white families are, in fact, as high as they have been since the Jim Crow era. The median Black household in Boston has a net worth of only $8, partially due to the lingering effects of historical lack of access to homeownership.
GBFB’s Public Affairs team advocates for policies to tackle the underlying causes of the Massachusetts’ affordability crisis, such as The Real Estate Transfer Fee, included in Governor Healey’s Affordable Homes Act, giving municipalities the choice to collect revenue from high-value real estate transactions to support affordable housing, and increases in cash assistance to families with children living in deep poverty. We applaud the legislature for significant investments in affordability initiatives, including the simplified and expanded Child and Family Tax Credit, but we hear from our neighbors that much more must be done.
Your voice matters – join GBFB’s network of advocates who fight for sustainable policy change that help people keep food on the table. Consider donating to ensure that GBFB can continue to increase access to nutritious and culturally responsive food at no cost to our neighbors facing food insecurity who know firsthand the scale of the affordability crisis.