The Gateway Cities Journal
News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities


Swinging big on family homelessness


Last week Governor-elect Baker made a solid play by signing on Chrystal Kornegay to lead the Department of Housing and Community Development. A dynamic affordable housing leader known for persevering through thorny challenges, Kornegay will now shoulder responsibility for addressing family homelessness. Despite dogged attempts by the legislature and the Patrick administration to turn the tide, a growing number of Massachusetts families lack secure housing. Family homelessness is clearly one of the state's most vexing problems. The Governor-elect has pledged to find a fix.


Gateway Cities will be cheering Baker on because they are shouldering a large share of the financial cost that the crisis exacts on communities. The conversion of hotels to de facto homeless shelters means many of these cities are losing out on hotel excise taxes. Even more costly is the expense of transporting homeless students back to schools in the communities where they previously resided, as required by federal law. This leaves Gateway Cities with fewer dollars to serve the many homeless students who opt to enroll in their school districts, adding to the financial strain these high-poverty systems endure.


Sensitive to these concerns, Baker has pledged that his response to homelessness will include reimbursing cities for the costs they incur. Fair compensation would go a long way for mayors and managers struggling to make municipal budgets work, but it is not simply a question of financial self-interest for Gateway Cities. These communities proudly want to serve as launching pads for families fighting to succeed in our Commonwealth's economy. Rather than a quick budgetary fix, what they want most is policy solutions that give families experiencing homeless the greatest shot at achieving sustainable self-sufficiency.


Housing providers argue this means coupling housing support with education, job training, and child care, services that will almost certainly cost more than the additional funding Baker will be able to free up to tackle this problem. Success will inevitably mean making hard choices about the distribution of existing resources. For instance, Baker has suggested time limiting housing resources so that more families have an opportunity to use stable housing as a pathway to economic security. Research suggests that such an approach could provide real benefits by reallocating resources to programs that can improve the life prospects of children. But studies also indicate that imposing time limits may make adults worse off.


Weighing the tradeoffs to make informed choices will mean building DHCD's capacity to assemble and analyze data on outcomes. For a system that expends hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer resources every year, it is essential that we know more than just how many are housed, for how long, and at what cost on a per unit basis. Homelessness has long-term intergenerational consequences as well as multiple consequences for communities most impacted (for example, the high number of students churning through Gateway City classrooms harms both the mobile and the stable learners).


The strength of Governor-elect Baker's campaign was his passion for a government that operates efficiently and gets it right. With a strong team behind him and an issue that begs for a hard-nosed, data-driven approach, family homelessness seems like the right pitch for him to swing big.


--Ben Forman



National Scene


This week in Worcester, MassINC hosted Senator Warren at a meeting of Gateway City newspaper editors. During her hour long interview, Sen. Warren vowed to keep fighting for Gateway Cities and expressed feeling 'chapped' about the income inequalities that are holding Gateway Cities back, reports CommonWealth


Housing & Economic Development


The BBJ reports on Transformative Development Initiative district designations. The Salem News takes a look at Peabody's successful proposal.


Holyoke city officials release a survey to residents to garner citizen input on housing and community development priorities. The survey asks questions pertaining to infrastructure, public facilities, and housing needs. 


As the new administration prepares to take office, some Gateway Cities are hopeful that Governor-elect Charlie Baker will keep to his word and continue to provide local aid to help the economic growth of their cities.


Lowell's Mill Number 5 becomes a hip haven.


The Globe reports on Marty Meehan's links to defense contractors and UMass Lowell's rise as an economic engine in the Merrimack Valley.


The state approves an EDIP incentive package to support the expansion of EasyPak, a plastics manufacturer in Leominster. Amazon withdraws from the state Economic Assistance Council meeting where EDIP packages are approved without explanation. Local officials say the company's plans for a million-square-foot distribution complex in Fall River are still on track.


Creative Placemaking


In an effort to boost the city's arts and culture programs, the New Bedford Cultural Council awarded over $70,000 in grants to local organizations and individuals looking to promote the arts across all sectors of the city.


Lowell is a city of canals and culture.




New Bedford Superintendent Pia Durkin is named The Standard-Times 2014 SouthCoast Woman of the Year.


The Patrick administration awards Early College High School grants. The Haverhill Gazette reports on Haverhill's successful application.


Peabody begins discussing whether to lengthen the school day, the Item reports.




Rising property values are pushing up Lowell property taxes.


The Sun Chronicle profiles Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas and the city's accomplishments in 2014 as well as an optimistic look at 2015.


Fall River city councilors say they are looking to forge a closer relationship with Mayor-elect Sam Sutter after years of strained relations with departing Mayor Will Flanagan, ousted by voters in a recall election earlier this week. IncomingMayor Sam Sutter issues a cautious message to residents that the city's budget issues may result in some tough measures and he hopes to release an economic development plan to address some of the cities issues within the first six months of his term.




Mayor Alex Morse and the city of Holyoke pass a "complete streets" ordinance to better accommodate city residents. This ordinance ensures that all future projects are planned with the interests of citizens in mind, regardless of their mode of transportation. The construction of an Amtrak station is underway in Holyoke as the city prepares to be added to the Vermonter train line.



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