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Lack of affordable housing is focus of May Day rally outside Worcester City Hall

WORCESTER ― Dozens of folks gathered in entrance of City Hall on Wednesday, rallying for truthful, residing wages, truthful contracts and affordable housing in honor of “May Day,” or International Workers’ Day, commemorated annually on the primary day of May.

Union carpenters stood collectively in arduous hats close to the steps whereas different attendees held indicators requesting truthful wages and affordable housing.

Lew Finfer, director and group organizer at Massachusetts Communities Action Network, mentioned that though progress has been made for the reason that first May Day within the 1800s, there is nonetheless work to do.

According to a examine from Forbes, Worcester was ranked as the third most competitive rental market alongside the East Coast, primarily based on pricing, availability and population.

Worcester had the second-lowest rental emptiness charge among the many areas Forbes checked out, and native renters confronted the third-highest year-over-year lease will increase. Forbes put the median rental value in Worcester at $1,995 monthly.

The publication mentioned the rating is as a result of “extremely low vacancy rates and some of the worst availability of rental units.”

People cheer during the May Day rally outside Worcester City Hall.People cheer during the May Day rally outside Worcester City Hall.

People cheer through the May Day rally outside Worcester City Hall.

The Worcester Together Affordable Housing Coalition was one of the teams that pushed for an inclusionary zoning law in April 2023. Rob Bilotta, co-chair of the coalition, mentioned affordable housing needs to be a assure for metropolis residents.

“What good is housing for all of us if none of us in Worcester can afford to live here?” Bilotta requested.

On a neighborhood stage, Bilotta mentioned, there must be a push for extra affordable housing for seniors and disabled folks, noting many of the brand new condominium complexes in Worcester don’t qualify.

“We’re not doing enough of that in Worcester and we need to do better,” Bilotta mentioned. “We need to be sure as we’re building more housing that we’re hiring local people. We also need to be sure that housing is affordable.”

Kawanee Dozier spoke about her housing expertise in Worcester. When she and her companion moved to town they stayed with some “old friends,” she mentioned.

“We were in such a good place,” Dozier mentioned. “I was so proud of us.”

On April 24, 2023, every part modified. Her mattress’s headboard caught hearth from a candle whereas she was napping. It unfold shortly, and Dozier misplaced every part.

“We ended up living with my mother-in-law for a while. We were looking for a new place to move to. Application after application, wasting money we didn’t have,” Dozier mentioned. “No one was willing to take us. According to my research, landlords generally prefer a minimum credit score of 670 to 730. Imagine that for 20-year-olds trying to go out on our own.”

Finfer additionally pushed for cash from the Community Development Block grant and the Community Preservation Act for use for affordable housing within the metropolis.

“I think the groups really [should] look at those budgets and those two funding sources, and they’re not majorly going to affordable housing,” Finfer mentioned. “You want to push them to change that because that’s the top issue clearly in your city, how those funds should be used.”

“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis, not just here in Mass, but in the nation,” Dalída Rocha, government director of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, mentioned. “On April 20, NBC reported that for a family of four to live comfortably in Massachusetts, you need to make over $300,000 a year. I’m a single mother of three, so a family of four, and I make nowhere near that.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021 the median family earnings in Massachusetts was $56,746. Median earnings for Worcester residents are within the backside 5 p.c of Massachusetts’ 351 municipalities.

“Renters make up the bulk of Worcester residents,” Dozier mentioned. “If income increases remain stagnant and housing costs continue to soar, it’s no wonder our unsheltered population continues to grow.”

This article initially appeared on Telegram & Gazette: May Day rally focuses on lack of affordable housing in Worcester

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