Report title: Towards an Evidence-Based Housing Policy in Fall River, Massachusetts

Author(s): Michael P. McCarthy, Jason D. Wright, Dr. Michael D. Goodman, David R. Borges

Report date: November 2016

Issue areas: housing development, subsidized housing, homelessness, economic development

Summary & key findings: This research seeks to inform an ongoing public discussion that is taking place in Fall River about current housing conditions and relevant policies spearheaded by Representative Carole Fiola, who convened a Housing Policy Working Group in the winter of 2015 as a direct result of housing-related concerns voiced by residents. The study brings evidence and objective information to bear on this critical conversation and provides community leaders with the information and data they require to inform the development of a new housing policy for the City of Fall River.

Key findings include:

  • The majority of Fall River’s housing stock is rental housing constructed before 1940, and as such, is more prone to structural issues related to this type of housing such as blight and substandard living conditions, which are exacerbated by staffing limitations in the Inspectional Services department.
  • Owner-occupancy decreased in multifamily housing by 16.6% from 2009 to 2014, which demonstrates the increase in absentee landlords noted by stakeholders during key informant interviews.
  • Fall River’s housing market has not recovered from the recession, as evidenced by in overall declines in permitting for new construction, volume of sales, and sale prices from 2005 to 2015.
  • Approximately two in five Fall River households (43.0%) are housing burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
  • Subsidized housing units account for 18.2 percent of all units in Fall River, and 28.3 percent of all rental units, with the majority (61.1%) managed by the Fall River Housing Authority in form of vouchers or public housing units.
  • Like other cities throughout the Commonwealth Fall River receives disproportionate share of families participating in state housing stabilization programs and homeless shelter placements, but Fall River is home to more HomeBASE recipients than other cities in its service region (Brockton, New Bedford, and Taunton).
  • The City of Fall River lacks the technology required for interdepartmental data sharing, creating an environment in which local officials have a reactive response when problem properties reach crisis levels, rather than collaborating on preventative approaches.
  • Low rents and property values have contributed to an environment in which market rate development is financially infeasible without a developer or tenant subsidy.

Report link:  Access the report here.