Vargas: Haverhill Facing a Significant Housing ‘Crisis’

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Making rent, coming up with down payments or simply keeping a roof over one’s head is a becoming a significant problem in Haverhill, state Rep. Andy Vargas tells WHAV.

In fact, the sophomore Beacon Hill policymaker went so far as to call the issue a “crisis,” telling co-host Ralph Basiliere that housing is the biggest worry faced by his constituents in recent months.

“We all know how much of a crisis this is—and I would call it a crisis,” he said. “The No. 1 issue that we get calls for in my office has to do with housing, whether it’s people being forced out of their homes, people that can’t find rent in Haverhill, can’t come up with down payments to qualify for some of the mortgage programs that are out there. Housing is a tremendous problem.”

According to Vargas, while unemployment rate is at an all-time low and downtown development is booming, a look at the bigger picture is necessary.

“What is the quality of life like for the average American, the average Haverhill resident working 40 hours a week on a minimum wage job or a little bit above that?” Vargas said.

To that end, Vargas has filed legislation alongside his Statehouse peers in a push for housing reform, urging the House to establish a committee to review housing production and equity in the Commonwealth.

As WHAV previously reported, Haverhill has several new housing projects underway. The former Gerson furniture building on Washington Street is being turned into 54 units of veteran housing in March 2020, with other plans to overhaul the former Haverhill Music Centre and Trattoria Al Forno restaurant into properties.

In his annual State of the City address last month, Mayor James J. Fiorentini called for the city to take direct action on illegal housing by strengthening its inspectional services team.

“We’re determined to clean up illegal and substandard apartments,” Fiorentini said. “Within the past few weeks, we uncovered nine illegal housing and three illegal rooming houses here in the city. Now we need to add to that inspectional services team. Expanding inspections will improve our housing stock and help to bring the middle class back to areas where we need them the most.”

The mayor says that his new approach in fixing the city’s housing stock and while targeting crime will help in bringing in more homeowners.

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