Mass Reboot: Home

The coronavirus pandemic has often served as a magnifying glass, accentuating and amplifying existing trends in our society.

With housing, for example, COVID-19 showed us what we already suspected – that poor people and people of color are most vulnerable to displacement from their homes in tough economic times, that access to housing is one of the key contributing factors to the state’s wealth gap, and that the failure to increase the supply of housing keeps home prices rising to higher and higher levels. 

“There’s not enough house to go around. It gets worse progressively as the years continue,” said Symone Crawford of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. 

The latest edition of Mass Reboot, a Codcast series examining how COVID-19 affected Massachusetts and how the state is adjusting moving forward, explores many of these issues through interviews with Crawford; Denise Matthews-Turner, co-executive director of City Life Vida Urbana; and Jessie Partridge Guerrero of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

But COVID also introduced a new wrinkle that could have a big impact on the housing market going forward. After decades of commuting to and from work, COVID demonstrated that many people could work just as effectively from home. And the home/office could be anywhere. With a good internet connection, someone could work for a Massachusetts company while living down the block, across the country, or even abroad. 

Many young people moved back in with their parents – why pay Boston rents when all you’re doing is sitting in your pajamas at home staring at a computer screen? Others moved to California or Texas and worked remotely.

Surveys conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, which produces Mass Reboot, indicate 60 percent of the state’s workforce would like to continue to work from home post-pandemic, at least a couple of days a week. Employers are not averse to the idea, either. 

So where does that leave us? As we emerge from our pandemic-induced quarantine, it’s unclear whether we will revert to our old commute-to-work ways or whether homes will continue to double as workplaces. And if your office is your home, how will you decide where you want to live? Will cities still draw us in, or will we disperse to where homes are cheaper and rents are less?

There are a lot of questions and very few answers. Libby Gormley, the host of Mass Reboot, said COVID didn’t cause the state’s housing problem but it did expose how bad it is. As for the future of housing, she said she’s still looking for the reboot.

“There isn‘t one, at least not yet, but boy do we need one,” she said.

BRUCE MOHL

FROM COMMONWEALTH

16 months of talk yields no consensus: A special commission appointed to make recommendations on how to improve the way child abuse is reported ended up getting nowhere because the system to protect children is so flawed. We all react in horror when a child dies or is harmed and child welfare officials fail to see the warning signs, but less visible are the many false allegations of child abuse that rupture families unnecessarily.

— Maria Mossaides, the state’s child advocate and a member of the commission, said the said the panel worried that expanding the list of mandated reporters of child abuse could lead to more false accusations. In the commission’s report, Mossaides wrote that members of the panel had “a deep concern that a system that relies on individual judgment determinations is inextricably tied to individual biases and structural racism, ablism [discrimination in favor of able-bodied people], and classism.”

— Rep. Michael Finn, a West Springfield Democrat who co-chairs the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, said lawmakers may still use the report to pass some changes in the law. “Obviously you have to get the whole Legislature to agree, but I think there will be areas that we can pull from that report where the Legislature might feel as though we can implement some changes,” Finn said. Read more.

Cassellius contract extended: The Boston School Committee, seeking to avoid destabilizing the school system at a critical juncture, voted 4-1 to extend the contract of Superintendent Brenda Cassellius another two years. Several candidates for mayor urged the committee not to extend the contract, but committee members felt they had little choice. “We have a deep responsibility to drive stability,” said Hardin Coleman. Quoc Tran said he wasn’t about to turn Cassellius into a lame duck. Read more.

House backs project labor agreement: The House voted to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of language requiring a contractor to use union labor in building a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The Republican governor said the project labor agreement would drive up construction costs and restrict the involvement of minorities, but the Democrat-controlled House rejected his warnings. The Senate is expected to follow suit with its own override vote. Read more.

OPINION

Show to go on: Josiah Spaulding Jr., the president and CEO of the Boch Center, said the operator of the Wang and Schubert Theatres is gearing up to reopen this fall with the help of $9 million in federal aid and the prospect of some new state help. Spaulding said he has invested in air purification equipment and touchless technology. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston City Council turned down a $850,000 grant for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, a police department unit that tracks gang activity, with Public Safety Committee chair Andrea Campbell criticizing the sometimes controversial center for a “lack of transparency and lack of accountability.” (Boston Herald)

Former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia and his fiancee, Jenny Fernandes, are getting married on August 20, one month before his September 20 sentencing on federal corruption charges. (Herald News)  

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Experts say the Delta variant does not pose a great risk to those who have been vaccinated. (Boston Globe)

It’s a race against time to get shots in arms in New Bedford, where vaccination rates lag far behind the state average. Public health officials worry that declining COVID-19 rates could make a u-turn as festival season ramps up and the Delta variant looms. (New Bedford Light) 

Legacy Lifecare, which operates nursing homes and assisted living facilities, becomes the first senior care provider in the state to mandate COVID vaccines for all employees. (Boston Globe)

$32,000 in seized drug crime money has been reinvested to aid rehabilitation and education in Plymouth County. District Attorney Tim Cruz donated the funds to community groups focused on aiding people recovering from substance abuse. (Patriot Ledger)

Some veterans are asking that PTSD be added to the list of conditions that makes someone eligible to become a medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts. (Eagle-Tribune)

The VaxMillions Lottery opens today, offering the opportunity to win $1 million to anyone who is fully vaccinated. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg surrendered to authorities this morning to face tax charges. (New York Times 

Politico says dissension and chaos are rife in Vice President Kamala Harris’s office. 

ELECTIONS

Keith Lee said he withdrew from the race for mayor in Lynn after he was racially profiled while gathering signatures. (Daily Item)

Mayoral candidate John Barros says Boston needs an arts development agency to ensure places for artists throughout the city that don’t get pushed out by gentrification. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

A proposal for Boston exam school admissions that would allocate 80 percent of seats within tiers based on socioeconomic factors but have 20 percent of seats awarded on a strict rank-order basis from all applicants citywide is facing backlash from critics who think all seats should be allocated within tiers. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Massachusetts’ new climate law is facing its first tests, with a series of changes set to go into effect in the next two years. (Associated Press)

Environmental groups pressure the owner of a gas-fired power plant in Pittsfield that runs only when power demand is high to shift to more environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

North Shore leaders call for an all-electric commuter rail system to improve service. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

New guidance from a special commission for police accountability holds police to a higher standard when interacting with children, especially Black children. In encounters with minors, officers should prioritize deescalation, calmness, and respect, while emphasizing their role as  peacekeepers. (WBUR

Bill Cosby is released from prison after a court overturns his sexual assault conviction. (Associated Press)

A Boston police officer is publicly reprimanded by the State Ethics Commission for writing a false arrest report for his friend’s brother. The man was an MBTA bus driver who asked for the report to explain his absence from work in order to avoid losing his job. (MassLive)

MEDIA

The University of North Carolina reverses course and grants tenure to former New York Times star reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. (NPR)