After dealing with long affordable housing waitlists and navigating endless red tape, I found that keeping our family together was no easy feat.
I understand, very personally, the barriers to affordable housing that so many families face in Somerville. In my case, I literally had to win the lottery to gain access to affordable housing.
My family’s needs were specific. Like other families in our community, we’re multigenerational. With my two small children and grandmother in her late eighties who relied on a walker, our unit would have to be both deleaded and ADA accessible, on street level or with access to an elevator. And, of course, we would have to be able to afford rent.
I desperately wanted my grandmother to be able to stay with us, and to age in place outside of a nursing home facility. But after dealing with long affordable housing waitlists and navigating endless red tape, I found that keeping our family together was no easy feat.
I chose to run for office because I made a personal commitment that I would work to improve my community so that no other person would feel that shame, that hopelessness, that fear, that I felt. Now, as a city councilor and chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee, I’ve advocated to ensure that tenants know their rights, fought against displacement and evictions, and supported the eviction moratorium. I’ve pushed to create more multi-bedroom and ADA-accessible affordable housing stock; advocated for more resources to be allocated to the Office of Housing Stability, testified at the Massachusetts State House numerous times to support funding for Somerville affordable housing projects; boosted the work of the SomerVIP program, which incentivizes landlords and realtors to rent to renters with Section 8 vouchers; worked to ensure the city is best supporting the work and needs of the Somerville Community Land Trust, and much more.
And I’m just getting started.
I was glad to see my struggles to find affordable housing in Somerville reflected in Tyler Haughn’s recent article in Dig about the barriers, efforts, and changemakers defining Somerville’s current housing crisis. Despite affordable and accessible housing posing an undeniable threat to Somerville’s sustainability and success, a stigma still surrounds the topic of low-income housing. The voices and stories featured in the article are helping combat this stigma. As someone who’s dedicated their career to mitigating the affordability crisis, I strongly resonate with it, and I thank the Dig for highlighting this issue.
The affordability crisis impacts nearly 40% of Somerville residents. Hearing the countless stories like mine—of Somerville residents struggling to stay in their beloved community — ultimately motivated me to step forward and run for Somerville city councilor at-large two years ago and again for re-election in November.
Fighting for affordable and accessible housing is a cornerstone of my work as councilor, and it’s my goal to continue the efforts and conversation necessary to destigmatize and address the crisis. I was lucky enough to find a housing unit that met my family’s diverse needs and enabled us to continue to choose Somerville as our home. We must not stop working until all our residents have that same opportunity.
Kristen Strezo (she/hers) is a Somerville city councilor at-large running for re-election in the upcoming municipal election on November 2, 2021. She is the chair of the city council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, sits on the Affordable Housing Land Trust Committee and is also a member of a statewide coalition of policymakers working to expand Affordable Housing funding options throughout the Commonwealth. A single mother and lifelong activist, she is the only Somerville city councilor who lives in affordable housing.