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A Place to Live: Creating Long-term Solutions for Homelessness

by Emily Langner

On season 2, episode 15 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia welcomed Marc Margulies, principal and senior partner at Margulies Peruzzi, and Joe Finn, president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA). They are working to change the ways in which homelessness is addressed in Massachusetts, something that continues to be a complex issue and one that demands immediate solutions.

Marc Margulies

They talked about their mission to create an efficient, cost-effective, and replicable model of new construction designed specifically to address the needs of long-term and chronically homeless people in the state.

Finn and Margulies pointed out that, at the root of homelessness is the lack of appropriate housing for a significant part of the population, so creating that available housing is the first step. They are creating low-threshold housing that first invites a person in and then applies the appropriate resources and services particularly as that person feels they need them. They also emphasized that if you design the structure right from the start with everything it needs to serve its purpose, the building can be smaller and the units can be larger because all those things can be built into a cost-effective model.

In 2018, MHSA launched the “A Place to Live” initiative, a scalable, cost-effective and permanent supportive housing solution consisting of models that can be replicated in communities across the Commonwealth to provide housing to people with highest need and who have been homeless for many years. The model is based on a design concept by Margulies Perruzzi and consists of modular housing, constructed off-site. Margulies said the energy efficiency of these buildings, built to Passive House standards, far exceeds what can be built in the field. Additionally, they cost 30% less than a traditional construction model and take half the time to build.

Joe Finn

The first of the pilot projects will be completed in September. Margulies said the pilot project includes important aspects that are key to understanding how to move forward with the concept; most important are the ability to develop a delivery system that includes the right kind of leadership, the right kind of procurement processes, the right kinds of relationships with the modular manufacturers, and the right understanding of what each of their abilities are and how to coordinate them.

Finn and Margulies said it is important to provide housing that is respectful and set up for independent living. Prioritizing a “housing first” approach ensures that residents achieve the stability they need to be successful in the long term.

For more information on the “A Place to Live” initiative, visit https://mhsa.net/.

Listen to season 2, episode 15 now!

Emily Langner is editor at High-Profile Monthly.