Shared Housing Services Organizations (SHSO)
Massachusetts municipalities have invested in the creation of affordable housing in their community, perhaps through direct financial support or zoning ordinances. Yet there is a gap in the expertise and staff capacity to track, administer, support, and promote affordable housing in the community for many cities and towns. One way to fill this gap is for a group of municipalities to collaborate by establishing a shared housing services organization (SHSO). An SHSO is a collaborative, multi-jurisdictional organization that provides for cost-effective and proactive management and monitoring of affordable housing for participating member communities. An SHSO augments existing staff's capacity by providing the expertise and staffing needed to manage and monitor the affordable housing track on a continual basis. Additionally, a regional collaboration provides a forum for municipalities to share ideas, approaches, strategies, and initiatives to common topics and issues.
The establishment of the first Regional Housing Services Office, currently based in Concord, ( RHSO) in 2011, resulted from two parallel efforts, one led by The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC) and the other by a group of municipalities in Metrowest. This collaboration continues to be active and currently includes 9 communities (Acton, Bedford, Concord, Lexington, Bedford, Lincoln, Maynard, Sudbury. Wayland and Weston). The RHSO has withstood numerous changes, including changes in the lead community, membership, structure, and staff, demonstrating that the model is sustainable. The Regional Housing Services office was awarded the Kenneth Pickard MMA Municipal Innovation Award in 2011.
The Concord-based Regional Housing Services Office provided a model for other SHSO's Massachusetts. In 2013, several communities along Route 495 collaborated in forming the Assabet Regional Housing Consortium with the town of Hudson as the lead community and MetroWest Collaborative Development Inc. as the service provider. This collaboration serves 8 communities, including Bolton, Boxborough, Devens, Harvard, Hudson, Lancaster, Littleton, and Stow.
In 2018, communities north of Boston engaged MAPC for assistance creating the Metro North Regional Housing Services Office (MetroNorth RHSO). With the town of Reading taking the lead, MetroNorth SHSO is now actively serving five communities (Reading, North Reading, Saugus, Wilmington, and Woburn)
Currently, there are 22 municipalities participating in regional housing services collaborations, agreeing to share costs and expenses. Over the last few years, the SHSO concept has been explored by other MAPC sub-regions and other Massachusetts Regional Planning Agencies (RPAs) as a possible approach to providing housing-related services to their member communities.
The following pages are intended to provide an overview of how SHSO's get created, what services they can provide, possible organizational and payment structures, and specific tips and templates for successful SHSO operation.