$171 million total commitment in FY21, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year. Key highlights:
- $100 million in emergency rental assistance through RAFT.
- Up to $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to bring tenants and landlords together to find a resolution.
- Nearly $50 million for post-eviction rapid rehousing.
EXPANSION Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
Massachusetts will provide nearly $100 million in additional funding and streamline the application process, allowing landlords with 20 or fewer units to apply with tenant consent. For COVID-related housing crises, the maximum RAFT benefit has increased from $4,000 to $10,000 per household, on the condition that tenancy can be preserved for 6 months, or until June 2021 for households with school-aged children, whichever is longer.
EXPANSION Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs)
The nine regional HCECs represent the “front door” for residents to access many state and federal programs. HCECs manage the RAFT/ERMA program on behalf of DHCD, and new funding will enable agencies to hire Special Housing Counselors to help households with more complicated needs navigate available resources.
NEW Community Mediation Pre-Court
The Administration is working with partners to make mediation services widely available for renters and landlords to support pre-court and pre-trial settlement of eviction cases. Mediation would assist in situations where agreement cannot be reached through the standard RAFT or ERMA (Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance) program.
NEW Legal Representation and Related Services
To prevent evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, legal aid offices are hiring more lawyers and paralegals to help low-income people who are dealing with eviction. Through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) six legal aid programs will assist low-income tenants, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project will provide legal assistance for low-income owner-occupants of 2- and 3-family homes.
EXPANSION Upstream Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP)
The current TPP assists households where a family member has a disability and has a tremendous success rate in keeping vulnerable families housed through mediation with a neutral third party. The initiative expands this program to serve other vulnerable households, including those eligible for Family Emergency Assistance and low-income seniors.
EXPANSION HomeBASE and Rapid Rehousing
As an additional safety-net, HomeBASE, the Commonwealth’s rapid rehousing benefit, and the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI) will be expanded and continue to offer financial assistance and stabilization case management services to families as they are in the process of securing stable housing. A new temporary emergency program will also provide funds to households for periods of up to 12 months to assist with moving expenses, rent, including first or last month’s, or security deposit, while transitioning into a stable housing situations.
Interactive EDI Dashboards
Dashboards include summary statistics about each of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative programs and are updated on a monthly basis.
When the state moratorium expires, a moratorium established by Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) will become effective in Massachusetts. Through March 31, 2021, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to household who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found here.
The Administration will be doing broad outreach to stakeholders with information on resources and how to access them. In addition, Mass 2-1-1 will be available starting Tuesday, October 13th, to answer questions and refer people to assistance. For web information, visit: www.mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp