The Department of Housing and Community Development is ready to help families in need during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Emergency Housing Assistance during COVID-19
Table of Contents
Get help now with rent and mortgage payments
Are you having trouble paying your rent or mortgage because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you lost your job or lost income during the Covid-19 health crisis? Are you at risk of becoming homeless?
You may be eligible to receive help with paying your rent or mortgage. The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) offers programs that can assist low-income households. Find Spanish language resources about these programs.
Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program may provide up to 12 months of rental assistance, and the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs may provide income-eligible households with up to $10,000 to pay overdue or future rent or mortgage costs. There is one application for all three programs, staff at regional agencies will determine your eligibility.
Landlords and tenants who do not have a written lease can document their agreement by using a simple Tenancy at Will Form (available in multiple languages at link), or another form of written documentation.
It is very important you complete your application to the fullest extend possible when you submit.
Please use the tool linked below to find your regional agency and see the income limits for eligibility in your region based on household size. You can also call 2-1-1 for more information.
Details on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
The new Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) leverages new federal funding for eligible low-income tenants who are in need of financial assistance. With the launch of the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, applicants should not notice significant changes in the application process, and may be eligible to receive funds from either ERAP, RAFT, or ERMA.
How does the new Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program differ from RAFT and ERMA?
There are key differences in program requirements:
- COVID-19 Impact: Renters must be able to provide a statement attesting to unemployment, decreased wages, or increased expenses due to COVID-19.
- Higher Benefit and Longer-term relief: Households may be eligible for up to twelve (12) months of rental arrears (plus an extra 3 months if funding allows and need is demonstrated), as well as overdue utilities arrears up to $1,500. All rent and utility arrears must have been, accrued after 3/13/20.
- Under RAFT/ERMA, renters and landlords may receive up to $10,000 during state of emergency and up to $7,000 for six months after end of state of emergency.
- Higher income eligibility: Renters applying for assistance may earn up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Visit our agency locator to determine a region’s AMI.
- For comparison, RAFT has an income eligibility limit of 50% AMI (60% for Domestic Violence); ERMA has the same eligibility limit of 80% AMI.
- Use limits: Renters may only receive help with rent and utilities accrued since March 13, 2020.
The IRS has issued FAQs that state that the IRS does not consider Federal emergency rental assistance payments to be taxable income. You can view those here.
RAFT/ERMA can help with mortgage payments. Additionally, RAFT/ERMA can also provide assistance regardless of COVID-19 impacts.
RAFT/ERMA applications may also be considered for the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP); no additional or separate application is required. ERAP includes benefits that can exceed $10,000 and include slightly different eligibility requirements, along with a preference for households with one or more members that have been unemployed 90 days or more at the time of application or who have income below 50% of the Area Median Income. We will match you with the most appropriate program based on your needs and circumstances, and may ask additional questions beyond those in the application.
You can find the above paragraph in the following languages here in Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Khmer/Cambodian, Russian, and Vietnamese.
Important Information for Boston tenants: The Federal government is providing funds for emergency rent and utility assistance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and also directly to the City of Boston. The City of Boston is setting up their own program to cover Boston residents. If you live in Boston, you may wish to apply to their program.
You cannot receive assistance from both the City and the State at the same time. This is only applicable to tenants living in the city of Boston
Details on the RAFT and ERMA programs
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program
The RAFT program helps keep households in stable housing situations when facing eviction, foreclosure, loss of utilities, and other housing emergencies caused by loss of income, increase in expenses, or both. RAFT helps all kinds of households by providing up to $10,000 per household to help preserve current housing or move to new housing.
Funding can be used for a variety of needs, including rent or mortgage arrears, security deposits, or other expenses to help households obtain or maintain stable housing. Households with incomes up to 50% of Area Median Income (AMI)*, or 60% of AMI for people who are at risk of homelessness because of domestic violence, are eligible for assistance.
Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program (ERMA)
ERMA can provide rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households who have been impacted by the crisis and may not be eligible for RAFT. This program is available for households within the 50-80% range of Area Median Income (AMI). Like RAFT, ERMA may provide up to $4,000 for eligible households to assist with rent or mortgage arrears accrued after April 1, 2020 and/or with upcoming rent or mortgage payments.
Use the agency lookup tool above to determine regional income levels to assess their eligibility. These can also be found here: ERMA Area Median Income Information.
Foreclosure and forbearance information for homeowners
Beyond the financial assistance available through RAFT and ERMA detailed above, there are additional resources available for homeowners concerned about paying their mortgage due to the coronavirus national emergency. It is important that you contact your mortgage servicer (the company where you send your monthly payments) as soon as possible to let them know about your current circumstances.
The Federal CARES Act provides protections for owner-occupants of 1-4 family properties with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) backed or funded (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac). You can learn about your options, find out if you quality, and request forbearance or mortgage relief by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
A forbearance means that the monthly mortgage payments that you would otherwise have been required to pay to your lender/servicer are not required to be made for a period of 180 days. If your mortgage was not in default prior to the forbearance period, the mortgage will not go into default by reason of your missed monthly mortgage payments during the 180-day forbearance period. A forbearance does not mean that these monthly mortgage payments are forgiven. You still owe the mortgage loan payments, but they will be added to the end of the mortgage loan term
It is also important to remember that a forbearance is not automatic. You need to contact your lender/servicer to request a forbearance and affirm that you have experienced a negative financial impact due to COVID-19.
Remember, you may also be eligible for mortgage assistance under the state’s RAFT or ERMA program. Contact your regional housing agency, where you can connect to various resources, including emergency assistance for eligible owner-occupants of 1-4 family homes. You can find your regional housing agency by clicking here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
The Massachusetts Division of Banks has compiled an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the eviction and foreclosure moratorium for more detailed information.
A federal law passed on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, puts in place protections for homeowners with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) backed or funded (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac).
If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (use the "loan lookup" tools for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to find out), you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period
You can learn about your options, find out if you quality, and request forbearance or mortgage relief by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- CFPB video: CARES Act Mortgage Forbearance: What You Need to Know
- FHFA: Mortgage Help for Homeowners Impacted by the Coronavirus
- Federal Housing Finance Agency: No Lump Sum Required at the End of Forbearance
- How to Find Out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac Owns Your Mortgage
- CSBS-CFPB Industry Guidance Forbearance
- VA: Help to Avoid Foreclosure
Details on the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) Program
Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA), a collaboration with MassHousing and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP), allows qualified owners of income-restricted units, as well as Local Housing Authorities, to apply for help directly on behalf of all of their income-eligible residents with past-due rent.
This will expedite relief to tenants in need, while also allowing regional administering agencies to concentrate on applications from non-subsidized tenants in need of assistance.
More details for qualified property owners will be announced soon.
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