- Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
- Housing and Community Development
- Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Upcoming Closure of Federal Rental Assistance Programs to New Applications, State Programs Remain Available
Michael Verseckes, Director of Media and Public Relations
BOSTON — Today, the Baker-Polito Administration alerted renters, landlords, regional agencies, and other stakeholders that the Massachusetts housing payment assistance programs funded by federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) will stop accepting new applications on or around April 15, 2022. This decision is based on the remaining balance of available federal funding. Federally funded programs include the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) program, and the ERAP-Enhanced HomeBASE program. After April 15, households will still be able to apply for the state-funded Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, subject to funding availability. Other existing eviction prevention programming will continue to be available for eligible households.
The Department of Housing and Community Development, in partnership with its network of Regional Administering Agencies, has distributed more than $582 million to approximately 72,000 households since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and anticipates it will use all remaining federal funding for the three ERA programs before the end of the current fiscal year.
Last month, the Baker-Polito Administration filed a FY22 supplemental budget, which includes funding to extend the state RAFT program through the remainder of FY22. The proposal also includes an extension of the Chapter 257 eviction protections until January 1, 2023, which require a continuance or stay in eviction cases if a tenant has an active rental assistance application.
In January, Governor Baker released the Administration’s FY23 budget proposal, which includes a 264 percent increase in RAFT compared to the FY22 budget. This funding represents a four-fold funding increase over pre-pandemic levels and a projected three-fold increase in households served. The proposal also maintains the current maximum RAFT benefit level of up to $7,000 a year per household, which would enable DHCD to serve roughly 15,000 households in FY23. Prior to the pandemic, the RAFT program was a homelessness prevention program with an annual budget of approximately $20 million, which served 5,000 to 6,000 households and provided up to $4,000 a year to low-income households for rent, utilities, and other housing costs.
The Baker-Polito Administration launched the Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI) in October 2020 in partnership with the Massachusetts Trial Court, community mediation centers, legal aid organizations, and regional agencies with an initial state investment of more than $170 million. The passage of the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) subsequently directed more than $800 million in Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funding to Massachusetts. With federal ERA dollars, EDI transformed a singular state program (RAFT) into a large-scale disaster relief program, with the ability to process an unprecedented volume of applications and a total rental assistance budget of more than 40 times a normal year.
With the launch of EDI, DHCD established new programs and partnerships, and expanded existing programs, which required significant staffing up and ultimately led to the hiring of nearly 400 people across EDI programs. New programs included a partnership with Mass211 to provide 24-hour phone resources for any person facing a housing crisis, a legal services program to aid low-income tenants and owner-occupant landlords, and funding for community mediation centers to mediate disputes between tenants and landlords. In March 2021, DHCD launched several additional programs with federal ERA funding, including the ERAP and SHERA programs, to provide up to 18 months of rental assistance to tenants and landlords in order to prevent evictions and preserve housing stability.
Several of the EDI programs continue to be available to support low-income renters and landlords, including legal aid and mediation services. Homeowners in need of financial assistance to avoid foreclosure or displacement may be eligible for the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program if they have income at or below 150 percent AMI. Eligible homeowners include owner-occupants of two to four family properties who are behind on their mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone in need of housing help or advice can still reach out to Mass211, by calling 2-1-1, to get information about available resources and connect with a regional agency.
Earlier this year, DHCD awarded an additional $3.6 million to provide legal services to low-income renters and landlords through the end of 2022. DHCD is contracting with eight legal aid organizations with a focus on preventing evictions. Since the beginning of EDI, legal service organizations have assisted more than 4,500 cases, helping at least 11,000 residents. Funding in 2020 and 2021 also enabled legal aid organizations to recruit more than 100 staff and volunteers to provide expansive legal services for households facing eviction.
Massachusetts has been recognized at the federal level for its eviction diversion efforts and the state has been consistently ranked a high-performing state for its ability to successfully and efficiently distribute emergency rental assistance. The US Treasury called out Massachusetts in public materials for its "promising practices," highlighting the state as an example to other ERA grantees for its Eviction Diversion Initiative, including its partnerships with the courts, legal services, housing mediators, and large landlords/public housing authorities.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHCD has worked in partnership with the Regional Administering Agencies (RAAs) to implement a variety of key program improvements, including technology upgrades, efforts to reduce paperwork and to streamline the application process, enhanced language access, and targeted outreach to households at risk of eviction in hard-hit communities.
Most recently, DHCD has also:
- Invested in new technology solutions to streamline and standardize both the application submission process for tenants and landlords, as well as the case management process performed by RAAs. An online, centralized rental assistance application went live in September 2021, replacing other application submission methods used by each RAA working with DHCD to distribute rental assistance. In addition, throughout spring 2022, DHCD is working to procure case management software to further standardize program administration and case management processes statewide.
- Completed a 17-week focused, grassroots outreach campaign in partnership with Archipelago Strategies Group (ASG) within 22 communities across the Commonwealth. The campaign included door knocking, a call center for hands-on application support, and a multilingual media campaign.
- From October 2021 through February 2022, campaign staff and partner organizations knocked on more than 150,000 doors, reached over 35,000 households with information on federal ERA benefits, fielded more than 14,000 phone calls, and submitted nearly 1,200 applications for emergency housing payment assistance (more than half of which are in languages other than English).
Households, individual tenants, or landlords seeking assistance paying rent, utilities, or mortgages, are encouraged to visit www.mass.gov/housinghelp or dial 2-1-1.
About the Department of Housing and Community Development
The Department of Housing and Community Development oversees a diverse portfolio of programming, including affordable housing development, rental assistance programs, the Emergency Assistance Program for eligible homeless families, funding for more than 240 state-aided local housing authorities, and provides tools and funding for municipalities and planning agencies across the state.