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COVID response: $20M in local funds have been OK'd for rental assistance use, survey finds

Posted on July 6, 2020

(Note: This is fifth in a series of updates on state and local responses to housing issues related COVID-19. Go to our COVID-19 file for more reports).

In partnership with the state and the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), MHP has released a survey report and data base that estimates how many communities have appropriated local funds for emergency rental assistance (ERA) and what practices are being used to establish and administer these programs. (The data base link above now takes you to the updated August version).

Conducted between May 8 and May 26, the survey is aimed at helping government and nonprofits coordinate local ERA activities, estimate local funds being used to address COVID-19 impacts and continue the promotion of best practices.

Here are the survey’s key highlights:

  • Over $20 million in local funds have been invested in ERA programs.
  • Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea and Newton account for almost $13 million.
  • 48 communities have approved a program.
  • 39 communities are planning to use a nonprofit or a housing authority to administer the program.
  • 21 additional communities indicated they are considering or working to establish a program.
  • Over half of the communities who have approved a program are using Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.
  • This estimate is conservative as other towns reported using local housing trust funds, which often include CPA funds.

The survey form and data base was developed by MHP, CHAPA and the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and promoted by those agencies and CHAPA throughout the survey period. Communities self-reported their efforts and the data only communities that have responded so far.

The report may actually underestimate the amount of local funds being used as communities have continued to approve ERA programs or are awaiting town meeting approval of use of local funds for ERA.  

The  survey report and data base are part of MHP’s ongoing effort to work with communities, the state and nonprofits on programs to help people who may be in danger of losing their home or apartment due to COVID-19.  As the COVID-19 emergency began to impact the economy, MHP immediately received inquiries about how to use local funds for emergency rental assistance (ERA). After speaking to local leaders and housing partners, MHP created guidelines for communities using CPA funds for ERA, organized a webinar with CHAPA on ERA programs, and helped create a comprehensive Q&A on how to use local funds to run an effective, short-term emergency rental assistance program.

For questions on ERA programs or the ERA program report data, please contact MHP's Katie Bosse at

Other COVID Housing Resources

MHP and CHAPA's Housing Toolbox website now has all our COVID response resources in one spot. User's can find material on:

  • Emergency Rental Assistance
  • Municipal process during the crisis
  • State Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium
  • Guidance for tenants.

 For questions, please contact MHP's Katie Bosse at

 COVID Community Data Lab

MHP's Center for Housing Data (CHD) partnered with Boston Indicators to develop the housing section on the COVID Community Data Lab website. The tool also looks at an equity analysis, economic impacts, social assistance, mobility patterns, and Census 2020, all in the context of the current crisis. Communities can use the new site as a tool to help understand the impact in their communities and develop targeted policy.

For questions, please contact CHD's Callie Clark at