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Communities offering rent assistance jumps to 83; CPA, trusts top sources

Posted on August 12, 2020

In an update on local emergency rental assistance programs, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) reported on August 6 that 83 communities have adopted such programs, up from 48 reported in the initial survey taken during the month of May.

Speaking at a COVID-19 affordable housing response meeting hosted by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), MHP Program Coordinator Katie Bosse said the total amount of local funds pledged is now over $30 million. This is up from $20.8 million that was reported in the initial survey report released in June. Over 50 percent of the funds are from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) or local housing trust funds.

The community data is now updated on an ongoing basis in the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program Database, which users can now find posted on the Housing Toolbox web site, a go-to web site of housing resources that MHP maintains.

The database is part of a continuous effort by MHP, CHAPA and the state Department of Housing and Community Development to track emergency rental assistance programs and best practices. This document features granular information for each ERA community, such as amount allocated, maximum assistance per household, number of months assistance will be given, eligibility requirements, contact information and a link to each community's application.

Below are a few key highlights from our August update:

The effort by MHP, CHAPA and DHCD to train communities and track ERA programs began shortly after the Baker-Polito Administration declared a COVID-19 state of emergency on March 13, 2020. As the shutdown began to impact the economy, MHP's community assistance team began receiving inquiries from communities about using local funds for emergency rental assistance (ERA). Over 30 communities contacted MHP in the first weeks of the emergency.

By April, MHP had created guidelines for 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 ERA program. All of these materials are available on MHP's Housing Toolbox website under COVID-19 Response.

In May, MHP, CHAPA and DHCD conducted a survey to find out how many communities offer ERA, how much money was pledged and how communities were administering it. The initial ERA survey found that 48 communities either had or were starting ERA programs and over $21 million in local funds had been pledged to help residents impacted by COVID-19.

MHP, CHAPA and DHCD are planning to hold a virtual webinar in mid September featuring communities that will discuss the successes and challenges of operating ERA programs.

How to use the database

The emergency rental assistance database is being maintained to keep track of funding efforts and best practices. Key features include:

• Search what communities have implemented an ERA program. This includes how much money the municipality has pledged, agency administering the program, funding source, max benefit per household, and targeted area median income (AMI).

• Submit updates or changes to the ERA program in your community by completing the form at the top of the spreadsheet. Your input will help us keep the most accurate information.

• Each entry has contact information and links to program information or application. The spreadsheet can be a tool for communities and program administrators to learn from each other and share best practices.

• Help connect landlords and tenants to what local programs are available outside of RAFT and ERMA.

For questions on ERA or the database, please contact MHP's Katie Bosse at kbosse@mhp.net.