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COVID response: More assistance OK'd; help MHP track local funds

Posted on July 16, 2020

(Note: This is the sixth 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).

The Baker-Polito Administration has approved a new state funding source for emergency rental assistance in response to growing concern over mass evictions once state and federal protections end.

The new program, called Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA), provides $20 million towards rental or mortgage relief up to $4,000 per households earning between 50%-80% Area Median Income (AMI).

Similar to the state's successful Residential Assistant for Families in Transition program (RAFT), households that are eligible for ERMA can receive assistance for arrears going back to April 1, 2020. The program is administered by the regional Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC), the same organizations that administer RAFT. There are nine regional HCEC in the state, to find your local HCEC visit their website here, and scroll to the map.

As communities continue to adopt local and regional Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs, ERMA provides another source of funding. Since RAFT targets populations at or below 50% AMI, ERMA helps fill the gap for renters and homeowners between 50%-80% AMI who might have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 impacts.

For more information on ERA programs and available funding sources, visit the Housing Toolbox's Emergency Rental Assistance section or contact MHP's Katie Bosse at kbosse@mhp.net.

Help MHP keep state's rental assistance survey up to date

Earlier this month, a survey report was released that estimated how many communities have pledged local funds for emergency rental assistance (ERA).

The survey - conducted by the state, MHP sand the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association found that 48 communities have earmarked over $20 million to help people keep their housing.

MHP is hosting the survey and report on how these programs are being administered on the Housing Toolbox web site.

MHP is also responsible for updating the survey and we're asking communities that adopt such programs to email us so we can keep track of the funding total and what practices are being used to administer them. We hope to do our first update at the end of July.

Town officials and volunteers who are monitoring their ERA Programs should email us the following information:  

  • What funds are you or will you be using?
  • Who is or will be administering the program?
  • What is the target AMI or population?
  • What is the max benefit per household?
  • How long will the program run for?
  • Are there any lessons learned that could be helpful to other communities?

The survey is 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 kbosse@mhp.net

Worcester gets funding to build modular micro units for homeless

Last month, Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) received funding from the state to build 25 micro-unit studios apartments for people who have been chronically homeless, including one unit for a residential manager. The development will include wrap around services for residents, from financial to mental health and addiction services. This WBUR story has more details.

The project will serve a model for building low cost housing with resident services for chronically homeless by building modular, or off-site construction. In the case for WHA, the per unit costs is about half of what it would be in normal construction, making the project much more feasible. Projects using modular are also effective because they cut time and allow homeless residents to be sheltered more quickly.

MHP's Community Assistance team often encourages modular housing options, especially for housing authorities who are looking to develop on their public land and have the ability to to take on some debt. The team met with WHA to learn more about using modular housing and worked with their team on the one-stop application to DHCD.