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Housing Toolbox provides section to help communities with COVID-19

Posted on May 26, 2020

(Note: This is the fourth 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 its ongoing effort to provide resources for the state's emergency response to housing, MHP updated its Housing Toolbox website to include a new COVID-19 section for municipal volunteers and officials. You will now find helpful guidance on:

  • Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA)
  • Determining need during the crisis
  • Municipal process and housing
  • State eviction and foreclosure moratorium
  • Guidance for tenants in three languages

Housing Toolbox is geared towards municipal volunteers and officials. It provides resources and education on furthering a variety of housing goals in Massachusetts communities -- from building community support to the development process.

Communities that have OK’d local funds for rental assistance

Newton is the latest community to OK Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for rental assistance, approving $2 million in CPA funds and $500K in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for a COVID-19 emergency rental and mortgage assistance program. As of mid-May, MHP estimates the approval or pending approval of over $10 million for locally-funded ERA programs.

In addition to tapping local funds like CPA for emergency rental assistance, several communities are or are planning to use federal CDBG funds. These include Framingham, Malden, Newton and Salem. 

Other communities are also stepping up. Lenox and Great Barrington had ERA programs online by mid-April. Regional nonprofit Constuct is administering the program for each town.  Manchester’s affordable housing trust allocated $100,000 for a program, and an additional $100,000 anonymous gift to help low-income renters. Community Development Partnership (CDP) is working with Lower Cape towns to develop a regional emergency rental assistance program to be managed by a non-profit.

CHAPA's RAFT event draws 1,000 attendees

Over 1,000 attended CHAPA RAFT event on May 20, indicating a interest and need for rent assistance during the crisis. MHP's Shelly Goehring urged communities with limited capacity to look to local partners with experience working in housing programs and lotteries.

CHAPA will be providing a question and answer follow up to the call shortly. Check back on the Housing Toolbox for its release.

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 site to help understand COVID impacts and develop effective policies. For questions, contact CHD's Callie Clark at

(MHP's community assistance team will be providing periodic updates on how communities are addressing housing issues during the COVID-19 state of emergency. To read previous updates go to the community assistance news section).