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Short Q&A to prep you for CHAPA-MHP rental assistance training

Posted on April 21, 2020

Over 400 have signed up for the Wednesday, April 22 virtual training on using local funds for emergency rental assistance. If you haven’t done so, better hurry before registration closes. If you’ve already done so, here’s a short Q&A to help you prepare for the session:

1) Can Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds be used for mortgage assistance? This has been a top question since MHP published its guidelines on April 1. Both the Community Preservation Coalition and MHP are supporting communities in using CPA for rental assistance. The CPA statute explicitly states rental assistance is allowed whereas it does not mention mortgage assistance.

2) How can a community assess its need? This is important in figuring out what to ask for. One small city cited over 400 requests for assistance. The Town of Stow’s housing trust asked a local multifamily property owner for its sense of what the rental payment shortfall might be. The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission has and will be crunching unemployment claim filings. Looking at the first two weeks of statewide filings, MAPC estimated 165,000 won’t be able to cover housing costs without assistance or dipping into savings.

3) Do municipalities do rental assistance now? Many communities large and small use local funds to fund rental assistance. Waltham has a first/last security deposit program funded through HOME funds. The nonprofit WATCH uses city CPA funds to fund a rental voucher program and a tenant assistance fund that is funded by private donations and foundation grants. Somerville, Martha's Vineyard and others use or have used CPA to fund rental assistance programs.

4) How has COVID-19 changed things? Communities began calling us shortly after the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared. Since we published our guidelines and checklist, we have spoken with 30 communities and three regional or nonprofit entities. One mid-sized city told us it already had a short-term assistance proposal in the works. This plan proposes to use CPA funds for households who earn no more than 70 percent of area median income and who pay more than 40 percent of their income in rent.

5) Should I do any advance reading prior to the Zoom workshop? Yes. One of the speakers is Jennifer Van Campen, executive director of the Metro West Collaborative Development. She will explain the rental assistance program model Metro West is developing. Here are drafts of the program guidelinesapplication and participation agreement that will be discussed at the workshop.

For more information, contact MHP’s Shelly Goehring at sgoehring@mhp.net or Dana LeWinter of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association at dlewinter@chapa.org. If you’ve signed up, submit your questions to chapasconference@gmail.com.