During the COVID crisis, Governor Charlie Baker imposed a moratorium on rental evictions. But in so doing, the Governor also established the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program, a $5 million fund to assist family facing extreme financial conditions for housing, loss of utilities and other housing emergencies. In addition, the Governor established the $20 million Emergency Rental Fund and Mortgage Assistance Fund which is available through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to supporting families and residents through this uncertain time. This provides essential rental assistance for tenants and landlords in Massachusetts.
Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance
The Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance program for households who may not qualify for RAFT is a new, $20 million, state-wide fund to provide direct funding to eligible households who have suffered financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and State of Emergency. The program began on July 1, 2020. Contact DHCD for further information: Call DHCD Contact, Main Office at (617) 573-1100
ERMA can provide rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households who have been impacted by the crisis and may not be eligible for traditional or COVID-19 RAFT. This program is available for households within the 50-80% range of Area Median Income (AMI). Like the RAFT program, ERMA may provide up to $4,000 for eligible households to assist with rent or mortgage arrears accrued after April 1, 2020 and/or with upcoming rent or mortgage payments. Households can look at regional income levels to assess their eligibility, which can be found below.
Rental Assistance for Tenants and Landlords in Massachusetts Following State Housing Directives
Landlords must comply with state housing directives :
- A moratorium on all non-essential evictions for tenants who cannot pay rent due to a COVID-19 related hardship.
- Guidance to all state-aided public housing operators, including Local Housing Authorities and private operators, to suspend both pending non-essential evictions and the filing of any new non-essential evictions.
- Guidance urging operators of private, affordable housing to suspend non-essential evictions for loss of income or employment circumstances that result in a tenant’s inability to make rent. This guidance also urges operators to establish reasonable payment plans, to notify Section 8 or public housing residents about interim income recertification to adjust rent payments, and to consider offering relief funding for residents ineligible for income reassessment.
- DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers, including assistance provided under the Section 8 (DHCD portfolio only), Massachusetts Rental Voucher and Alternative Housing Voucher programs, in all cases other than those involving violent or drug-related criminal activity that seriously affects the health and safety of other residents.
- DHCD will also automatically extend the deadline by which a household issued a voucher must identify a housing unit where they can use the voucher. The 60 day voucher search term would be extended automatically until 30 calendar days past the expiration of the state of emergency.
- The Division of Banks has also released additional guidance for homeowners and financial institutions regarding foreclosure during the state of emergency.
Landlords should review the various announcements and resources on the state’s “Mass.gov” homepage for additional advisories. Following all guidelines is essential in obtaining rental assistance for tenants and landlords in Massachusetts.