$171 Million Funding Allocated for RAFT and HomeBase Rental Assistance, Legal Services, Mediation and Tenant Outreach
Governor Baker officially announced today that he will not extend the Massachusetts Eviction Moratorium, allowing the Housing Courts to start hearing eviction cases beginning on October 19. With this announcement came a major new program, called the Eviction Diversion Initiative, put together by the Baker administration, court leaders, and landlord/tenant groups. I don’t want to gloat too much here, but we have heard that our federal lawsuit challenging the Moratorium and our continued advocacy for housing providers played no small role in this decision.
New Funding For RAFT, HomeBase, Other Programs
The Baker Administration is making a $171 million total commitment this fiscal year, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year, including:
- $100 million commitment this fiscal year to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program to provide relief to renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19;
- $48.7 million to HomeBASE and other rapid rehousing programs for when tenants are evicted and are at risk of homelessness;
- $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to help tenants and landlords resolve cases outside of court;
- $6.5 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), the “front door” for those facing a housing emergency; and
- $3.8 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP), to provide case management support and to act as a neutral party to help tenants and landlords come to agreement.
New investments will expand the capacity of the RAFT program and increase the maximum benefit available through RAFT from $4,000 to $10,000 per household, with a goal of helping more families stabilize their housing for six months, or until the end of June if there are school-age children in the household, on their path to recovery.
The Administration is also updating the RAFT program to improve turnaround time on applications, while maintaining program integrity, by allowing landlords who own fewer than 20 units to apply directly for RAFT and ERMA, with consent from tenants.
New Housing Court Procedures
Last week, as I wrote about here, the Housing Court announced a slew of new procedural changes to handle cases post-Moratorium. Under the new rules, cases will be processed under a new two-Tiered system with older cases getting priority, an even stronger push towards mediation, and the vast majority of cases heard through Zoom video-conferencing.
I will be holding a free Zoom webinar on the new Housing Court rules with Jordana Greenman, Esq. on Thursday, October 15 at 12:30pm. Zoom link here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2622828798.
When the state moratorium expires, a moratorium established by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) will become effective through Dec. 31. The CDC moratorium will effectively prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Gov. Baker’s press release states that “courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order (Dec. 31, 2020).” The new Housing Court rules address cases where the CDC Moratorium may apply.
The Baker administration has created a new FAQ for new Eviction Diversion Initiative here.