The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is in the process of determining award recipients for $19.65 million of Massachusetts’ CDBG-CV $20.4 million Phase 1 funding from the CARES Act. Ten million dollars will be used for rental and mortgage assistance, while the remaining $9.65 million will be used to assist micro-enterprises. DHCD also allocated an additional $16 million in state and federal funding for supportive housing projects as part of an annual competition. Advocates from Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), an NLIHC state partner, helped ensure affordable housing was prioritized by working with advocacy partners and state officials.
The $10 million in CDBG-CV funds will provide emergency rental and mortgage assistance to income-eligible residents of non-entitlement municipalities. The funds will flow through the state’s existing rental assistance program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), and be issued by the state’s administering agencies which manage the program locally. Eligible recipients will receive up to three months of rent with a maximum of $4,000, and payments will be made directly to landlords. Although RAFT currently serves households with incomes at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI), the program will temporarily be expanded to include households with incomes between 50% and 80% AMI.
In addition to CDBG-CV funding, Massachusetts renters will benefit from $16 million in state and federal funds to produce or preserve critical supportive housing for vulnerable populations. Awarded projects will provide affordable housing across the state with supportive services to families and individuals who have experienced homelessness, older adults, and individuals living with disabilities, Funding for the projects comes from the National Housing Trust Fund, dedicated to households at 30% AMI or less, state capital funding including the Housing Innovations Fund (HIF) and the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF), and project-based subsidy from the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.
“The immense need for more affordable housing in Massachusetts has not disappeared during this pandemic, and we are pleased to continue making awards and moving projects forward to address the shortage,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy in a press release for the supportive housing awards announcement. “The link between housing and health has never been clearer, and these investments in our families and in our communities continue the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to increasing the production of housing across the state.”
Throughout the pandemic, CHAPA encouraged their members to be part of the decision-making process, sharing information about how federal expenditures are used in cities and towns with local officials and advocates. In addition to encouraging advocates to contact their policy makers, CHAPA invited state administration officials to join their members on webinars, to share how the Baker administration was responding to the pandemic, and to hear concerns and suggestions from advocates. Advocates were able to express their requests for some of the CDBG-CV funds to be used for rental assistance.
“As we wait for more federal assistance, the state and municipalities across Massachusetts are creating emergency rental assistance programs to help people stay stable through this public health and economic crisis.” said Rachel Heller, CEO of CHAPA. However, Heller warns, “These programs are critical, but they are short-term solutions. Long-term, we can’t lose sight of the housing crisis that existed before the pandemic and we will need more long-term rental assistance and more affordable housing development in each of our communities to ensure everyone has access to a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home.”