November 24, 2020

Representative Steven Howitt - Protections to renters, landlords through Eviction Diversion Initiative

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Boston - State Representative Steven S. Howitt (R-Seekonk) would like to remind residents of the 4th Bristol District that protections are still available to landlords and tenants, despite the recent expiration of the statewide eviction moratorium.
The Representative noted that a moratorium issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will remain in effect until December 31, 2020 to protect households making under $99,000 a year, or $198,000 if filing jointly, provided the tenant submits a written declaration to their landlord. The CDC moratorium bars evictions if the household is making best efforts to pay rent, tenants have sought rental assistance, and are facing homelessness.

On the state level, Representative Howitt noted that the new Eviction Diversion Initiative unveiled by Governor Charlie Baker on October 12 will provide $171 million for rental assistance and rapid rehousing efforts as the state continue to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

"I appreciate the leadership taking steps to ensure that the expiration of the moratorium will not result in a wave of evictions across the Commonwealth," said Representative Howitt. "The resources provided through the Eviction Diversion Initiative will help provide housing stability to renters while ensuring that landlords receive the financial support they need to make their mortgage payments and maintain their rental properties."

The Eviction Diversion Initiative will utilize a mix of new and expanded programs to help landlords and tenants with the financial means to maintain their housing status, resolve landlord-tenant disputes through mediation and increased legal representation to prevent evictions by providing tenants with quick access to new housing if a resolution can't be reached. The plan was designed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Trial Court and various stakeholders.

Representative Howitt noted some of the highlights of the initiative which include:
* $100 million to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program to assist both renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19;
* $48.7 million for the HomeBASE program and other rapid rehousing programs to protect evicted tenants from becoming homeless;
* $12.3 million for access to community mediation and legal representation for both tenants and landlords;
* $6.5 million for counseling and mediation services provided through the state's nine regional Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs); and
* $3.8 million for case management support provided by the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP).

Representative Howitt noted that the maximum benefit available under the RAFT program has been increased from $4,000 to $10,000 per household. This expanded capacity will be available for six months and will be extended through June of 2021 for households with school-age children.

In addition to streamlining the application process for both the RAFT and the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs, the state will now allow landlords who own fewer than 20 units to apply directly to these programs for assistance, with consent from their tenants.

The CDC declaration forms are available at www.ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf. Representative Howitt encourages tenants and landlords to call the state's 2-1-1 information hotline or visit www.mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp to learn more about the Eviction Diversion Initiative.

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