Special to the Journal
Since 2013, Metro Housing|Boston has documented the effectiveness of Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), a homelessness prevention program for households with low incomes that are experiencing a housing crisis.
However, the pandemic has changed the face of RAFT as two additional programs built on and expanded the program’s reach. Emergency Housing Payment Assistance, or EHPA, became a housing lifeline for 10,251 families in Metro Housing’s region, providing more than $63 million in assistance during FY21. By comparison, FY20 saw 1,805 households receive a total of $5.1 million in assistance.
735 households in Revere received $5.5 million in emergency rental assistance in FY21.
A new report released this month by Metro Housing – EHPA in Review – examines the impact of the pandemic on the infusion of state and federal funds, the expansion of eligibility to access those funds, the streamlining of the application process, and quicker release of dollars. These changes resulted in a complete shift in Metro Housing’s housing payment assistance programs, requiring greater flexibility and increased staff capacity.
“Metro Housing and our regional housing agencies have helped tens of thousands of Massachusetts families during an unprecedented, international health crisis,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox. “We are proud to work with dedicated partners to transform our rental assistance program to respond to immense need and increase supportive resources to help households avoid eviction and remain stably housed.”
In some of Metro Housing’s communities, such as Boston, Braintree, Milton, and Revere, Metro Housing serves or served as an administering agent for community-based housing emergency assistance.
Partnerships with community-based organizations provided another valuable way to assist more families in Metro Housing’s region in FY21. Partnerships with the Action for Boston Community Development, Asian Community Development Corporation, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, The Neighborhood Developers (TND)/CONNECT, WATCH, and Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (VietAID) provided not only venues for getting the word out about available assistance, but also provided places for people to complete applications and get assistance with language barrier issues.
“The pandemic hit TND’s communities of Chelsea and Revere hard,” says Rafael Mares, Executive Director of TND. “Our close, pre-existing partnership with Metro Housing became the bedrock of our response. With their support, our team took on the responsibility to assist tenants in filling out rental assistance applications, Metro Housing staff trained our team, and jointly we developed systems for working together.”
Key Findings from EHPA in Review FY2020:
• The average housing assistance benefit increased from $2,832 in FY20 to $6,167 in FY21.
• Mortgage assistance in FY21 totaled $2.5 million, a significant increase from the $61,444 in FY20.
• In FY21, Metro Housing provided $43.5 million in rental arrear assistance, a 1400 percent increase over FY20.
• Total rental stipend assistance increased to 22 percent of all EHPA assistance, totaling more than $13 million. In FY20, it represented only 3 percent of assistance.
• Black/African American household participation tripled in the course of one year, to more than 3,400 families. Hispanic household participation increased six-fold to nearly 3,300. And non-Hispanic White participation increased approximately eight-fold to more than 2,400 families.
“COVID-19 has impacted all of us in so many ways, but none as severe as families with low incomes not being able to pay your rent or mortgage while facing eviction or foreclosure,” said Chris Norris, Executive Director of Metro Housing|Boston. “Many individuals and families have remained housed during the pandemic not only because of the dedication and flexibility of our staff, but also of DHCD administrators, service providers, advocates, and local municipalities. The data in this report shows the need for a more sustainable solution, from additional rental assistance vouchers and the production of below-market-rate housing, to the critical shortage of affordable housing in the metro Boston area.”
To access the full report, visit bit.ly/EHPAReport
Serving more than 25,000 households annually, Metro Housing|Boston is dedicated to mobilizing wide-ranging resources to provide innovative and personalized services that assist families in avoiding homelessness, maintain housing stability, and achieve economic security. With more than 30 years’ experience piloting and implementing housing programs, it has solidified their position as an industry-leading expert on navigating the affordable housing field. Metro Housing|Boston is committed to making sure that every person in Greater Boston will always have a place to call home. Visit www.metrohousingboston.org, facebook.com/MetroHousingBoston , or follow on Twitter at @MetroHousingBos.