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CHAPA’s COVID-19 Action Alert and Policy Recommendations

Published in Advocacy on March 26, 2020.

Please see this excerpted summary of CHAPA’s policy proposals and action alert in response to COVID-19:

In order to help stop the spread of the virus and preserve housing stability during this crisis, CHAPA requests urgent action on state policies that will:

  • Freeze nonessential evictions and foreclosures;
  • Help residents pay rent or mortgage payments in cases of financial hardship;
  • Provide landlords and owners the resources they need to maintain their properties and operations;
  • Increase the capacity of emergency shelter providers, housing authorities, and regional housing agencies; and
  • Ensure the continued development and operation of high-quality affordable housing.

Please contact your legislators in support of the bills, priorities, and budget requests that are outlined in full below and are available as a PDF on our website. You can find your legislators and their contact information here.

If you’re looking for the most recent COVID-19 updates and the impacts on housing, please join us for our third Affordable Housing Coronavirus Response virtual meeting on Friday at 2:30 PM EST. You can register for this Zoom meeting on our website. Notes from last week’s meeting of over 200 registrants can be found on our website as well.

CHAPA’s Policy Priorities in Response to COVID-19:

EVICTION AND FORECLOSURE MORATORIUM LEGISLATION (H.4539)
Sponsors: Reps. Kevin Honan and Sen. Mike Connolly
CHAPA urges the Legislature to pass HD.4539 to establish a moratorium on non-essential evictions and foreclosures in Massachusetts during the emergency declaration. This will also help prevent the spread of the virus by keeping people stably housed during the outbreak. HD.4935 would not eliminate rent that is owed but ensures residents who have reduced or lost income during the crisis do not have to worry about losing their homes during this already difficult time.
 
EXPAND RESIDENTIAL ASSISTANCE FOR FAMILIES IN TRANSITION (RAFT) (7004-9316)
Budget Request: $50 Million Emergency Appropriation and Program Changes
CHAPA asks the Legislature to provide $50 million in new funding for RAFT and temporarily expand access to the program across a wider range of incomes to help people pay rent, mortgages, and other housing-related expenses as people face financial hardship. Currently, this homelessness prevention program helps households with very low-incomes cover housing-related expenses to remain stably housed. As people lose jobs and incomes or face additional expenses because of COVID-19, new funding for RAFT, along with a temporary expansion of the program to allow households who earn up to 80% of the area median income, will provide a critical tool to help people pay rent and mortgages through this challenging time. In addition, making changes to the program to allow applications to be transmitted electronically and to allow households to access RAFT quickly after falling behind on housing payments will help to preserve housing stability and ensure property owners can maintain properties and operations.


SUPPORTING LANDLORDS & PROPERTY OWNERS
CHAPA asks the Legislature to provide financial resources and other support to landlords and owners during the COVID-19 crisis. As many tenants fall behind on rent because of reduced or lost incomes, landlords and property owners will also need additional resources during the eviction moratorium to maintain their buildings, make repairs, pay for increased costs due to COVID-19, and cover expenses like mortgage payments and property taxes.


HOME AND HEALTHY FOR GOOD (7004-0104)
Budget Request: $10.8 Million Emergency Appropriation
An additional $10.8 million is needed to support shelters that provide low-threshold permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations experiencing homelessness. The additional funds will help cover the costs incurred and anticipated through June 30, 2020, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These additional funds will help in controlling the transmission of this illness, and create the necessary chain of supplies for sanitation and services like adequate staffing to enable “shelter in place” for this population.
 

PUBLIC HOUSING AUTHORITY OPERATION SUBSIDY (7004-9005)
Budget Request: $5 Million Emergency Appropriation
State-assisted public housing provides homes to more than 70,000 residents with low-incomes in Massachusetts. 65% of this population is elderly, the demographic most vulnerable to the virus. Local Housing Authorities (LHAs) face a reduction in rental income as residents experience job losses or reductions in pay and increased costs of supportive services for residents in isolation, maintenance staff hours for sanitizing common areas, and contract costs for vendors to sanitize quarantined units. The LHAs also have to incur additional costs for bulk purchases of protective gear and supplies and purchasing of equipment for working remotely. This emergency appropriation will allow LHAs to make up for the loss of revenue and additional costs.
 

HOUSING CONSUMER EDUCATION CENTERS (HCECs) (7004-3036)
Budget Request: $2.25 Million Emergency Appropriation
HCECs are regional housing agencies that offer anyone in the Commonwealth a wide range of housing resources. HCECs are essential to delivering housing and homelessness prevention resources, including rental vouchers, RAFT, HomeBASE, and housing counseling assistance. The HCECs have deep experience in effectively and rapidly addressing sudden housing crises such as after natural disasters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, HCECs will need additional funding to expand their capacity to serve the anticipated increase in residents in need of programs like RAFT because of reduced or lost incomes.


EMERGENCY ACTION TO SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING
CHAPA calls on local, state, and federal officials to take emergency action to ensure the continued development and operation of high-quality affordable housing. This includes increasing local, state, and federal resources for production and preservation of affordable housing, increasing funding for rental assistance, and resuming construction and local zoning and permitting decision as quickly as possible. While we are all focused on the immediate health crisis, the long-standing affordable housing crisis continues.


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