Please see this excellent and comprehensive update from CHAPA on the state and federal budget and related housing initiatives (go to chapa.org to learn more and to receive their updates directly).
|Governor Signs Interim State Budget|
On August 4th, the Governor signed, in part, a $16.5 billion interim state budget that will keep state government operating through October 31st. Massachusetts has been operating under short term budgets since the start of the current fiscal year, FY2021, on July 1st. The short-term budget will allow lawmakers to see what relief Congress may provide to states as well as to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on state revenue collections before passing a state budget for the remainder of FY2021.
State Legislative Session Extended Through End of Year
On July 30th, the House and Senate voted to extend the legislative session through the end of the year. For the last 25 years, major legislative work had to be completed by July 31st. After August 1st, the Legislature would meet in informal sessions, with only a few members present and when only non-controversial matters would be taken up. Extending the session will allow the Legislature to complete work on major legislation like the Economic Development Bill. It will also allow the Legislature to pass a state budget this fall for the remainder of FY2021.
House & Senate Pass Economic Development Bills with Key Affordable Housing Provisions
During the week of July 27th, the Massachusetts House and Senate both passed different versions of Economic Development Bills. Both chambers prioritized critical affordable housing polices and resources. Between the two bills, these provisions include zoning reforms like Housing Choice and provisions that would require multifamily zoning around public transportation, expansion of the state low income housing tax credit, improvement of the governance of local housing authorities, and eviction records sealing. The Legislature is now reconciling the differences between the two bills before sending the final bill to the Governor.
Oral Arguments Heard in Superior Court on Challenge to Eviction Moratorium
Over 300 people live streamed Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson’s hearing on the eviction moratorium last Thursday (Matorin et al. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts). Thank you to Attorney Joseph Michalakes of Greater Boston Legal Services for highlighting that during the moratorium, over $60 million in funding from RAFT, ERMA, and ERA are now available to preserve tenancies and stabilize properties, funding both sides recognize as critical. A companion case will be argued in United States District Court in Boston in mid-August.
Governor Baker Signs COVID-19 Supplemental Budget
On July 24, Governor Baker signed the $1.1 billion COVID-19 state supplemental budget. The budget makes critical investments in affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and emergency shelter resources, including $20 million for RAFT, $13.5 million for local housing authorities, $1.5 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers, and $1 million to serve unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. The budget also allows households to access up to $10,000 in RAFT assistance for those impacted by COVID-19.
DHCD Announces Funding for Supportive & SRO Housing
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) recently announced two affordable housing funding rounds: one for supportive housing and another for single room occupancy (SRO) housing. Up to $7 million will be available to create supportive rental housing for vulnerable populations, who often need support services in order to access and maintain stable housing. $10 million will be available for SRO project sponsors to create permanent affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Governor Baker Extends Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium by 60 Days
On July 21, Governor Baker extended the eviction and foreclosure moratorium by 60 days. The moratorium was originally set to expire by August 18, 2020 and will now extend until October 17, 2020. The extension will help prevent a wave of evictions and allow more time for tenants and homeowners to access housing assistance to make rent and mortgage payments.
Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston Seeking Nominations for Advisory Council
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston is now accepting nominations to fill four vacancies on its 2021 Advisory Council: one seat to represent Connecticut, two seats for Massachusetts, and one seat for Rhode Island. The vacant seats will be filled by individuals involved in providing or promoting housing and community lending in their states. The Advisory Council advises the Bank on its special programs for housing and community development, including the Bank’s Affordable Housing Program Implementation Plan and Community Lending Plan.
U.S. House Passes FY21 Appropriations Packages
On July 31, the U.S. House of Representatives passed FY21 appropriation packages that include $50.6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The legislation includes $3.5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), $1.7 billion for HOME, and $25.7 billion for Section 8 vouchers. The bill also includes a separate emergency infrastructure supplemental section that provides an additional $24.3 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund, $4 billion for CDBG, $17.5 billion for HOME, and $750 million for capital improvement for properties receiving Project Based Rental Assistance.
Senate Republicans Release the HEALS Act COVID-19 Relief Package Proposal
On July 27, Senate Republicans released the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. This $1 trillion coronavirus relief package proposal includes $2.2 billion for Section 8 vouchers, $1 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, and $113.4 million for the Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance Program.
HUD Publishes Proposed Rule That Would Remove Protections for Transgender Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
On July 24, HUD published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would remove the Obama-era Equal Access Rule that provides protections for transgender individuals experiencing homelessness. The proposed rule would allow shelter providers that operate as single-sex or sex-segregated facilities to establish a policy to deny access to individuals whose gender identity does not match their biological sex.
HUD Terminates 2015 AFFH Rule and Replaces it with New Final Rule
On July 23, HUD published the final Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule to replace the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and the 1994 Analysis of Impediments requirements. The new rule allows a HUD grantee to receive its AFFH certification “if the grantee has taken some active steps to promote fair housing” without any meaningful guidance as to what those standards are or how they would be evaluated. In response, CHAPA’s CEO, Rachel Heller, penned an op-ed in Commonwealth Magazine on steps local communities can take to affirmatively further fair housing.
HUD Announces New Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Pilot Program
HUD announced a new Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration pilot program that measures the impact of Housing Choice Vouchers on voucher holders’ economic mobility. The program allows Public Housing Authorities to offer services that would increase the access of voucher holding families to opportunity areas.