With Avalanche Of Evictions Expected, Governor Baker Announces COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative

Governor Charlie Baker at a State House signing ceremony. Photo: mass.gov

Last week, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive set of resources to support tenants and landlords during the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of this initiative is to keep tenants in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords once the pause of evictions and foreclosures expires on Saturday, October 17. This strategy was developed by a cross-agency team assembled by the administration in coordination with the Massachusetts Trial Court to manage the end of the moratorium and reflects input from a broad range of stakeholders.

The initiative will make a total commitment of $171 million in FY21, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year. Key highlights:

  • $100 million in emergency rental assistance through RAFT, a program that offers short-term financial support to those at risk of becoming unhoused.
  • Up to $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to bring tenants and landlords together to find a resolution.
  • Nearly $50 million for post-eviction rapid rehousing.

The initiative allows households to receive up to $10,000 per year from RAFT, up from the previous $4,000 cap, which is intended to help tenants pay their rent until June.

The Baker administration will do broad outreach to stakeholders with information on resources and how to access them. In addition, Mass 2-1-1 will be available starting Tuesday, October 13 to answer questions and refer people to assistance. For information on the web look here

While the state moratorium expires, a federal moratorium established by the CDC will stay in effect in Massachusetts through December 31 but does not apply to everyone. This program can prevent evictions for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord.

But housing advocates quickly condemned the approach as feeble and insufficient, warning that the patchwork of initiatives are insufficient to protect Baystate residents during a pandemic (see, for example, here, here, here, and here)

Resources on MA Tenants’ Rights
MA Eviction Diversion Program FAQ 

Mass Legal Help

Attorney General’s Guide To Landlord Tenants’ Rights 

Mass.gov Guide to Tenants’ Rights 

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