Concerns continue to increase about the threat of a “tsunami of evictions” this fall, when federal and state moratoriums may end. Households are also facing an end to expanded unemployment benefits for those workers who lost their job due to COVID-19. It's estimated that 120,000 households in Massachusetts are in danger of being unable to keep up with rent and mortgage payments. In response to these concerns, that state, housing providers, local communities, and advocates are increasing efforts to prevent evictions and provide emergency rental assistance.
For example, on July 6, WinnCompanies, which manages more than 6,500 apartments across the state, extended its ban on evictions through the end of 2020. As the state considers whether to extend the statewide eviction moratorium that ends on August 18, Winn announced that it will not start eviction cases against tenants who fall behind on rent because of virus-related financial hardships. Instead, Winn will help tenants access relief programs that may be available, such as state and local emergency rental assistance programs, and work out deferred payment plans.
Cities and towns are also providing local funds to support residents who have fallen behind on housing payments because of COVID-19. According to a recent report, 48 communities had approved emergency rental assistance programs and pledged over $20 million for this assistance as of May 2020.
Meanwhile, the state has continued to invest in emergency rental and mortgage assistance, with Governor Baker announcing a new $20 million assistance program on July 1.
Advocates are also supporting legislation to create a statewide pilot program to provide a right to counsel for low-income residents facing eviction because of COVID-19.