Report Release: Massachusetts Emergency Rental Assistance Programs in Response to COVID-19

In March of 2020, Massachusetts faced rising cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 10, Governor Charlie Baker announced a State of Emergency in Massachusetts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. These orders included direction for all residents to shelter in place, work from home when possible, and shut down or modified the way businesses operated. Over 500,000 Massachusetts residents filed unemployment claims as of early May 2020. There are likely additional households that face challenges to pay for housing due to the sudden loss of income.

In response to the unexpected sudden shuttering of businesses and loss of income, cities and towns across Massachusetts began seeking ways to assist their residents to pay for housing. The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP), and Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) created a survey instrument to get information from local governments about an emerging trend in response to this crisis – locally funded Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs.

We are pleased to release the results of this survey today in the report Massachusetts Emergency Rental Assistance Programs in Response to COVID-19. You can view the full report and the corresponding survey response database via the Housing Toolbox.

As of May 26th, nearly 20% of Massachusetts’s cities and towns were implementing or considering creating rental assistance programs for their residents. Forty-eight (48) communities had an ERA program in place and twenty-one (21) others were considering creating a program.

Key Findings include:

  • Over $20 million in funding is pledged across the state to assist individuals with rent payments due to COVID-19
  • The average maximum allowable rental assistance per household is $3,718
  • Most funds are dedicated to households with incomes at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI)
  • Most ERA programs are being implemented by agencies that have prior experience assisting lower income households with housing
  • Most ERA programs have a limited duration.
  • The most common sources of funding for ERA programs include Community Preservation Act funds and Affordable Housing Trust funds

Many communities are still considering or developing their response to this unprecedented time of unemployment and housing instability in the wake of COVID-19. The report also includes resources and recommendations for communities considering a local ERA program. You can also review CHAPA and MHP's virtual training on Establishing a Local Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

For more information or additional assistance, please contact Dana LeWinter, CHAPA’s Director of Municipal Engagement.