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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

Policy Watch - Massachusetts

Massachusetts regarding residential assistance for families in transition (RAFT)

By: Anastasia Dai


BILL NUMBER: HOUSE BILL NO. 1374

BILL NAME: Relative to residential assistance for families in transition

BILL STATE: Massachusetts

BILL SPONSOR/CO-SPONSOR: Representative Priscila Sousa [D], Representative Danielle Gregoire [D], Representative James Arena-DeRosa [D], Representative Brian Murray [D]

BILL STATUS: Introduced

BILL SUMMARY:

  • Modifies the General Laws by enabling the Executive Office of Housing and Living Communities (EOHLC) (previously known as the Department of Housing and Community Development) to prevent homelessness, foreclosure, etc. before it happens by distributing funds and services for families who are at or below the area median income and are at risk of homelessness, eviction, foreclosure, or utility shut-off within the next 12 months

  • Eligible households may receive benefits for short-term going-forward rental or utility payments to offset future costs and to pay for other expenses that otherwise would leave the household at risk of homelessness, up to a total benefit equal to 12 months’ rent

  • The EOHLC shall coordinate with the Department of Transitional Assistance, member agencies and offices of the MA Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, and the agencies contracted to administer the RAFT program on behalf of eligible households to streamline the application process, provide additional support services, and better promote upstream homelessness prevention and housing stability

KEY IMPLICATIONS:

  • This bill serves to assist the EOHLC in mitigating the risk of homelessness rather than providing rehousing strategies for currently homeless households

  • This bill may mitigate the strains that some cities and towns face from MA’s “right-to-shelter” law by enabling the EOHLC to distribute aid

  • The additional responsibilities may hamper the effectiveness of the EOHLC and its partner agencies, especially when taking into consideration the recent influx of migrants and refugees and the current number of people awaiting housing assistance. To avoid this, further staffing at the EOHLC may be required.

LEGISLATION SUGGESTIONS:

  • Rural areas may not be able to participate in RAFT due to its complexity, thus it could be necessary to include rural advocates in designing this program

  • From June 2021 to January 2023, New York State has had an Emergency Rental Assistance Program that provided economic relief to low- and moderate-income tenants by providing up to 12 months of rental payments, up to 3 months of additional rental assistance, and up to 12 months of electric or gas utility payments. The ERAP prioritized households that were at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income and had a household member who is at-risk. This bill could be strengthened by prioritizing at-risk households and households that are below the Area Median Income.

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