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Advocates: Massachusetts Governor's Plan to Prevent Evictions Falls Short

Foreclosure sign.
Niall Kennedy
/
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/35034351734@N01

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a $171 million plan to help people stay in their homes after the state’s eviction ban expires on Saturday.

But housing advocates said it’s not enough.

Some of the money will help pay back rent through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. Either tenants or their landlords can apply for up to $10,000 per family, up from a previous $4,000.

Some of the new money will go towards legal help.

A number of housing advocates said the fund should be much larger.

Pamela Schwartz of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness said Baker's plan, while a good start, relies too much on the court system.

"A landlord has a choice whether or not to participate in this," Schwartz said. "It can decide, 'I don't want RAFT. I want to get this tenant out of here.' That is a huge public health risk...and the courts are not meant to be public health responders."

In a press conference Tuesday, Baker said he's hoping most housing disputes would be resolved before they come to trial.

Baker said his administration spent about six weeks estimating how much money would be needed to address the housing problems caused by the pandemic.

"If it turns out that it's more than we need, that's great," he said. "If it turns out that it's less than we need, we'll figure it out."

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a public agency, estimates that 80,000 Massachusetts residents will have trouble covering their housing costs this month alone.

Many housing advocates are pushing for a pending state bill that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year beyond the state of emergency, while providing help to both landlords and tenants.

The Centers for Disease Control issued a federal ban on evictions through December, but Schwartz said the documentation involved is too complicated for many people.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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