CommonWealth Magazine

IT’S CLEAR that pandemic struggles have made paying rent more difficult for many people, even though moratoriums on evictions have helped them stay at home.

A report released this week by Metro Housing Boston puts a staggering figure on the help residents of the greater Boston area need. In one year, starting in July 2020, the agency distributed $ 63.2 million in housing assistance funds to 10,200 low-income households in the Boston area.

In comparison, the year before, the agency distributed $ 5.1 million to 1,800 households, and the year before, it gave $ 4.4 million to 1,700 households.

One of the main reasons for this increase is that the state has changed its laws so that households can get more money. The average family allowance was $ 6,100 in fiscal 2021, compared to less than $ 3,000 in the previous two years. The state has also enabled more people to benefit from it, including those with slightly higher incomes. And there is simply a lot more money to distribute since both state and federal governments have invested huge sums to prevent evictions and foreclosures. Between March 1, 2020 and October 1, 2021, State officials distributed approximately $ 270 million to more than 40,000 households statewide through its diversion initiative.

Yet it’s also clear that a 600% increase in aid provided by the Boston-area agency represents a landscape with a much larger scale of needs.

The report says the pandemic is to blame: “The ripple effect of community closings, business closings and the resulting layoffs and layoffs, distance learning and the need for parents to stop. from working to stay at home with school-aged children; and the financial impact of losing income temporarily due to illness or permanently due to death financially crippled many households.

Steven Farrell, COO of Metro Housing Boston, said the need is not waning. Between July 1 and November 30, 2021, the months following the reporting period, the organization distributed an additional $ 74 million to 9,280 households.

“We are setting new records every week,” said Farrell. “When more funds become available, we get more requests. “

Farrell said those receiving help in many cases are people who were previously middle-income with stable jobs, then suddenly lost a job or found themselves wading amid COVID. In previous years, Farrell said, the rent assistance program was about homelessness prevention for low-income households. Now it has become a “disaster relief fund”.

There is a state law that prohibits a judge from ordering the eviction of a person if he has a pending request for rent relief, and Farrell said this has also likely increased the number of requests – which is “exactly what the program was designed for”.

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Journalist, Commonwealth

On Shira Schönberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter for CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for over seven years at the Springfield Republican / MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as starting the legal marijuana industry, issues with the state foster care system and the elections of US Sen Elizabeth Warren and Governor Charlie Baker. Shira won the 2018 Massachusetts Bar Association Award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and several articles won awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Prior to that, she worked for the Concord (NH) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, city hall, and Barack Obama’s primary campaign in New Hampshire in 2008. Shira is the incumbent of a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

On Shira Schönberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter for CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for over seven years at the Springfield Republican / MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as starting the legal marijuana industry, issues with the state foster care system and the elections of US Sen Elizabeth Warren and Governor Charlie Baker. Shira won the 2018 Massachusetts Bar Association Award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and several articles won awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Prior to that, she worked for the Concord (NH) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, city hall, and Barack Obama’s primary campaign in New Hampshire in 2008. Shira is the incumbent of a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

By far the biggest chunk of money last year went to rent payments. The moratorium on evictions allowed people who owed rent money to stay in their homes, but the money they still owed had to be paid, and the agency paid $ 43.5 million to help people in arrears of rent. A much lower percentage than in the past went to security deposits, moving expenses, and the first and last month’s rent – signs that low-income people were moving less frequently.

Farrell suggested that with all the uncertainty surrounding COVID, families were looking for all solutions to stay stable.

An additional $ 2.5 million, much more than in previous years, was spent on mortgage assistance. This money went to both financially struggling families and homeowners who were not receiving rent money and therefore were themselves threatened with foreclosure.

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