As restrictions that have been in place since the start of the pandemic are ending— including the statewide moratorium on evictions that will expire on June 30-— threats of eviction and foreclosure once again loom for some residents in Dorchester and Mattapan.
But there are options, particularly for those struggling financially from repercussions of the public health emergency. Metro Housing Boston’s Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program (ERAP), launched in March through the federal CARES act, received $457 million in ERAP funding that is accessible through the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
A non-profit that aims to prevent homelessness in Greater Boston, Metro Housing Boston, which has provided rental assistance to more than 4,500 families, distributed $11.5 million in May. In Dorchester, 2,612 families received $8 million in rental assistance.
Kristin Ross, director of financial assistance at Metro Housing Boston, called ERAP a “game changer” for many recipients. Funding can be used to cover rental or mortgage arrears, security deposits, first and last month’s rent, utility arrearages, and moving expenses.
“It’s meant to capture more folks that may have a higher income but still have arrears and have not been able to keep up for a variety of circumstances— they’ve lost hours, were furloughed or laid off,” she said.
“We’re able to offer more in the way of resources,” Ross added. Applicants that might have applied for RAFT funding last year and received the max amount of assistance at $10,000 can reapply for additional funding through ERAP if they’ve accumulated arrears.
“Were it not for these funds, we would be in a poor position to serve these folks that are in need.”
For the most part, ERAP builds on the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance programs (ERMA) by providing Metro Housing and its statewide partners additional resources to help families by making individuals eligible and at higher income levels, at up to 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), which is, roughly, $90,950 for a family of three in Boston.
In comparison, the RAFT program has an income eligibility limit of 50 percent AMI.
Applicants must be able to provide a statement attesting to unemployment, decreased wages, or increased expenses due to Covid-19. Households may be eligible for up to 12 months of rental arrears (plus an extra 3 months if funding allows and need is demonstrated,) as well as overdue utilities payments up to $1,500. All rent and utility arrears must have been accrued after March 13, 2021.
Under RAFT/ERMA, renters and landlords may receive up to $10,000 during a state of emergency and up to $7,000 for six months after the end of state of emergency. Applicants to the programs may also be considered for ERAP, no additional or separate application is required.
Applications can be filled out online at metrohousingboston.org/what-we-do/rental-relief-and-eviction-prevention, or in person at 1411 Tremont Street in Boston.