BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) —Governor Charlie Baker has announced an "Eviction Diversion Initiative" for tenants and landlords, just days before the state wide eviction ban is set to expire on Oct.17.
The announcement comes after activists and residents marched through the streets of Boston on Sunday to call for an extension of the state moratorium, which has protected renters from eviction and foreclosure during the pandemic.
Developed by Baker's administration and the Massachusetts Trial Court, the $171 million initiative will fund resources and programs that focus on issues like tenant rehousing and conflict mediation.
“The pandemic has created financial challenges for many individuals and families who are struggling with rent payments," Governor Baker said in a press release. “This strategy has been designed to be user-friendly and easily accessible for tenants and landlords in need."
Funding in the initiative is broken down into several parts:
- $100 million to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) relief program
- $48.7 million will go to the HomeBASE rehousing program
- $12.3 million will fund legal representation during evictions
- $6.5 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) for housing emergencies
- $3.8 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) for case management between landlords and tenants
According to Baker, the new investments in local programs will help families stabilize housing, provide housing counseling and legal services, allow households to find new housing quickly and streamline the process for applying and receiving government assistance.
In coordination with the Trial Court, the plan will also establish a new "Community Mediation" program to supplement the court-provided mediation in a legal case over tenancy or eviction.
Baker said that when the state eviction ban expires on Saturday, a moratorium established by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) will also take effect in Massachusetts.
"Through December, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord," the release said. The moratorium is limited to households with certain income and vulnerability criteria.
Starting on Tuesday, Massachusetts residents can call a 2-1-1 information hotline to ask operators questions about the initiative. The Baker administration will also post information on the state's government website.