East Boston Times-Free Press: Over 1,000 Local Households Receive Rental Lifeline in 2022

East Boston Times-Free Press 
Published February 22, 2023

The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, a homelessness prevention program funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provided  a lifeline for 18,317 families in the region, providing more than $162 million in assistance during FY22.

By comparison, FY21 saw 10,251 households receive a total of $63 million in assistance.

In East Boston, 1,062 households received more than $11.2 million in emergency housing assistance, accounting for 15.4 percent of all households that received assistance in Boston.  In  comparison, 650 East Boston households received $4.7 million in emergency rental assistance in FY21.

Metro Housing|Boston has documented the effectiveness of RAFT since 2013. This year’s report continues this examination of the impact of the pandemic through the infusion of state and federal funds, the expansion of eligibility to access those funds, the streamlining of the application  process, and quicker release of dollars. These changes resulted in a complete shift in Metro Housing’s housing payment assistance programs, requiring greater flexibility and increased staff capacity.

Partnerships with community-based organizations provided another valuable way to assist more families in Metro Housing’s region in FY22. Partnerships with the Action for Boston Community Development, Asian Community Development Corporation,

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, The Neighborhood Developers (TND)/CONNECT, WATCH, and Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (VietAID) provided not only venues for getting the word out about available assistance, but also provided places for  people to complete applications and get assistance with language barrier issues.

“The pandemic hit TND’s communities of Chelsea and Revere hard,” says Rafael Mares, Executive Director of TND (The Neighborhood Developers). “Our close, pre-existing partnership with Metro Housing became the bedrock of our response.

With their support, our team took on the responsibility to assist tenants in filling out rental assistance applications, Metro Housing staff trained our team, and jointly we developed systems for working together.”

Key Findings from RAFT/EHPA in Review FY2022: 

  • Rental arrears remained the largest category for assistance. In FY22, $80 million was awarded for arrears, the largest amount ever.
  • Total rental stipend assistance increased to 42 percent of all EHPA assistance, totaling more than $67 million. In FY21, it represented only 22 percent of     assistance.
  • The average housing assistance benefit increased from $6,167 in FY21 to $8,870 in FY22.
  • Mortgage assistance in FY22 totaled $1.8 million, a decrease from the $2.5 million in FY21.
  • The total number of Black/African American households helped in FY22 jumped to almost 8,000, a seven-fold increase over FY20.
  • In FY22, 1,121 Asian households, or 6% of the total – received assistance. In FY20, 21 Asian households, or 1% of the total – were assisted.
  • The number of Hispanic/Latino households receiving assistance continues to see a sharp increase. In FY22, 6,548 households received assistance, compared to 3,289 in FY21 and 554 in FY20.

“COVID-19 has impacted all of us in so many ways, but none as severe as families with low incomes not being able to pay your rent or mortgage while facing eviction or foreclosure,” said Chris Norris, Executive Director of Metro Housing|Boston. “RAFT has been a lifeline for thousands of households over the years, and its importance during the pandemic cannot be overstated. However, until more permanent, viable solutions are identified and implemented, a safety net for those most at risk of homelessness needs to be dependably and heavily funded.

The data in this report shows the need for a more sustainable solution, from additional rental assistance vouchers and the production of below-market-rate housing to the critical shortage of affordable housing in the metro Boston area.

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