- On December 30, 2020
- In Affordable Housing
A Year in Review: Affordable Housing in 2020
Last January, we created a list of top affordable housing policies to watch in 2020. Little did we know that just a few months later, these policy agendas – and everything else – would be changed by a public health crisis. As we look back on the past year, one thing is clear: the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the widespread disparities in our society, demonstrating the necessity of creating more housing opportunities that are affordable and accessible for all.
Here is a look at some of the policies and issues that have defined Massachusetts’ affordable housing landscape in 2020.
- State and Federal Eviction Moratoriums: In April, responding to the nationwide economic downturn which created rent instability among many Massachusetts residents, Governor Charlie Baker enacted a statewide eviction moratorium. The moratorium – which was in place until last month – provided a sense of security for many low-income households, reassuring them that an inability to keep up on rent would not result in displacement. The lifting of the moratorium was not a response to diminished need; in fact, there is already evidence of the expiration creating housing uncertainty among many Massachusetts residents. A recent Massachusetts Housing Partnership study reported that 689 eviction cases were filed for failure to pay rent, up from a weekly average of 608 cases in the months before the moratorium. The number of eviction filings is likely to continue rising in early 2021, with the federal eviction moratorium put in place by the CDC set to expire on December 31.
- Housing Stability Initiatives: We have also seen public officials focus on housing stability initiatives. In October, for example, Governor Baker announced a $171 million initiative to help promote housing stability through increased funding for programs such as Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, which seeks to support both tenants and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19. At the local level, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently signed the Housing Stability Notification Act, designed to ensure that residents facing eviction are fully aware of their rights. Under this law, Boston property owners must provide a document detailing tenants’ rights and resources – including information on rent relief funds, instructions for applying for a federal declaration of need and a list of support services – when issuing a Notice to Quit, which is the first step in a formal eviction process. These policies are crucial steps in increasing housing stability among Massachusetts residents, and should be continued and expanded in 2021.
- Funding for the Development of Affordable Housing: While Massachusetts’ affordable housing crisis existed long before 2020, the pandemic has further demonstrated the need to develop additional affordable housing units. The 2020 Affordable Rental Housing Awards, presented by Governor Baker in October, took steps toward addressing this need through the allocation of $105.7 million in direct funding and $53 million in state and federal tax credits to 28 development projects. This funding is expected to create 2,166 affordable rental units across 19 communities, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. Going forward, it will be essential that affordable housing be placed at the forefront of conversations around public funding and COVID-19 relief.
As we close out 2020 and continue to battle the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, IBA will continue working with our residents to help them navigate this crisis and ensure the resiliency of our community. At the same time, we will advocate for the rights of residents across Massachusetts, working with state and local officials to support low-income households and create more housing options that are affordable and accessible for all.
We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: http://www.ibaboston.org/donat......