Eviction Crisis in Massachusetts
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) is encouraged to see that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has responded to demands that LCR made on behalf of renters of color and low-income renters, by updating the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, which provides life-saving emergency housing assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other recent changes, the state has expanded RAFT eligibility by removing the applicant’s burden of needing to demonstrate the ability to meet future housing costs.
However, despite these steps in the right direction, LCR still has serious legal concerns surrounding the program’s administration. The state must commit to providing timely adjudication and adequate notice to tenants experiencing housing insecurity. Far too many renters have been waiting for months for their emergency rental assistance applications to be processed. These stories illustrate the scope and depth of the housing crisis:
- Juanita is a Black woman living in Roxbury with her 9 and 10 year-old daughters. She has been unable to work at her job as a manager at WingStop during the pandemic because she suffers from severe asthma and is unable to wear a mask for long periods of time. Juanita applied for RAFT with an LCR advocate on September 30, 2020. As of today, her case remains pending without any timeline for resolution or notice outlining next steps.
- Towanda is a Black woman living in Dorchester. After suffering from life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms earlier this year, she was laid off from her job of 7 years because of company budget cuts. She has been unable to secure a new job, and has only been able to pay for some of her rent by borrowing money from her children. Towanda applied for RAFT with an LCR advocate on November 3, 2020. As of today, her case remains pending without any timeline for resolution or notice outlining next steps.
Juanita’s family, Towanda’s family, and far too many others are on the verge of eviction and homelessness.
LCR will continue to advocate for relief for Juanita, Towanda and countless other RAFT applicants who are experiencing prolonged delays. LCR will also monitor the unlawful delays and inefficiencies surrounding the Commonwealth’s administration of its emergency rental assistance program. The RAFT program provides a critical lifeline and we must ensure that it actually reaches desperate households to avoid the impending tsunami of evictions.
Click here for more information on LCR’s work tackling the housing crisis.