With concern Massachusetts could be heading for a housing crisis, the city of Springfield has announced an assistance program.
The city of Springfield is making available $2 million in federal grant money for renters and homeowners who have lost income because of the pandemic public health orders.
Way Finders, the Springfield-based nonprofit housing agency, will administer the program. Way Finders President Peter Gagliardi estimated it will help 800-1,000 households.
"That is going to make a huge difference," said Gagliardi.
The grant program will pay up to three months’ rent, mortgage, and utility bills for low and moderate income residents of Springfield.
"Maybe you were making good money before and you got nothing now, it is the nothing now we are looking at," said Gagliardi by way of explaining the income restrictions for the assistance program.
Applications are available at Way Finders’ website and by phone. Gagliardi said additional staff has been hired to quickly process the requests for help.
"We have been stepping up our activity and will be a busy place for six-12 months because we think we have that long where we need to be very careful that people don't become homeless," said Gagliardi.
There is concern Massachusetts could be heading for a major housing crisis this summer when a moratorium on evictions expires and federally-funded supplemental unemployment benefits end. When tenants get behind on rent, it can quickly spiral out-of-control, leading to landlords unable to pay mortgages, buildings being abandoned, and property values plummeting.
That is what happened in Springfield during the Great Recession.
" We saw first hand the trauma created when there were hundreds of homeless families many housed for months in hotel and motel rooms," said Gagliardi. "We do not want to go back to that ever again."
A survey of Massachusetts residents conducted by the MassINC Polling Group found 29 percent were unable to pay at least part of their rent between April and June. Among those who missed payments, just 21 percent said it is “very likely” they can catch up by August.
"It is not hard to believe particularly in the eastern part of the state," said Gagliardi. "You lose your job and the rent becomes enormous even with the unemployment assistance."
In just a matter of weeks, Springfield was able to give more than $1 million in grants to dozens of restaurants and other small businesses to help keep people on payrolls. Now, Mayor Domenic Sarno said he wants to move with the same urgency to help keep people in their homes.
" We gotta take care of our residents--help them out. They are struggling right now," said Sarno.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal said during this public health emergency people need assurance that their homes remain safe havens.
Congress has passed relief legislation totaling more than $3 trillion. Neal, a Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said more assistance will be needed.