Renters, homeowners, and landlords with financial hardships urged to contact the Office of Housing Stability
SOMERVILLE, MA – The Somerville Board of Health (BOH) voted to extend the city’s residential eviction moratorium to April 30, 2022, at its September 9 meeting.
“I want to thank the Board of Health for taking this important step to protect public health as this pandemic continues,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “We know about a third of renters who are evicted move in with friends or family, which can cause crowded conditions that help COVID-19 spread. Others go to shelters and similar congregate settings, or to tent encampments which also increase the likelihood of COVID transmission and lethality. Keeping people in their homes is one of the many ways we are trying to limit the spread of this virus.”
Over the course of the pandemic, the City’s Office of Housing Stability (OHS) has substantially increased capacity to help renters, homeowners, and landlords access support. The office has helped hundreds of tenants to obtain well over $2,000,000 in rental assistance and continues to receive about 60 new requests for assistance each month. Applicants applying with OHS help tend to have a far more favorable outcome – renters who apply for the State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program with OHS support have a 97% success rate versus a 50% success rate overall in Massachusetts
The Somerville Homeless Coalition (SHC) and the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) are critical partners working with OHS making sure that all Somerville tenants that are in need of rental assistance have the opportunity to get these critical funds and to remain in their homes.
Renters and homeowners are still responsible for back rent during the moratorium period, so anyone who needs help covering housing costs should contact OHS as soon as possible.
“Tenants who are not able to stay current with their rent are strongly encouraged to call the Office of Housing Stability for help in obtaining rental assistance to stabilize their tenancies and avoid credit problems. Landlords with tenants who are in arrears can also feel free to contact OHS for help reaching out to their tenants about rental assistance,” said Director of Housing Stability Ellen Shachter. “OHS can also assist eligible Somerville homeowners and landlords with applications for financial assistance to cover unpaid mortgages, condo fees, or similar charges. So, please, contact us early. Our goal is to create a win-win situation where tenants are not getting evicted and landlords and homeowners are able to keep up with mortgages and other fees.”
Somerville residents in need of assistance are urged to contact OHS at 617-625-6600 x2581 or fill out a referral form at somervillema.gov/ohs. CAAS can be reached at 617-623-7370 or caasomerville.org/need-help and SHC can be reached at 617-623-6111.
The Somerville eviction moratorium prevents the physical removal of tenants from their homes. While landlords may file notices to quit and seek court orders for evictions, Somerville residents may not be forcibly removed from their homes while this pandemic protection is in place.
Low- and moderate-income homeowners who are behind on their mortgages may also be eligible for payment of their mortgage arrears. Landlords and homeowners may also be eligible for forbearance, which is a pause or reduction in mortgage payments. In addition to existing mortgage assistance resources, the State of Massachusetts recently received approximately $178 million to develop a new Mortgage Assistance Program. Guidelines are being developed by the state in accordance with U.S.Treasury Guidance. This new program should be up and running soon.
Somerville residents who receive a “notice of levy” (a date and time when they will be removed from their homes by a constable or deputy sheriff) or who are experiencing a physical eviction should immediately contact 311 (617-666-3311) to be connected to OHS staff (for residential tenants or homeowners), and the Somerville Police Department as necessary, to intervene.
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Persons with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication (i.e., CART, ASL), written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures in order to access the programs, activities, and meetings of the City of Somerville should please contact Nancy Bacci at 617-625-6600 x 2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.