End of eviction moratorium still a concern despite 60-day extension

  • BIALECKI-CANNING

For the Recorder
Published: 8/5/2021 5:20:48 PM

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed an order Wednesday extending the moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement from the CDC said Walensky determined that “evictions of tenants for failure to make rent or housing payments could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of … COVID-19.”

The moratorium is now set to expire Oct. 3.

Heather Bialecki-Canning, executive director of the North Quabbin Community Coalition, said that a North Quabbin-specific housing task force, which had suspended operations during the height of the pandemic, was “re-launched” on July 14.

“We did that because we have started receiving phone calls from our community,” she said. “We’ve gotten five calls so far. Three of which were people either currently being evicted or in fear of being evicted, and two were landlords. So, we’re seeing it on both sides — people trying to figure out ‘How do I get these people out,’ ‘What are my rights,’ as well as ‘Where do I go?’”

Providing answers, Bialecki-Canning said, is often difficult because the problem is so complex.

“There is a huge shortage of appropriate, safe, stable housing in our region,” she explained. “People are not able to transition from apartment to apartment, as they have in the past. There literally aren’t any units available.

“We are really trying to promote some of the programs through our banks about home ownership, because there is housing stock, but it is going so fast,” she continued. “Even those eligible for home ownership are having a really hard time landing. It’s a multipronged issue across our region, not only for that community that’s a little more transient, but also for people looking for home ownership.”

Bialecki-Canning said the reconstituted task force includes members from both housing authorities and regional housing and development groups. Among the resources the North Quabbin Community Coalition looks to when getting calls about eviction include the local housing authorities and the North Quabbin Patch.

“The Family Resource Center (at the North Quabbin Patch) has someone who really keeps her finger on the pulse of the housing situation,” Bialecki-Canning said. “We get the good, bad and ugly of what’s current. So, there are some resources available, but at the end of the day it’s the housing stock.”

In addition to finding housing, many tenants are seeking assistance catching up with rent that has gone unpaid during the pandemic. While the federal government set aside $45 billion in emergency rental assistance, which is to be distributed to the states, nearly $42 billion remains unspent.

Franklin County

Gina Govoni, executive director of the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said that despite some problems at the federal level, “It is a complicated process, and I think the state has been unfairly criticized for not getting the money out faster.”

She said eccentricities in the reporting process that indicate that 90 percent of applications for rental assistance have been denied, when “the reality is a lot of those applications are actually timing out and the minority of that 90 percent are actual denials.”

“What we have been doing is really working on easing the guidelines through which we provide these emergency funds,” Govoni said. “I think the state has been doing as much as they can to keep up with what they’re hearing from other states and how they’re administering the programs and adding capacity to get the funds out the door.”

She said most state funding should be expended over the next two months.

“There is an expectation that we as a state will have 65 percent of our current federal funds spent down by Sept. 30, and we’re close to that,” she said. “As of last Tuesday, we were over the 50 percent mark as a state, so we’ve definitely made a lot of progress.

“The thing that gives me hope is that all of the 11 regional agencies in Massachusetts have been working closely with the state on a centralized application system,” Govoni continued. “We’ve all been making sure our websites will be tied correctly to a centralized website and more or less seamlessly receive referrals from one source.”

That, Govoni said, should eliminate duplication in the process. However, she noted that many families in North Quabbin lack internet or even a home computer, which means many applicants must submit hard copy applications, which must then be entered into the system. That, she said, creates more work for staff and slows down the process.

Govoni also stressed that, even though the eviction moratorium has been extended another 60 days, anyone who believes they are eligible for emergency rental assistance shouldn’t wait to apply. Her agency handles North Quabbin communities that fall into Franklin County.




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