NEW BEDFORD — With the federal moratorium on evictions expiring at the end of the month, many renters will be vulnerable to evictions. But there are dozens of local, county and state organizations working to help. They connect tenants, landlords and homeowners who face pandemic-related financial difficulties to rental and mortgage relief programs and free legal services. Those programs and services will still be available after the moratorium on evictions expires.
“There’s definitely a great deal of money available. The problem is reaching the people who need it.” said Michelle Mack, an eviction diversion supervisor of Father Bill’s & MainSpring, one of the many organizations working to distribute those funds on a local level. “Most don’t know about the programs available until they are already in (housing) court.”
Here are some of the organizations working in New Bedford and Bristol County to connect those in need with the programs:
People Acting In Community Endeavors (PACE)
PACE (People Acting In Community Endeavors), 166 William St., connects residents with rental relief programs and legal services. The organization’s Housing Opportunities Center is located at 308 Cottage St. Call 508-993-0033 (ext. 102).
PACE has helped to distribute more than $1 million in rental assistance over the last four months, according to Assistant Executive Director Joshua Amaral. Other programs and services include: mediation when negotiating with a landlord concerning eviction due to back rent or negotiating payment plans; tenant education workshops to provide tools to become self-sufficient; and help for those with barriers to securing permanent, affordable housing.
The Housing Opportunity Center offers a list of available rental units in the city that are both subsidized and unsubsidized.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc. provides free, civil legal aid to low-income residents, organization leaders say. It also provides services to some landlords. The free legal services are available to all who fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Tenants seeking eviction help can call lawyers directly at 800-244-9023. Landlords in owner-occupied two- or three-family homes can call the Volunteer Lawyers Project at 617-603-1700.
Using state funds, SCCLS extended efforts to provide free legal services, especially for those with evictions or overdue mortgage payments related to the pandemic, through the end of 2021, according to Executive Director Susan Nagl.
The main form of assistance programs available are Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) and Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), organization leaders say.
Eligible homeowners and tenants can get up to $10,000 to pay overdue or future mortgage or rent payments under RAFT and ERMA. Eligible tenants can get up to 15 months of rental assistance under the federal ERAP program. Tenants can use up to 12 months for overdue rent and use three months of assistance at a time for future rent payments.
In New Bedford, landlords have filed 407 individual evictions against renters since October of 2020, when the state moratorium on evictions expired, according to the Massachusetts Trial Court database.
These housing aid programs are still available, and will continue to be available after the federal eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month. As of early June, almost $800 million in housing aid still remains undistributed to Massachusetts residents, according to a report by Boston public radio station WBUR.
More outreach organizations
Through the pandemic, many local community advocacy groups adapted to meet the urgent needs of residents in an unprecedented time. Leaders say that eviction diversion was a priority, and they have worked with the state to get the available funds to people in need.
Catholic Social Services, with offices in both New Bedford and Fall River, connects people to rental assistance programs and legal services. Reach the New Bedford office, 238 Bonney St., at 508-674-4681.
Father Bill’s & MainSpring, with offices in Brockton, provides similar services. Call 508-586-2348.
Members of the Coalition for Social Justice are knocking on the doors of those facing eviction to inform them of the services available. Reach the organization’s New Bedford office, 105 William St., Suite 26, at 508-999-2777.
Many of the groups came together to create a website to streamline information on the available programs and legal services.
The federal moratorium on evictions expires at the end of June. Many have already fallen through the cracks.
As real estate prices increase, there is evidence that low-income residents are being forced out of homes in New Bedford.
“We’re seeing some folks really having challenging times being able to afford this rental market.”
“If the city has the political will, it can make any of this work,” said Robert Terrell, a lecturer at Tufts University.
Residential home prices in New Bedford are surging as supply remains low — and local buyers are finding it hard to compete.
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