Rental Assistance Reform

Summary

This bill was filed by renter advocates in 2021 to make RAFT permanent. Currently RAFT only exists in budget language added and re-added each year.

MassLandlords would make three changes to the renter advocate proposal to strength RAFT protections further:

  1. Give a full 12 months of assistance paid in arrears, going forward, or some combination. We're seeing horrible disasters where a renter waits to apply, because they know it's only one month going forward. They're trying to maximize their benefit. Then the program times them out or rejects them, and it's too late. They get evicted.
  2. RAAs have to go through procurement. Currently the regional administering agencies (RAAs) do not have to meet subcontractor requirements for the commonwealth, do not have to participate in sealed competitive bidding, and do not experience market or regulatory pressures to improve their operations.
  3. Rental assistance should be a public record. In December 2021, MassLandlords filed suit against DHCD alleging possible discrimination in RAFT. This case is ongoing. The state are using renter privacy as a reason not to divulge landlord addresses, essentially hiding the geographic and racial distribution of RAFT funds from public scrutiny. Our suit does not ask for renter names. We expressly exclude the renter's names from the public record in this bill, but make it clear that addresses where rental assistance is used are public.
Supported by Staff
MassLandlords staff drafted or participated materially in the creation of bill text below. Members will be polled at the next update of the policy priorities survey.
Bill Text May Change
The legislative process involves many changes to most bills. Our goal with bill explainers like this is to communicate core concepts assuming final wording is beyond our control. If you feel we missed or misunderstood a core concept about this bill, please contribute to this explainer by emailing hello@masslandlords.net or by using the support widget on this page. Pointing out typos or poor drafting is appreciated on green bills (we wrote or support).

Full Text of the RAFT Reform Bill

To be posted.

Explanation of the RAFT Reform Bill

RAFT should cover 12 months' rent.

  • If RAFT were just a fixed amount, like $10,000, then it would be regressive in areas of high opportunity with high rents, and would instead reward renters who live in low-rent areas far from transit, social services and economic opportunities.
  • If RAFT only pays arrears, renters wait to apply until the last possible minute to maximize their benefit. This prolongs the stress and uncertainty for both parties. If RAFT is denied or "timed out," then an eviction case started in parallel may unexpectedly end with the renter's forced move-out.
The regional administering agencies will have to bid competitively for their contracts to administer RAFT. This could end regional monopolies, increase quality of service, and expand access to underserved populations by encouraging new, more competitive methods and administration technologies.
The places and times where RAFT gets used should be public, but the renters names should be confidential.

  • Census data lets us predict the race, language and other protected class attributes of residents in certain geographic regions.
  • Knowing the exact address, not just zip code, enables us to find households wrongly being evicted and to help them re-apply. The court records list addresses. Anyone not being harmed by eviction would remain unidentifiable.

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