State officials tour affordable housing in Holyoke

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Secretary of Housing and Economic development, Mike Kennealy visited Holyoke Wednesday to discuss new affordable housing.

Kennealy was joined with Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Jennifer Maddox, as well as members of the affordable housing development community and other state and local officials. The group will tour three locations in Holyoke.

“We need the units. We’ve been in a housing crisis now for a generation in Massachusetts and seeing more projects like this get done and more affordable units come online, it’s wonderful to see,” said Secretary Kennealy.

This is the third day in the statewide tour of affordable housing developments. That tour began in Holyoke at 9:30 a.m.

  • Appleton Mill located at 100 Bigelow Street
  • Lyman Terrace located at 17 Hampden Street
  • South Holyoke Housing Projects located at 624 South East Street

Local and state officials as well as developers met in front of the Appleton Mill building to discuss the planning for 88 new apartments in the historic building. The development of the housing complex is through the rental housing rapid production initiative.

The Appleton Mill building has been vacant since 1990 when it was used for the Farr-Alpaca Mill company. The 88 units will be for residents 55 and older with the majority of the units for low and extremely low income residents. It’s a two phase project where they will turn buildings six through four into studio, one and two bedroom apartments.

“For seniors, finding a place where people can stay in the community they love is really important. And housing here in our gateway cities is critically important,” said Secretary Kennealy.

The development will include a fitness facility, community room, outdoor areas and access to health amenities for residents. The development team says they expect and hope the project will be complete by late 2022.

Households, individual tenants, or landlords seeking assistance paying rent, utilities, or mortgages, are encouraged to visit www.Mass.Gov/CovidHousingHelp.

Massachusetts surpasses 65 percent of initial allocation of federal funds prior to deadline

Since March 1, 2020, the Commonwealth’s Eviction Diversion Initiative – which consists of state and federal rental assistance funds – has distributed a total of approximately $270 million in rental assistance; that funding has resulted in assisting over 40,000 unique households to date.
 
“Ensuring safe, stable housing for Massachusetts families is vital to combating the pandemic and supporting our economic recovery,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Commonwealth’s Eviction Diversion Initiative has helped over 40,000 households remain in their homes, and we hope to build on our successful partnerships with providers as we continue to assist families across Massachusetts.” 
 
“The Emergency Rental Assistance funding has been a crucial resource to our Eviction Diversion Initiative in helping to protect renters from evictions or homelessness, and landlords from foreclosure,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.  “Through our request today, we are asking to extend our partnership with the US Treasury and ensure we can continue protecting vulnerable Massachusetts families through our rental assistance program without disruption.”
 
Pursuant to federal requirements, states were required to spend or obligate 65 percent of funding received in the first allocation of federal rental assistance, known as ERA1, by Sept. 30, 2021 in order to be considered for reallocation of unspent funding from states that have not met that benchmark to states and jurisdictions that have.
 
The Administration notified the US Department of the Treasury of its eligibility to receive additional funds from other states and formally requested that any excess ERA1 funding be reallocated to Massachusetts in ensure the Commonwealth can continue supporting families and households in need.
 
In October 2020, the Baker-Polito launched the Eviction Diversion Initiative in partnership with the Trial Court.  The initiative provides mediation services, case management services, and legal aid – as well as state and federal rental assistance funds – and has contributed to Massachusetts residential eviction filings decreasing to less than 50 percent of the rate prior to the pandemic.
 
“Through collaboration across government at both the state and federal level, including our partners in the Legislature, and thanks to the tireless efforts of our team at DHCD, Massachusetts has transformed its program to prevent homelessness into a large-scale, disaster-relief effort that has staved off a wave of evictions,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.  “Because of DHCD’s success in scaling up our rental assistance program, and through their work to support our regional agencies, we have been able to process an unprecedented volume of applications, which has positioned us to request additional resources to sustain our pace and continue supporting families in need.”

“Massachusetts continues to be a national leader in disbursing assistance at a consistent rate,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan. “We seek these additional funds from the US Treasury to continue supporting eviction diversion initiatives and keep people in their homes.”

To scale up the Commonwealth’s rental assistance program, DHCD implemented a wide range of key program improvements, including technology upgrades, efforts to reduce paperwork and to streamline the application process, enhanced language access, and targeted outreach to communities at risk of eviction. 
 
Most recently, DHCD has also:

  • Launched one, centralized rental assistance application that went live on Thursday, Sept. 30.  The new centralized application will further streamline and expedite the process for households seeking assistance and will replace applications used by each individual regional agency that works with DHCD to distribute rental assistance. 
  • Expanded the small landlord application door, which allowed property owners with up to 20 units to apply directly for assistance on behalf of their tenants. Now, landlords of any size can apply directly for emergency housing assistance on behalf of eligible tenants through the centralized application. The Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) Program is still available for qualified owners of affordable rental housing and Local Housing Authorities to submit bulk applications for rental assistance.

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