Easthampton eyes CPA funds for rent relief program

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2020 9:19:33 AM
Modified: 5/8/2020 9:19:21 AM

EASTHAMPTON – The city’s planning department is creating a program to use Community Preservation Act funds to provide rent relief for those who have suffered economic hardship in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re at the very beginning of the process,” said Assistant Planner Jamie Webb.

The idea for the program originated with Community Preservation Act Committee member Greg Rolland in the early days of the pandemic.

“It became clear that there would be members of our community … who would be under economic stress,” Rolland said.

Rolland shared his idea with Webb, City Councilor Dan Rist, who is chairman of the CPA Committee, and Mayor Nicole LaChapelle. 

Webb said the program would use CPA funds to provide short-term rental relief to those who have lost income as a result of the pandemic. She said that, while a figure hasn’t been settled on yet, the relief would be in the three-to-four month range. Webb said the Affordable & Fair Housing Partnership also is involved in developing the program.

“We’re going to be asking initially for $200,000,” she said.

CPA funds must be used for projects related to affordable housing, historical preservation, open space, and recreation. The money is raised locally through a 3% property tax surcharge, although the first $100,000 of residential property value is exempt. Business properties receive no exemption.  

Webb said that the rent relief program would be administered by an outside social services agency and that the city would issue a request for proposals if the program is approved. 

Webb said the money in the program would go directly to landlords and that they would be asked to reduce the rent they are charging tenants benefiting from the program. 

“The further that we can do that, the further that these funds will go,” Webb said.

The program will be discussed by the city’s CPA Committee at its next meeting. If the committee approves the plan, it also will need City Council approval.  

Webb said that Rist and LaChapelle have both expressed support for the program. She said that the earliest she can see funds becoming available for renters is July. She also said she expects the money will be able to be used for back rent.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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