New Analysis: How Much COVID-Related Housing Assistance Will MA Municipalities Need?

New Data | The COVID-19 Layoff Housing Gap

How Much COVID-Related Housing Assistance Will MA Municipalities Need?

Published: August 25, 2020

Where in Massachusetts will residents need housing assistance once the state’s eviction moratorium ends? Everywhere, shows a new MAPC analysis of unemployment and housing data.  

454,954 people across the state are collecting unemployment benefits as of July 18, according to data released by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. This number has decreased by over 300,000 since MAPC’s analysis of May 2 unemployment claims, but unemployment rates across the state are still hovering over 16%. We estimate that 37% of those claimants are renters (who will be expected to make up rent payments after the state’s eviction moratorium ends on October 17). 

The COVID-19 Housing Layoff Gap

This is the latest in a series of MAPC reports on the statewide housing security implications of widespread layoffs. Read our previous analyses:

From March to July, a $600 increase in weekly unemployment payments from the federal CARES Act helped many households in Massachusetts make ends meet. But those benefits ended at the end of July, and though Massachusetts has been approved to administer an extra $300 a week through the Lost Wages Assistance Program, a system to direct those funds to residents is still being designed. Without a bipartisan federal bill providing long-term guidance and support, those effected by COVID-related layoffs are suffering. 

MAPC’s updated analysis shows statewide need for housing assistance, especially after the state’s eviction moratorium ends. The map below estimates the monthly amount of money that residents of each Massachusetts municipality will need to make rent and mortgage payments without federal unemployment benefits.  

In addition to monthly housing assistance need, the map above shows a municipality-by-municipality breakdown of total unemployment claims and the estimated number of households that will need assistance to make ends meet. MAPC calculated total need using the municipality’s unemployment claims by occupation, its cost of housing, and the wages of its workers before COVID-related layoffs.

Statewide, we estimate that 108,700 households who filed unemployment claims will have trouble paying their mortgage or rent: 61,000 (55%) renter households and 47,700 (45%) owner households.

We predict that these households will need about $117 million per month in housing assistance. Of that, renters will need $57.2 million per month to make ends meet. The average monthly assistance needed is $940 per rental household and $1,250 per owner household to fill the gap between the household’s income with unemployment and the cost of housing and other necessities.  

These estimates are almost certainly underestimating the cost of providing housing support to those who will need it: MAPC’s analysis didn’t include workers who have filed for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which serves self-employed and seasonal workers, or people such as undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for unemployment insurance.  

Download the Data by Municipality

Click the link below to download municipality-by-municipality data on: 

  • The number of residents on unemployment assistance by occupation 
  • Estimated total households in need of assistance 
  • Average dollar amount of assistance needed per household 
  • Total amount of assistance needed for all households 
  • Total amount of assistance needed for renter households 

The estimates are based on the methods used in our prior statewide analysis, which can be viewed here 

This updated analysis shows us that Massachusetts needs a plan for how to keep people in their homes—especially those who rent. While homeowners laid off due to COVID can add missed payments to the end of their mortgage, renters will be expected to make up for missed payments once the moratorium ends.  Even as the state reopens and people go back to work, many rental households won’t be able to catch up. Without additional protections or assistance, these households are likely to face eviction in the future.   

This municipality-by-municipality breakdown can help local governments and regional groups understand the scale and scope of current layoffs in their communities, but state and federal action is needed to create a clear plan to keep people in their homes.