The Mashpee Affordable Housing Trust on Monday, December 21, unanimously approved an in-house rental and mortgage assistance program to be run by the Mashpee Human Services Department.
The program will replace a similar program discontinued by the Mashpee Housing Authority earlier this year. The Mashpee Board of Selectmen earlier this month criticized the cancellation of the assistance program during the COVID-19 pandemic as a “cold and heartless act.”
“I feel very, very confident and very passionate about taking this on,” Gail Wilson, Mashpee’s director of human services, said. “I’ve been working for the town for 13 years now, and I work very closely with the residents around their housing currently.”
The new program will offer monthly assistance to qualified applicants to assist with rent or mortgage payments. A one-bedroom unit can receive $350 per month, two-bedroom units can receive $500 per month, three-bedroom units can receive $650 per month and four-bedroom units can receive $800 per month through the program. The assistance will not exceed six months.
To qualify, the applicant must have been a Mashpee resident for at least 6 months, demonstrate that their income has been reduced by COVID-19 or other circumstances, demonstrate that they spend more than 30 percent of their gross annual income on housing costs and make below 80 percent of the area median income.
“We’re trying to provide some targeted assistance to people who have been hurt by the pandemic and need to stay in their houses,” Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb said.
Individuals who own or have interest in any real estate property other than their primary home cannot not qualify for the program.
The program will draw from $75,000 in Community Preservation Funds already appropriated for the assistance program that the housing authority ended.
The affordable housing trust consists of the board of selectmen, representatives from the Mashpee Finance and Affordable Housing committees, a representative from the town’s economic development and industrial corporation and a representative from the housing authority, which is a quasi-governmental entity.
The trust discussed the merits of keeping the rental and mortgage assistance program in-house versus contracting the program out to a group such as the Housing Assistance Corporation, which runs rental assistance programs for several Cape Cod towns.
“I think it is always preferable to go in-house if the capacity is there and the experience is there, but I’m really concerned about the capacity to run a program like this. It’s complicated, [and] there is a definite need out there that is expanding,” Allan Isbitz, the affordable housing committee representative to the trust, said.
Mr. Gottlieb noted that establishing the program in-house would mean a quicker turnaround time to get the program up and running than if the town had to go out to bid to contract with an outside group such as the Housing Assistance Corporation.
“What we’re trying to do is respond quickly to being put into a bad situation and provide as much aid and comfort to families in need who live in town as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The bidding process “will create a delay during a very sensitive time of the year for a lot of people, and I’m attracted to this particular [in-house] option as a starting point because it’s the one that gives us the best chance to fill the need as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr. Isbitz also questioned the requirement that applicants’ income must fall below the 80 percent area median income to qualify for the program.
“There is an increasing need in this situation for households above 80 percent,” he said.
Mr. Gottlieb noted that the program draws on Community Preservation Funds, meaning that the town is required to have such a requirement unless new appropriations from a different fund are approved at Town Meeting in the spring.