After some elected officials in Everett voiced frustrations with the state’s RAFT housing assistance program, the lead agency for the program said it hopes to clear up the 8,000-application backlog in the coming weeks.
Jeff Landis, of Metro Housing, said the agency has hired 50 permanent and temporary staff members since late October to scale-up their program to meet the goals of Gov. Charlie Baker’s foreclosure prevention strategy. RAFT has always been a housing emergency relief program, but as COVID-19 began to give birth to a potential eviction crisis, the program was tapped to scale up significantly to prevent people from being kicked out of their homes en mass.
The hiring, he said, allowed them to clear out that 8,000 application backlog from the first stage of the application process. Anyone that submitted applications in the first stage online has now been contacted by a Metro Housing staffer and informed of what to do next, he said.
“The addition of the new staff has resulted in nearly 1,300 completed applications moving forward to the processing stage,” he said. “While reviewing the backlog of applications, more than 6,200 were found to be incomplete. These applicants have been asked to submit more detailed information.”
Metro Housing is now responding to all new RAFT applications within two business days, he said. However, with the large number of applications now being processed, applications may take from two to six weeks, depending on whether they are submitted with all documentation before proceeding to the confirmation and payment stage.
“Just as the original backlog was cleared up over the last four weeks, Metro Housing expects this backlog to be cleared in the coming weeks as the staff are trained and reassigned to these new tasks,” Landis said.
Originally, Councilor Stephanie Martins and Councilor Michael McLaughlin voiced considerable frustrations with the RAFT program and proposed the City begin its own Municipal Eviction Relief program to fill in the gaps immediately. RAFT has responded by saying it is moving quickly to get applications on track.