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NEWTON

Newton may extend COVID-19 housing relief program

Newton officials are considering a three-month extension of the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Relief Program, following a report that said continuing the aid will play a crucial role in keeping nearly 200 low- to moderate-income households in Newton.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development is recommending to the Newton Community Preservation Commission to extend the program from three to six months, according to a Sept. 4 memo. The commission is expected to discuss the matter during its Sept. 15 meeting.

“Not only do we see this program as an emergency rental and mortgage assistance program, we see this critical relief program as a housing stability effort,” the memo stated. “More so than ever, our lowest income households are at great risk of being forced to leave Newton.”

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The roughly $2.5 million fund was established last spring for Newton households that needed help with housing costs during the pandemic.

Many of the 182 households that have participated have experienced a loss of at least half their income, according to the memo. A large number of participants were working in the restaurant industry or in the “gig economy” before the pandemic began, the memo said.

While some of the program’s participants have begun working again, many are not back to their normal work schedules and earning levels, the memo said. During July and August, the fund provided more than $425,000 in direct financial assistance.

Nearly 60 of the first 106 households served by the program have an annual income at or below 30 percent of the area median income, the memo said.

The area media income for Newton and the surrounding region is about $80,000 for one person, and roughly $113,000 for a family of four, according to the city’s Housing & Community Development Division.

Another group of about 30 households had annual incomes between 31 percent and 50 percent of that area median income, according to the memo.

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The planning department and Metro West Collaborative Development, which administers the program, believe that the program will have served “a large portion” of the most vulnerable households in Newton from July through September.

There will surely also be other households that will enter the program for the first time later in the fall, the memo said, “as they are let go from their employment, exhaust their savings, or realize that their ability to financially ride out the crisis is becoming more challenging.”

City officials “feel strongly” that this initial group of households served by the fund will need the greatest financial support throughout the coronavirus pandemic, according to the memo.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.