Massachusetts’ Tenancy Preservation Program: Serving Disabled People at High-Risk of Homelessness

The Massachusetts Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP), a collaborative effort of the state housing authority, the Massachusetts Housing Court, and regional service providers, is designed to prevent homelessness among people with disabilities threatened with eviction. The Housing Court generates referrals of pending evictions involving disabled people to a TPP clinician, who functions as a neutral intermediary between the landlord and the disabled tenant. Individuals eligible for the TPP program must have a disability that is directly related to a lease violation. Under the Fair Housing Law, a disabled tenant in this situation has the right to a reasonable accommodation, allowing the court to delay eviction proceedings until an accommodation can be established. Reasons for the eviction are then evaluated, a plan for needed services is developed, and adherence to the recommended plan is monitored. Work on a case may require that the TPP clinician interact with an array of community providers, such as local housing authorities, property managers, and income-support and legal services, in the development of a service plan. If the tenancy cannot be preserved, the TPP clinician assists the individual to find more appropriate housing. If the issues that led to the pending eviction cannot be resolved within the confines of TPP, the clinician works with community-based service providers for appropriate continuing care (Burt et al., 2007; Citino & Glasgow, 2010).

A descriptive evaluation of 676 cases in the Tenancy Preservation Program revealed that the majority were either tenants of a local housing authority or recipients of subsidies in single-site or scatter-site housing. The most common lease violation, found in nearly two-thirds of cases, was nonpayment of rent or utilities. Conflicts with neighbors and unsanitary conditions were also observed in about 20 percent of cases. In resolving a case involving nonpayment of rent, an accommodation might include an agreement to have a representative payee manage a tenant’s entitlement income (Citino & Glasgow, 2010, p. 5). Other accommodations might involve a commitment to behavior change or adherence to recommended treatment. Of 486 closed cases, stable housing was achieved through either preservation of the existing housing or a move to more appropriate housing in 82 percent of cases (Citino & Glasgow, 2010, p. 19). The average duration of a TPP intervention was about five months, at an average cost of $2,377 per case. Long-term outcome of the TPP program has not been assessed, and there has not been a controlled trial of TPP.

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