The Massachusetts Housing Mediation Program (HMP) is a comprehensive statewide program that provides free housing mediation services as a tool to increase housing stability with the intention of preventing homelessness created by landlord-tenant disputes. It is administered by the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) at the University of Massachusetts Boston and deploys the community mediation system infrastructure with 11 Community Mediation Centers (Centers) participating and serving all 14 counties of the Commonwealth to provide free conflict resolution services for tenants and landlords/property managers with housing disputes at any stage, from the earliest point a problem occurs, up to, and after any eviction action in court.
The HMP is a vital public program, particularly against the backdrop of a housing crisis that has worsened. MA residents cited housing as the biggest issue on their minds. The country is also facing a dramatic 12% increase in homelessness, which is its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in COVID-19 pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans. Homelessness among individuals rose by 11%, among veterans by 7.4%, and among families with children by 15.5%.
Though a clear causal link between housing mediation through the HMP and homelessness prevention is difficult to determine, several factors support housing mediation’s role in preventing homelessness and increasing housing stability. These factors include: 1) the ability of mediation to improve communication and help reduce landlord-tenant/tenant-tenant conflict; 2) the opportunity afforded by mediation for landlords/property managers and tenants to negotiate in good faith and the option to generate creative solutions to issues surrounding the non-payment of rent, repairs and a host of tenancy-related issues; and 3) the coupling of mediation with housing counseling and other assistance programs.
Data from the centralized case management system (MADtrac) indicates that mediating landlord-tenant cases resulted in 65.2% of the tenants preserving their tenancy in FY2023 where Centers served 428 housing cases under the HMP resulting in 279 tenancy preservations. A strong correlation does exist between housing mediation provided through the HMP and tenancy preservation. For example, using a subset of mediated cases and an analysis of a sampling of 163 written mediated agreements reached between landlords/property managers and tenants through housing mediation provided by Centers during the 12-month period from July 2022 to June 2023 shows that 85 agreements, a little over one half (52%), resulted in the preservation of tenancy, suggesting a strong correlation between housing mediation and the preservation of tenancy.
Part of the UMass Boston Community-Engaged Teaching, Research, and Service Series. //scholarworks.umb.edu/engage
Palihapitiya, Madhawa and Zeferino, Karina, "Increasing Housing Stability Through State-Funded Community Mediation Delivered by The Massachusetts Housing Mediation Program (HMP) FY2023 Evaluation Report" (2024). Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration Publications. 37.
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