1991 Finalist; 1986 Finalist
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Conceived in 1983, the Tenant Assistance Program (TAP) of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) emerged in recognition that the alcoholism of tenants resulted in severe stress for management and other residents, loss of life, and costly property damage. Societal denial of alcoholism, especially among isolated elderly, contributed to housing managers’ inability to act in the interest of their tenants. Two fatal fires caused by drunken tenants in MHFA-sponsored housing developments underscored the need for a programmatic response.

TAP’s mission is to achieve reduction of alcohol and other substance abuse in order to reduce the operational cost of MHFA properties. The TAP model of intervention draws on the Employee Assistance model which leverages possible job loss to encourage the troubled employee into treatment and recovery; TAP uses as last resort the possible loss of housing through eviction to similarly encourage the substance abusing tenant into treatment.

TAP trains housing management staff to identify and intervene when cases of alcohol and other substance abuse occurs. TAP recognizes that management staff—from site manager through custodial worker—can be key to building successful housing communities. Further, TAP fosters the growth of supportive relationships with and among MHFA housing residents struggling with substance abuse.

Currently, 32,000 units of MHFA housing are enrolled in the TAP program. With the pending enrollment of the Housing Allowance Program of Western Massachusetts, TAP staff anticipates that regional nonprofits will also become active participants in TAP, with a potential of 12,000 units covered by the program by the fall of 1991. An additional and essential feature of TAP is that it is self-supporting and requires no funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As its most significant achievement, the TAP program cites its success in formally changes the mission of MHFA to include fostering support for the provision of human services in MHFA housing complexes. This provision was the first of its kind in a Housing Finance Agency nationwide. In quantitative terms, TAP measures the success of its program by focusing on property enrollment (the increase in the number of units that participate in TAP), course enrollment (the increase in utilization of programs offered to management companies), and insurance savings (the amount management companies save by enrolling in TAP). Between FY89 and FY90, TAP saw a 17 percent increase in property enrollment, as well as a 52 percent increase in course enrollment. Insurance companies in FY90 also saved 19 percent as compared to the previous year because of TAP efforts.