In The People's Blog

The following letter went out on October 15 to constituents who emailed or phoned about the Commonwealth’s eviction crisis. There is a great deal of misinformation about the legislation that is pending. I’m grateful to the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness for its organizing around this legislation.

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Greetings,

Thank you for raising your voice in support of S.2918/H.5018: An Act to guarantee housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery. I am a strong supporter of this critical bill. The bill will protect tenants who are unable to pay rent due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and creates a fund to assist property owners who have lost income since the State of Emergency began.

Our Commonwealth is facing a “tsunami of evictions.” The current statewide eviction moratorium expires on October 17, and this may result in tens of thousands of people losing their homes.

The Governor has proposed a wholly insufficient response that is inadequate for the crisis we are facing. The funds he has proposed would likely reach just 10% of those in need of assistance. The Governor’s proposal would let the current moratorium on evictions expire. In its place, he has proposed $100 million for the state’s leading rent assistance program, called RAFT, and $48.7 million for the Home Base program, to rehouse people who are evicted. There is also an expanded mediation program.

While these numbers seem big, given the scope of the problem the plan will not come close to meeting the needs of Bay Staters in this crisis. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimated last week that the number of people needing assistance with housing and basic needs exceeds 100,000 people. Yet the Governor’s program is designed to assist just 18,000 households.

Essentially, the Governor is relying on the court process to solve the eviction crisis, but the Courts will simply adjudicate the cases as it was set up to do, resulting in potentially hundreds of people being evicted. The bill is a comprehensive solution, addressing foreclosures (the Governor does nothing about foreclosure), allowing forbearance of mortgage payments, and establishing a fund to pay arrearages.  We should be preventing these cases from reaching the courts and resolve them instead with a real legislative solution, namely the bill.

The state must do everything possible to prevent evictions and prevent homelessness. We face a housing crisis, and economic crisis, and a public health crisis all at once. Forcing people onto the street is a recipe for more suffering and impacts on families’ education, food security and health.

It is also more cost effective when the Commonwealth invests in keeping families housed. When a person or family becomes homeless, on average the state spends $42,845 to get that family rehoused and stabilized, while RAFT spends an average of a little over $3,000 per family to keep them housed. Keeping people housed is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good business.

The burden that comes from keeping those who cannot pay rent in their homes should not be placed solely upon landlords. The legislation also establishes a COVID-19 Housing Stability and Recovery Fund to assist small-scale property owners who lose rental income or miss mortgage payments. There are also other mortgage forbearance protections in the legislation.

For these reasons I am a proud co-sponsor of these bills, and I have spoken with colleagues and the bill’s lead sponsors about how we can best advance this legislation to the floor for an urgent vote.

Thank you for your advocacy and stay in touch.

Warmly,

Jo

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