Connolly urges Democrats to back Biden on evictions
BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service) – Fearing a wave of evictions after a federal moratorium expired over the weekend, some Democrats said on Tuesday that the legislature should consider a new state ban on evictions because Delta variant fuels resurgence of COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE
Representative Mike Connolly, a Cambridge Democrat and main supporter of the state’s initial moratorium on evictions, said he felt “frustration” when federal leaders “pointed the finger at each other” but failed to do anything. do to stop the expiration of the moratorium. And housing advocates have said the expiration of the moratorium makes protecting tenants more important than ever by passing bills such as the HOMES Act, which would prevent an eviction from becoming a permanent black mark on the housing record. housing for an individual.
President Joe Biden on Monday called on states without a ban, including Massachusetts, to consider putting them in place at least until September, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they couldn’t act without Congress because of a Supreme Court ruling in June.
“I really want to be here to respectfully ask the committee to tackle these bills that could protect people from evictions, protect people from foreclosures…” Connolly said, testifying before the Joint Judicial Committee. “What if it is possible to take back the charge from President Joe Biden and move forward and include in a bill an extended version of a moratorium on evictions in accordance with the public health emergency? current situation we are facing, “he continued.
While a law to restore a moratorium on evictions is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Housing, members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Tuesday on a series of bills relating to property rights, land and lease.
The moratorium on state evictions expired in October, when Gov. Charlie Baker launched a multi-faceted diversion program that invested state and federal dollars in rent assistance, legal aid and other supports. The governor said on Friday that about $ 280 million in rent assistance had been deployed, helping the state avoid the worst of a spike in evictions slated for last fall. Lawyers, however, say up to 90% of rental assistance applications from January to May were turned down, with many tenants not qualifying based on their income or failing to complete the applications.
Connolly said he heard from voters who were turned down because they did not submit enough documents to prove their eligibility, even though they checked the box to indicate they were registered with MassHealth, which is believed to be an automatic qualifier.
Connolly said the availability of money for rent assistance should not be used as an argument against a reinstated moratorium. “I would flip that over and say why don’t we have that safety net and then as far as the owners have to be healed, they are better able to go through a bureaucratic process and get the money available.” , Connolly said. .
Senator Jamie Eldridge, Senate chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he agreed with Connolly that a moratorium should be considered. “I think this is something that all of us as lawmakers, including the committee members here, need to think about what action to take as the evictions continue and I am very concerned about this impact on families across the country.
States, ”Eldridge said.
The House and Senate have just started a summer recess that is expected to extend until after Labor Day, and major bills, like the one reinstating a moratorium on evictions, are not expected to surface in August. Since the moratorium expired last fall, 13,628 new deportation cases have been filed, according to data compiled by the Massachusetts District Court, and new cases in January, February and March were below observed levels in 2020 before the pandemic.
While the administration attributes the success of the detention of deportation cases to the availability of resources, some advocates believe it is only a matter of time before the problem escalates. “Hell, unfortunately, is about to break loose in both foreclosures and evictions and too much is being done illegally without proper oversight,” said Grace Ross, Massachusetts Alliance coordinator. Against Predatory Lending.
Ross and other housing advocates shared stories and examples of how landlords, banks and others can try to force people out of their homes, testifying in support of many bills that strengthen judicial oversight of the foreclosure process, improve title registration and avoid unnecessary vacancies in foreclosed properties.
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards testified in support of the “Houses Act” (H 1808 / S 921) which she said would prevent tenants from being marked with the “scarlet letter E” a once a deportation case is brought against them. “The point is, if you file a complaint, as soon as you create an eviction case that is permanent for life,” Edwards said. The East Boston councilor said people of color, especially black women, are more than twice as likely to be deported and “don’t get a softer landing” in court.
The HOMES Act, introduced by Deputy House Majority Leader Michael Moran and Senator Joe Boncore, would seal eviction court records so potential landlords cannot use old cases to deny housing to applicants. Boncore’s bill would automatically seal the records of eviction cases while proceedings are ongoing, and in cases where the tenant is at fault, the records would automatically be sealed after three years. The House version of the bill allows residents to ask the court to seal their eviction cases.
Annette Duke, attorney for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, said court records are “ill-suited as a tenant selection tool.” She described a woman interviewed by the institute who had a public record based on a no-fault eviction notice filed in the courts, and who was refused more than 100 times as she searched for new accommodation.
One landlord, however, said that an apartment seeker’s rental history is important to both the landlord and other residents of a building. He said existing tenants may be asked to pay higher rents to compensate for someone who defaults. “We ask you not to blindfold owners when entering into rental contracts and urge you to consider the deterrent effect this might have on people who decide to rent out their properties,” said Amir Shahsavari, vice-president of Small Property Owners. Association.
California, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota and the District of Columbia all have self-sealing laws, according to Duke, and bills are pending in other states, including Connecticut.