Saturday July 31st at 1pm, Boston’s Cancel the Rents will host a rally and speak out at Nubian Station to demand an end to evictions and deplorable housing conditions. Here is a link to the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/493606358401902/?ref=newsfeed
This event comes as the Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions will expire on July 31, 2021.
Cancel the Rents Boston is a Roxbury and Dorchester-based campaign out of the Boston Liberation Center led up by local residents and volunteers to fight evictions and cancel rents. They host monthly speak outs at Nubian Station, provide support for people in navigating their housing rights, and educate the community on the Massachusetts housing crisis. Here is some key information they have shared:
- 1 in 3 Massachusetts residents are at risk of eviction.1
- Half of Massachusetts residents are “rent burdened” meaning they pay more than 30% of their income towards rent. 2
- 70 percent of market-rate eviction filings occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods like Roxbury. Similarly, these neighborhoods have the highest concentration of both COVID-19 cases and “essential workers.” 3
On June 16, 2021, Governor Baker signed bill S.2475 The bill extends eviction protections until April 2022. However, landlords can still file evictions against tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenants have not received a response on an application for rental assistance. The primary source for rental assistance in Massachusetts is RAFT (Rental Assistance for Families in Transition) However, for many families, simply having an eviction filing on record could prevent you from finding another place to live.
Nearly 60% of RAFT applications have been rejected.4 The massive inefficiency of the rental assistance processing centers prompted the Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston to issue a letter to the governor calling out the systemic failures of the program to provide due process. The group points out that “applicants have experienced a never-ending series of delays, with often no communication from the State at all about the status of their applications.” Applicants are often rejected without knowing why.
While it may seem idealistic to some, it’s entirely possible for Governor Baker to forgive the rent debt. In California, Governor Newsom did just that, allocating 5.2 billion dollars in federal money to cover unpaid rent since April of 2020. The state is using an additional 2 billion dollars to pay for unpaid water and electricity bills.5
I had the opportunity to ask Flo Ugoagwu of Cancel the Rents Boston their thoughts on the current housing crisis
In your opinion why does Governor Baker’s extension of eviction protections not go far enough? What actions would you like to see from the governor?
Similar to the eviction moratorium that is ending this month, Governor Baker’s recent bill extended eviction protections for those with RAFT applications until April of 2022. This will continue eviction cases and not actually halt the process, and RAFT proves to be slow and inefficient. Baker’s plan only continues to push the inevitable further down the road – the inevitable being the accumulation of rent debt that must be paid at its expiration and an impending eviction wave. He has also ended the state of emergency and proceeded with reopening despite the ongoing public health crisis. What the people need are real protections; permanent, financial relief in the form of rent cancellation and debt forgiveness. We recently saw the California government grant low-income tenants 100% COVID rent debt forgiveness and Governor Baker is fully capable of following this example in Massachusetts.
As you have noted nearly 60% of RAFT applications have been rejected. While it’s clear so many people qualify, what are some stories you have heard of why people are getting rejected?
We have seen that working and poor people are being systematically denied rental relief. People have been rejected for not having a government-issued ID or social security number, and for avoidable mistakes that are easy for non-English speakers to make. To no fault of the people, these already inaccessible applications are even canceled simply because of the huge backlog METRO housing and other distributors have been experiencing.
What kind of reactions have you gotten from having monthly speak outs at Nubian station?
We have had an amazing response from tenants and people in the Roxbury area. People seem to really connect with our mission because they or people they love have had personal experiences with housing insecurity, homelessness, and landlord neglect. It is a crisis in low-income communities and communities of color, and the need for bailouts similar to what was extended to big corporations and airlines is widely understood. It is an issue that is personal to many people residing in neglected areas of Boston as they struggle with the mental and physical effects of poor, stressful living situations.
What else would you like people to know about the Cancel the Rents campaign?
While we campaign around the need for full cancellations of rents and mortgages, we work closely with tenants in the area who are currently facing eviction, housing insecurity, or unfair living conditions. We believe it is important to build community power in this way and want people to know they can and should contact us if they are concerned about advocating for and protecting their right to healthy housing.
With support from our community, we are also excited to open the Boston Liberation Center in Roxbury next month. This will be a working-class community center and organizing hub built for and by oppressed people; a space for us to build community power and continue to grow our campaign. There are not enough spaces like this so we are excited to launch this center on Saturday, August 21st. We would love if you can extend the invite to join us from 12 – 4 pm at 194 Blue Hill Avenue to see the space, meet Cancel the Rents organizers and celebrate with other community members.
Find us on Facebook to RSVP!
Contact Cancel the Rents Boston if you need support navigating your tenants rights.
: (617) 858 -1522
: [email protected]
Follow Cancel the Rents Boston on Social Media:
To apply for rental assistance use one of the following links:
- MetroHousing Boston RAFT application for Greater Boston residents
- NeighborWorks RAFT Application for South Shore, New Bedford, Taunton residents
- Housing Assistance Corporation RAFT Application for Cape and Islands residents
- Community Teamwork RAFT Application for North Shore, Lowell, Lawrence link coming soon
- South Middlesex Opportunity Council RAFT Application for MetroWest link coming soon
- RCAP Solutions RAFT Application for Worcester County residents
- WayFinders RAFT Application for Greater Springfield and Holyoke link coming soon
- Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority RAFT Application for Franklin County residents
- Berkshire Housing Development Corporation RAFT Application for Berkshire County residents
(Note: the lack of links for certain areas demonstrates the state’s systematic racism and failure to serve every community. These links are harder to find. I will follow up soon and update the article when I track them down)
Consider the Lawyer for the Day program to help you fill out forms and get legal advice
- Estimating Evictions in Massachusetts during COVID-19, City Life/Vida Urbana and MIT (August 2020) (retrieved from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/clvu/pages/2727/attachments/original/1596574636/August_eviction_estimat es_report.pdf?1596574636).
- Nearly half of Boston-area tenant households ‘cost-burdened,’ report says. Curbed Boston (October 19, 2019) (retrieved from https://boston.curbed.com/2019/10/9/20906570/boston-tenants-cost-burdened).
- 3. Our new report, “Evictions in Boston: The Disproportionate Effects of Forced Moves on Communities of Color” City Life/ Vida Urbana (June 30 2020) (retrieved from https://www.clvu.org/boston_evictions_report_2020)
- A Follow-up on RAFT rejections during Covid, Mass Landlords (April 22, 2021) (retrieved from https://masslandlords.net/a-follow-up-on-raft-rejections-during-covid/)
- California Has a Plan to Pay the Back Rent for Low-Income Tenants. All of It. Thomas Fuller, Conor Dougherty and Giulia Heyward, New York Times (June 21, 2021)
(retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/us/california-rent-forgiveness.html)