Artwork by Jak Ritger
A recap on the eviction moratorium this past summer:
- On July 29 President Biden said he would not extend the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium allowing it to expire on July 31st.1
- On July 31 Missouri Representative Cori Bush camped on the Capitol steps and stayed there for 5 days in protest.2
- On August 3, Biden announced that he would extend the eviction moratorium but only in counties with high rates of Covid.3
- On August 26, the Supreme Court stuck down Biden’s reinstatement of the moratorium. The court ruled the CDC had overextended it’s authority.4
- Now, progressive democrats are pressuring Pelosi and Schumer to pass a law extending the eviction moratorium.5
According to some, including Michael Kennealy of the Baker administration, there is no need to extend the eviction moratorium, since “we are well positioned to get this rental assistance out the door to those who need it.” 6
But is that true?
Federally, $47 billion is available to tenants for rental assistance. Only $3 billion has been distributed. In Massachusetts, the total amount of funding allocated for rental assistance since the beginning of the pandemic is $937 million. Only $100 million has been distributed.7
As the eviction crisis begins, the state and the country fail to distribute the available money that people so desperately need. In Massachusetts, under bill S.2475 there is some protection against eviction but only if you can prove you are in the process of getting rental assistance. However, programs such as Rental Assistance for Families in Transition are negligent and inefficient as the Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston point out in a letter addressed to Governor Baker and others: “the manner in which the RAFT program is currently being administered runs afoul of well-established core due process protections. Many RAFT applicants do not receive any notice at all about the status of their application” $800 million sits in a bank account while evictions are filed everyday.
But there is hope. Right now in Massachusetts, awaiting approval from the housing committee, the Covid 19 Housing Equity Bill (H.1434 / S.891) offers some major solutions. A key feature is landlords would be required to seek out rental assistance before filing evictions against tenants.
Here is a fact sheet of the bill provided by Homes for All Massachusetts:
What does the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill do?
- Ensure that landlords pursue and cooperate with rental assistance programs before evicting: Landlords must provide an affidavit that they a) have worked in good faith to access rental assistance, b) that their unit is habitable and safe, and c) that they have notified residents of the COVID defense, before they can file an eviction case in court.
- Protect the most vulnerable tenants from forced removal for COVID-19 arrears: Households being evicted for non-payment whose non-payment was due to COVID-19 have a defense to eviction if a) eviction is likely to lead to homelessness, or b) the household includes a minor child, an elder, a person with disabilities, or a person with medical conditions putting them at higher risk for COVID infection.
- Pause no-fault evictions during the COVID-19 recovery period: Landlords cannot file evictions for no fault or no cause until March 2022.
- Pause residential foreclosures and require mortgage forbearance based on federal policies: Lenders must provide homeowners with information about who owns their loan and what options are available to help with mortgage payments; Lenders must offer homeowners forbearance programs according to federal guidelines; Lenders must offer homeowners modifications after forbearance when homeowners are unable to make regular mortgage payments due to COVID-19.
- Ensure timely and equitable distribution of rental assistance funds: The state must implement federal guidance to provide a simple, flexible, and fast process for rental and mortgage assistance. The state must take affirmative steps to ensure equitable distribution of funds.
To support this bill use the link below
Here is a section by section summary
The Joint Committee on Housing normally does not meet in August, but on August 12 they made an exception for public testimony on this bill. It’s heartbreaking to watch so many people express their desperation while people such as Debbie Sousa of the MA Mortgage Bankers Association, oppose the “operational challenge” for banks to notify residents of their loan options in any language other than english.8
Evictions are being filed around the country even when the eviction moratorium was in place. This is because the landlords and courts are contravening federal law. Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition says this is because “the CDC or Department of Justice isn’t enforcing the moratorium the way they should be.” 9 In Massachusetts, 19,000 evictions have been filed since October 2020.10 This contradiction in our legal system makes it urgently necessary to pass laws such as the Covid 19 Housing Equity Bill. One in three Massachusetts residents faces eviction. 11
- Shepardson, David and Chiacu, Doina. July 29, 2021. “Biden asks Congress to extend COVID-19 eviction ban set to expire this week” https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-seeks-extend-protections-eviction-amid-covid-19-spike-2021-07-29/
- Bush, Cori. August 6, 2021. “Rep. Cori Bush: I slept on the Capitol steps because I’ve been evicted three times in my life”https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/06/opinions/sleep-on-capitol-steps-for-eviction-moratorium-motivation-cori-bush/index.html
- Shepardson, David and Hunnicutt, Trevor. August 4, 2021. “U.S. CDC announces new 60-day COVID-19 eviction moratorium”https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-announce-new-eviction-moratorium-new-york-times-2021-08-03/
- Barnes, Robert and Siegel Rachel and O’Connell, Jonathan. August 26, 2021. “Supreme Court strikes down CDC eviction moratorium despite delta’s rise” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-eviction-ban-struck-down/2021/08/26/46bce3e2-0511-11ec-a654-900a78538242_story.html
- Khan, Mariam. August 27, 2021. “Progressive members call on Pelosi, Schumer to act on eviction moratorium”https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/progressive-members-call-pelosi-schumer-act-eviction-moratorium/story?id=79680956
- Kennealy, Michael (2021, June 3). Oral presentation. Joint Committee on Housing, Boston, MA
- Lisinski, Chris. June 04, 2021. “Almost $800M In Federal Housing Funds Still Available To Mass. Residents” https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/06/04/housing-assistance-funding-massachusetts
- Sousa, Debbie (2021, August 12). Oral presentation. Joint Committee on Housing, Boston, MA
- Nova, Annie. December 5, 2020. “The CDC banned evictions. Tens of thousands have still occurred” https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/05/why-home-evictions-are-still-happening-despite-cdc-ban.html
- Maldonado, Zannia. July 30, 2021. “‘Some People May Not Make It’: Boston Rally Calls For Extension On Eviction Moratorium” https://boston.cbslocal.com/2021/07/30/eviction-moratorium-covid-19-housing-equity-bill-boston-rally/
- Estimating Evictions in Massachusetts during COVID-19, City Life/Vida Urbana and MIT. August 2020. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/clvu/pages/2727/attachments/original/1596574636/August_eviction_estimat es_report.pdf?1596574636