Residents demand action on COVID-19 home equity bill – Lowell Sun
WESTFORD — Residents across Massachusetts and representatives of the Homes For All Massachusetts coalition gathered Monday at First Parish Church United to bring attention to the state’s housing crisis.
Focused primarily on the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill, also known as “An Act to prevent COVID-19-related evictions and foreclosures and promote equitable housing recovery”, advocates detailed the impact of COVID-19 on the housing market. Massachusetts has seen more than 30,000 evictions and foreclosures since the state’s eviction moratorium ended in October 2020.
“We’re here to make a difference and ask people to do what’s right,” said Ronel Remy, the statewide organizer of City Life/Vida Urbana, a racial justice organization. , social and economic.
Supporters demanded urgency from the state legislature, calling for action to protect residents and avert further crises.
“We are here because we have a crisis in our communities,” said Isaiah Simon Hodes, director of the Lynn United for Change Empowerment Project. “We are here because we know there is a solution to the pandemic evictions and foreclosures crisis: the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill.”
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, said the bill was “very important.”
“Home and rent prices continue to skyrocket,” Eldridge said in a phone interview. “With the increased pressure on people, I’m very supportive of (the bill).”
Stuck in the Joint Committee on Housing, the bill is designed to help tenants and landlords. It would require landlords to apply for housing assistance before eviction, suspend the filing of no-fault evictions and foreclosures, allow forbearance based on federal guidelines, and require the state to make housing assistance more accessible.
Supporters pointed to the Tenant Buy Opportunity Act – which would give tenants in tall buildings the right to match any offer when their building is sold – and local option rent control like others policies that could provide further assistance.
Eldridge also suggested his bill, “An Act to Reduce Financial Barriers to Rental Homes,” as another potential avenue. The bill would reduce rental costs by limiting landlords to billing only two months’ rent up front, while shifting potential brokerage fees from tenants to landlords. Currently, landlords can charge more than four months’ rent.
Further action by the state legislature would be required for any of these policies to have an impact. If no COVID-19 housing equity bill — in the House or Senate — is recommended or extended this week, they could receive a study order. For the vast majority of invoices sent to a study order, there is no longer any activity.
“We urge, implore (legislators) to hear the voices of people who face this every day in communities across the state and take action,” Hodes said.
Anxiety, despair and sleepless nights are commonplace among residents – tenants, landlords and landlords. A Lynn resident, through an interpreter, called the imminent threat of eviction “torture.” Another pleaded with lawmakers to “have compassion for the families facing these threats” every day.
“We’re left with that last little ray of hope,” Hodes said. “The legislator, the ball is in his court.”
While some rental assistance programs remain active, they “exclude some of the most vulnerable tenants,” according to Hodes. He also criticized recent changes made to these programs by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration.
“They need to roll back the January 1 changes that are starting to cut programs,” Hodes said. “This is exactly the wrong direction.
“These programs have been a lifeline, they need to be funded, expanded and made more accessible,” he said.
Hodes and Remy were deeply concerned for residents if the state legislature’s inaction continued. Hodes said it would be “a devastating blow” to “the most vulnerable” tenants and communities.
Both urged everyone to contact their local lawmakers as well as those on the housing committee.
“Homelessness is going to be a serious issue,” Remy said. “In almost every city we go to, the shelters are already full, so there will be a lot more of this and a lot more deaths because of it.
“It’s shameful, but that’s what happens if we don’t act,” he said.