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Activists pushing to extend eviction protections

Legislators looking to provide help for renters and landlords

Morgan C. Mullings
Activists pushing to extend eviction protections
Activists say as many as 20,000 eviction proceedings could be initiated when a state moratorium ends on Oct. 17. PHOTO: MORGAN C. MULLINGS

Organizers and legislators are renewing their push for the Housing Stability Act proposed in July. At a press conference Sept. 30 hosted by Homes for All Massachusetts, supporters gathered at the State House and on Zoom to share their concern for the end of the governor’s eviction moratorium.

Though Boston’s public housing eviction moratorium won’t expire until the year’s end, on Oct. 17 private landlords can begin the eviction process once again.

Andres Del Castillo, an organizer with Right to the City Boston and City Life/Vida Urbana, hosted the Zoom portion of the conference. He emphasized how difficult it has been to hear stories of eviction happening just this week. At the State House, state Rep. Mike Connolly and Sen. Patricia Jehlen both spoke in support of the emergency bill that should provide protection from homelessness. Connolly authored the bill with Rep. Kevin G. Honan.

“Unless the governor does something, tens of thousands of people lose their homes,” Jehlen said. “These are the people who live in the communities with the highest infection rate, they are the people who work in the most dangerous jobs, who live in the most crowded apartments.”

Honan told the Banner that there is a new draft of the bill up for discussion on Beacon Hill, which includes tax credits for renters and the creation of a commission on the effects of COVID-19 on housing, in addition to the original protections against eviction and foreclosure for renters and landlords. Legislators voted it out of committee favorably.

“It will now go to Ways and Means, and obviously we want the House and the Senate to continue to work on the bill, the leadership of the House and Senate and also the members. There’s 89 cosponsors of this bill,” Honan said. “And we need to continue to work with the Baker administration.”

While renters and landlords wait for the bill to go through the legislative process, some are losing their homes. During the press conference, Norieliz DeJesus was leading a group in Chelsea helping a woman move belongings into a storage unit after she was evicted. They had planned to meet other activists at the State House when they were called to help with that eviction.

“We get at least five to seven cases a week where we’re looking for housing and placing people in hotels, and today we’re here with this truck, putting this young woman’s stuff in storage,” said DeJesus, director of policy and organizing at the Chelsea Collaborative. “If we didn’t have the money to pay for storage, they would have thrown everything in the trash.”

Those attending the Zoom conference also heard from a mother who was stationed in the parking lot of her daughter’s school so that they could use the school’s Wi-Fi for remote learning. Rose Webster-Smith said that more families will have to do what she is doing if they get evicted.

“This is what we’re going to see. We’re going to see vehicles in the school parking lots, connecting their kids to the Wi-Fi so that they can continue to do their remote learning even though they’re living out of their cars,” she said. Webster-Smith is an organizer with Springfield No One Leaves, calling on the governor to extend his eviction moratorium even if the Housing Stability Act does not get passed.

Activists expect over 20,000 eviction filings to begin processing at the end of the moratorium, in addition to those already forced to leave their homes.

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