BOSTON (AP) — Housing activists marched to Gov. Charlie Baker’s home in Swampscott on Wednesday to call on him to support more robust protections against evictions and foreclosures during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
About 100 to 150 protesters said the Republican governor and Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts Legislature need to back a comprehensive eviction prevention measure intended to help stabilize renters, homeowners and small landlords for a year as Massachusetts weathers the ongoing crisis.
The bill would ensure tenants cannot be evicted because of missed rent if the nonpayment was because of COVID-19, giving them time to get owed rental payments and other assistance in place.
It would also prevent “no fault” evictions and rent increases for 12 months following the state of emergency, guard against foreclosure and strengthen forbearance protections, allowing homeowners and landlords with up to 15 units to pause their mortgage and put missed payments on the end of the loan.
Baker on Monday unveiled a $171 million initiative that he said will help tenants and landlords cope with the fiscal challenges of the ongoing pandemic.
The goal of the initiative is to keep tenants in their homes and ease the ongoing expenses of landlords once the state’s pause on evictions and foreclosures expires on Saturday, Baker said.
Andres Del Castillo, senior organizer with Right to the City Boston — one of the groups participating in the march — said Baker's plan doesn’t go far enough to protect tenants, homeowners and small landlords.
Del Castillo said plans to expand the state’s legal infrastructure to cope with a backlog of potential evictions is an admission the state is facing a housing crisis. He said relying on the federal government for help is dicey.
“The governor needs to do what he has to do for his particular state,” Del Castillo said Wednesday. “We need policies on the state level that don’t leave us vulnerable to the whims of the federal government.”
Advocates have pointed to a report by the Massachusetts Area Planning Council that found more than 100,000 renters and homeowners will have trouble paying their housing bills as the pandemic drags on.
Baker’s proposal is “woefully insufficient to address the scale of the crisis facing Massachusetts renters,” Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, said in a press release.
Pavlos was among a coalition of about 300 public health and health care workers who signed an open letter to Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo calling on them to adopt tougher protections.
When the state moratorium expires Saturday, a moratorium established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take effect in Massachusetts.
The CDC moratorium will prevent evictions through December for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Protection is limited to households who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria.