BOSTON (SHNS) – Twenty state lawmakers from western Massachusetts on Wednesday urged the Housing Committee to advance legislation that would restore a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, calling for action to keep residents housed and avoid a surge of legal action once a federal ban lifts.
In a letter to the committee’s chairs, the representatives and senators said they want their colleagues to “act on an expedited basis” amid rising COVID-19 case counts and national spread of the Delta variant. Nineteen Democrats and independent Rep. Susannah Whipps signed the letter, published by Springfield Rep. Bud Williams.
The Housing Committee plans to hear testimony at a Thursday hearing about the bill (H 1434/S 891), which would pause foreclosures and no-fault evictions for the 12-month period following the end of the state of emergency, instruct the administration to simplify applications for rent and mortgage assistance, and require landlords to pursue all short-term rental aid options before evicting a tenant.
“The Western region’s largest administrator of rental assistance, Way Finders, reports receiving 400-500 applications for rental assistance per month, as many as 100 per week, with an application processing time of 4-5 weeks,” lawmakers wrote. “While all of our region’s rental assistance administrators are working untold hours with tireless commitment, state action is necessary to create the housing stability we all seek on behalf of our constituents; we must take this crisis out of the courts to create equitable access to the rental assistance that is now abundant.”
When he allowed the state’s eviction moratorium to lift in October, Gov. Charlie Baker launched an eviction diversion program making hundreds of millions of dollars in aid available to landlords and renters. Housing justice advocates say many households continue to struggle to access financial support, which could put them in vulnerable positions when the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium expires on Oct. 3 or if the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates it before then.