State Representative Mike Connolly of Cambridge has filed a bill that would extend the eviction moratorium in Massachusetts for a year beyond the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire on August 18th but may be extended indefinitely by Governor Charlie Baker. Connolly's bill, cosponsored by Representative Kevin Honan of Brighton, would prevent nearly any eviction from taking place for at least one year following Baker's declaration that the coronavirus state of emergency had passed.
The bill, Connolly says, is designed to guarantee housing stability for all during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords would not be able to evict tenants who were unable or unwilling to pay rent. Courts would also be prohibited from awarding landlords back rent after the moratorium is lifted. Another clause would empower cities and towns across Massachusetts to extend the ban on evictions forever.
The bill also includes a provision to compensate some landlords for their loss of rental income, but the bill's sponsors do not know how much it will cost or how much money will be available. They are proposing to use federal funds, but Commonwealth magazine has reported that there is "little hope of expanded relief from the feds" after a bill stalled in Congress. Landlords who lived in one unit of a building and rented out others would be protected from foreclosure for one year following the moratorium's end, but landlords who did not live at the property would not receive the same protection.
The extension of unemployment benefits to those who were not traditionally eligible to receive them, and the additional $600 a week many are receiving until the end of July, has helped to ease the burden on those who found themselves out of work due to Baker's closure and restrictions on many businesses. Both mortgage and rent payments have remained steady during the pandemic according to the Center for Housing Data at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership. When the moratorium does end, however, the Boston Globe reported that many advocates are expecting a "tsunami of evictions" to flood the courts.
The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have already hit communities of color disproportionately hard, and the wave of new evictions likely will as well. David Robinson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is predicting that the courts will see 20,000 eviction cases filed as soon as the moratorium ends. Historically, over 1/3 of evictions from market rate rentals take place in neighborhoods that are majority black, despite the fact that only 18% of market rate rentals are found in these neighborhoods. MIT researchers have found that Census tracts with larger percentages of black market rate renters see higher levels of evictions, even after controlling for other variables.