By John Lynds
Mayor Martin Walsh announced this week that East Boston resident and former First Suffolk and Middlesex senatorial candidate, Lydia Edwards, will head the city’s newly formed Office of Housing Stability.
The new Office of Housing Stability will be part of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development and as a Deputy Director, Edwards will be responsible for creating programs to assist Bostonians in housing crisis.
According to the Walsh administration, Edwards will tackle everything from whether eviction, landlord-tenant disputes, rent escalations, unplanned loss of housing, or any other rental housing emergency.
In addition, Edwards and the office will be responsible for collecting eviction data, evaluating for trends and responding accordingly.
“Housing affordability and preserving long term tenancies are critical to strong stable neighborhoods,” Mayor Walsh said. “I know that with pressure on rents in Boston, some residents may face eviction and displacement. We need to do everything in our power to make sure that tenants know their rights, and to make sure that we are putting policies in place to support those at risk of displacement. I am so pleased that Lydia Edwards will be joining our team–her broad experience and passion for this work will be an asset to this office.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina applauded Walsh’s choice.
“Lydia (Edwards) has been a passionate voice and advocate for tenants here in East Boston and across the city,” said LaMattina. “I think this is a terrific choice for the city and I look forward to working with her on the issues we face in my District.”
One issue LaMattina said he would work with Edwards on is the proliferation of Airbnbs in neighborhoods like East Boston.
“I’m not against Airbnb but what I am not in favor of is investors coming in, buying a property, evicting out tenants and then renting out the apartments for the short term on Airbnb,” said LaMattina. “I think it destabilizes a community because you are taking much-needed rental housing off the market.”
In his 2016 State of the City address, Mayor Walsh announced that the City would be forming an Office of Housing Stability to create efficiencies and better coordination of resources for tenants.
The Office of Housing Stability will combine and focus the efforts of several existing City programs, in addition to adding additional capacity for this work. The leadership of this new office will report directly to the City of Boston’s Chief of Housing.
Services Boston residents will be able to access will include:
Improved case management: Residents seeking assistance through the Office of Housing Stability will be assigned a case manager, who will use newly-developed case management software to ensure quick resolution of issues. In addition to streamlining the process, this new protocol will also allow the City to work more seamlessly with outside agencies who do similar work.
Eviction prevention: Trained housing advocates will assist residents in danger of losing their homes with advice, access to legal assistance, and resources where necessary. These advocates will work closely with landlords, management companies, housing authorities, and tenants to help residents stay housed.
Emergency housing search: In case of fire or natural disaster, the Office of Housing Stability’s staff will assist Boston residents in finding new, affordable housing as they recover.
In addition, the Office of Housing Stability will lead research, create recommendations, and implement new and improved policies and programs to make sure Boston residents are able to retain their homes. The office will be charged with drafting and reviewing new legislative and other public policy solutions to mitigate displacement, and will create new City programs to ensure housing stability in Boston’s neighborhoods.
Edwards comes to the City from Greater Boston Legal Services, where she served as the Equal Justice Works Fellow. She represented domestic workers who survived labor trafficking, helping secure back wages and immigration relief.
She also helped draft, implement and enforce the recently enacted Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and coordinate state wide implementation of the new law.
An Eastie resident, Edwards has also served as a clerk for Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice R. Marc Kantrowitz, and as Law Clerk to the Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court. She has a Masters of Law from Boston University’s School of Law, holds a JD from American University Washington College of Law, and is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Marymount College of Fordham University.
East Boston resident Lydia Edwards was appointed this week to head the city’s new Office of Housing Stability.