Mayor Files Housing Stability Ordinance With City Council: Edwards Calls It a ‘Start’ to Protecting Renters During the Pandemic

Last week Mayor Martin Walsh filed the “Housing Stability Notification Act” with the Boston City Council. The ordinance would ensure East Boston residents and residents across the city at risk of eviction would know their rights and have access to the resources available to them. 

The ordinance requires property owners and constables who are serving a Notice to Quit–the first step in the legal process of an eviction–to provide a document containing information on tenant rights and resources available to them when issuing a Notice to Quit or non-renewal of lease. This multilingual document provides information about City and State rental relief funds, guidance on filing a federal declaration of need to potentially protect against eviction, and a list of services such as legal counsel, dispute mediation, fair payment agreements, and other supports. 

“The purpose of this Ordinance is to promote housing stability of Boston residents by ensuring that they have information about their rights and about housing resources that may be available to them,” said Walsh. “This Ordinance will do so by requiring landlords and foreclosing owners to notify the Boston Home Center when they serve a notice to quit or notice of lease nonrenewal. It will also require landlords and foreclosing owners to provide information about housing rights and resources to residents whenever they serve a notice to quit or notice of lease nonrenewal.”

The ordinance is part of a larger effort by the City to aid residents who may be at risk of eviction. Mayor Walsh has advocated in support of An Act to Ensure Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings, a bill at the Massachusetts State House, which would provide any low-income tenant facing eviction with a court-appointed attorney for representation. More than 90 percent of renters who faced eviction in Massachusetts last year had to represent themselves in Housing Court, while 70 percent of landlords had a lawyer, according to testimony presented by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. 

Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards thanked Walsh for filing the ordinance. 

“I want to thank Mayor Walsh for filing this ordinance and asking that the council pass it during today’s hearing,” said Edwards. “These actions show a sense of urgency that is required of all elected officials in Massachusetts with the eviction and foreclosure moratorium set to end in 10 days. I can promise the mayor, my colleagues on the council, tenants, landlords, homeowners and housing advocates across Boston that as the chair of both the Housing and Community Development and Government Operations committees I am committed to ensuring this body will pass a comprehensive ordinance protecting renters and owners facing eviction or foreclosure. I am committed to doing so before the moratorium (on evictions) ends on October 17 or immediately afterward during our weekly meeting on October  21.”

Edwards said the ordinance filed by the Mayor is a good starting point, but it is just that: a start. “We must go further than what’s being proposed today to protect Bostonians from the coming housing crisis,” said Edwards. “The Mayor should call upon the Boston Public Health Commission to issue an emergency order establishing a moratorium on eviction enforcement during the pandemic. This would prevent the levying of an eviction order on commercial and residential tenants and protect tenants against people entering their unit except in limited circumstances. Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh have requested that residents stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Evictions would make this impossible and would increase the risk to public health and safety.”

Edwards added that Boston should also implement one of the proposals in the Housing Stability Act (H.5018/S.2918) at the statehouse and provide property tax relief for landlords that do not evict tenants for unpaid rent. 

“This measure will provide much needed financial relief for landlords who are facing foreclosure as a result of their tenants not paying rent,” she said. “Finally, the mayor should call upon Governor Baker to do his job and lead the nation in cancelling rent and mortgage payments until the pandemic ends. Tenants, landlords, and homeowners throughout the Commonwealth are facing an unprecedented crisis on the 17th if we don’t take immediate action. I look forward to working with the administration, my colleagues and the housing advocates who have not had the opportunity to review today’s proposal on finding solutions to the challenges ahead.”

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