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Massachusetts could soon see eviction crash with ban being lifted

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Chris Lisinski and State House News

Tens of thousands of Massachusetts renters and homeowners are struggling to cover housing costs with one week remaining in the state’s temporary ban on most evictions and moratoriums, and leaders still have not outlined plans for a solution. Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated he is unlikely to extend the moratorium beyond its Oct. 17 expiration but said he has been in talks with judicial leaders, lawmakers and the housing community to try to find a path forward.

Activists have warned for months that a “wave” of forced housing removals could crash when the ban is lifted, pushing people into more crowded conditions amid an ongoing pandemic, while landlords and real estate leaders contend the inability to remove tenants exposes them to financial harm.

The federal Centers for Disease Control implemented its own eviction moratorium that runs through the end of the year, but it is unclear if that covers every possible step or if Massachusetts landlords will still be able to start the legal process once the state’s version lifts.

A bill that would keep a moratorium in place until one year after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends, freeze rent in that span, and create a fund to help distressed small landlords cleared the Legislature’s Housing Committee on a party-line vote, but since then has not advanced.

Baker has the authority to extend the moratorium for up to 90 days, but he has indicated he is unlikely to do so a second time after pushing out the original Aug. 18 end to the policy. Instead, Baker said, his administration is in talks with judicial leaders and housing officials over a potential “stabilization” solution.

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey this week referenced a “push to preserve tenancies, if possible” and Housing Court Chief Justice Timothy Sullivan said the courts “recognize the significant challenges that the pandemic has created for tenants and landlords and will work closely with communities across the state to develop workable solutions wherever possible.”

In related news, on Sunday, Homes For All Massachusetts coalition organizes a rally on Boston Common with residents at risk of eviction and foreclosure to call for the passage of a bill (H 5018) that would pause evictions and rent increases for a year after the state of emergency and offer fiscal protections to small landlords. The Committee on Housing reported the bill favorably at the start of the month. The statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium is set to expire on Oct. 17. (Sunday, 2 p.m., Near Park Street Station on Boston Common)

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