- On October 13, 2021
- In Affordable Housing
What the Supreme Court’s Decision to End Biden’s Eviction Moratorium Means for Boston
On August 26, the Supreme Court lifted the Biden administration’s nationwide moratorium on evictions with a narrow 5-4 vote. This decision has left over seven million households, many of which are behind on rent, in jeopardy of being evicted from their homes.
Addressing both socioeconomic and public health concerns emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the nationwide moratorium was originally put in place to reduce the displacement of vulnerable individuals and families, and to slow the spread of the virus among unhoused residents due to the airborne nature of COVID-19 transmission. Given the scale of economic instability and financial hardship caused by the pandemic, a lack of tenant protections would have resulted in a staggering wave of evictions. However, the moratorium cut in half the normal amount of eviction cases that would have been submitted since last fall, according to an analysis of filings by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
A large push to lift the moratorium came from landlords, property managers and real-estate agents who were placing pressure on the Supreme Court to end the ban on evictions, citing revenue loss resulting from uncollected rent payments. As of June 30, of the $47 billion federal dollars set aside for rental assistance, only $3 billion had been distributed – about 7 percent of what should have been used to avoid a crisis. Now that Biden’s ban on evictions has ended, tenants are required to pay back what they owe. However, many tenants cannot afford to pay off the accumulated rent payments, placing them at risk of eviction.
In Massachusetts, the guidelines for eviction paint a dark picture for tenants affected by the pandemic and the end of the moratorium. If a tenant is being evicted due to circumstances out of their control and cannot find a new place to live, they may be able to convince a judge to grant a “Stay of Execution,” which provides tenants up to six months to search for a new place to live. However, if a tenant is being evicted due to non-payment of rent, there is no legal basis to request more time.
Activists and legislators are trying to improve and implement new tenant protections. IBA joined dozens of housing justice advocates asking the Baker administration and members of the Massachusetts Legislature to support "An act to prevent COVID-19 evictions and foreclosures and promote an equitable housing recovery," which seeks to stabilize “the housing market for renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery.” The letter states that over 18,000 eviction cases have been filed since last October and that circumstances for tenants at risk of eviction are only expected to get worse. The letter also states that if Massachusetts really cares about “equity and racial justice” then the state must act now, as the eviction crisis is expected to disproportionately impact people of color. In fact, NPR recently reported that landlords are evicting residents at rates four times as high in majority Black counties. The legislature is still considering the bill.
Locally, Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced a municipal eviction moratorium for the city of Boston on August 31, which aims to prohibit a notice of levy, or the final step in an eviction filing. The moratorium also mandates that landlords must give tenants a 48 hours’ notice to enter their unit for any purpose. This ban is currently structured to stay in place indefinitely.
At IBA, we strongly support the ban on evictions here in Boston and believe that access to affordable housing is a right, not a privilege. We work with our tenants to walk them through the complex process of accessing rental assistance funds, and support them in developing a household budget that will address the family’s financial needs and responsibilities. We believe that stable housing for our residents builds a stable and vibrant community, neighborhood and city. As we have done over that past fifty-three years, we’ll continue to communicate our concerns with legislators and seek to expand affordable rental and home ownership opportunities for low-income residents.
We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: http://www.ibaboston.org/donat.....