Boston Globe: Walsh announces plan to build more affordable housing and reduce evictions in Boston

Source: Boston Globe

By Felicia Gans Globe Staff,December 21, 2019


In an effort to bolster affordable housing options in Boston and decrease evictions, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Saturday a comprehensive plan to build more housing for low-income families while expanding access to legal representation for tenants who need it.

The plan is the product of a task force put together to analyze the “eviction landscape” in Boston, according to Walsh’s administration, which hopes to reduce the number of eviction cases and executed evictions by 33 percent in subsidized housing — and 25 percent in market-rate housing — within five years.

“As Boston continues to grow and with new residents and new opportunities, we must continue our hard work to ensure that our current residents are able to remain in the city they call home,” Walsh said in a statement.

The plan was built on recommendations from the task force made up of nonprofit organizations, housing providers, legal and real estate groups, and city officials, including Greater Boston Legal Services, Metro Housing Boston, City Life/Vida Urbana, and the Boston Housing Authority.

They found that while eviction cases in Boston remained steady at about 5,000 annually between 2015 and 2017, the number of eviction executions — tenants actually being forced to leave their home — dropped about 10 percent over that time. In 2015, there were 2,172 eviction executions, and in 2017, there were 1,952.

Despite the decline, there’s still significant work to be done, said Matthew Pritchard, a member of the task force that put together the report. Pritchard is the president and executive director of Boston-based nonprofit HomeStart, which has provided eviction prevention services for families for 15 years.

Eviction is a driver of homelessness that sits “below the surface” and quickly spirals out of control, Pritchard said.

Families often look for help just after receiving an eviction notice — or even before that, when they can’t pay rent for the month — but get turned away because they still have a roof over their head and don’t meet the qualifications for homelessness assistance.

Rather than only helping people once they become homeless, the plan released Saturday aims to help more people avoid homelessness altogether, Pritchard said.

“An eviction isn’t one problem. It’s 10 problems. Because when you’re evicted, your credit’s ruined, you’re plunged into debt, you lose most of your possessions, you often lose your job,” he said in a phone interview. “The slightest bump can turn over the apple cart.”

Boston ranks fourth in Massachusetts for eviction execution rates, with about 1.3 percent of eviction notices resulting in tenants leaving their homes, according to the task force’s report. Lowell, Springfield, and Worcester top the list in Massachusetts with eviction execution rates of 2.42 percent, 2.06 percent, and 1.97 percent, respectively.

“This low score may mean that we are doing better than other major cities, but it by no means represents a stopping point,” the task force wrote in its report.

To continue decreasing eviction cases, Walsh’s new action plan calls for an increase in affordable housing, more funding for legal representation for tenants in eviction cases, and stronger education about tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities, among other things.

Janet Frazier, president and CEO of Maloney Properties, another member of the task force, said she looks forward to working with the city to help more tenants stay in their homes.

“As a property management company, we understand the devastating effects of eviction on families and everyone in our communities,” she said in a statement. “With Mayor Walsh’s help, we look forward to continuing to push for better resources to prevent evictions and create more stable housing for the residents of Boston.”

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