Coronavirus Pandemic – CITY ISSUES MORATORIUM FOR NONESSENTIAL PUBLIC HOUSING EVICTIONS EXTENSION THROUGH FEBRUARY 2021
Boston Strong news – Boston, MA: City of Boston reports –
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Administrator of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) Kate Bennett announced 12.29.2020 an extension on the moratorium on nonessential evictions for BHA public housing residents until March 1, 2021. The moratorium offers housing stability to BHA’s public housing residents and reduces coronavirus risks associated with the processing of its nonessential eviction cases. Nonessential evictions include all eviction proceedings except for those related to criminal activity, and those that are necessary to protect the health and safety of BHA residents, employees, and others.
“It’s been a difficult year, with a dueling public health and economic crisis that has hit our communities hard,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “This moratorium continues to serve the best interests of both our residents who struggle to make ends meet and of our city as a whole, as we fight to maintain the health and safety of our city.”
The Boston Housing Authority was the first major housing provider in Boston to implement a moratorium on non-essential evictions in March 2020. Its previous extension was set to expire at the end of 2020.
“A safe, stable home is the best protection our residents have in battling coronavirus, and it is critical that we take the steps we can to keep our residents safely housed through this pandemic,” said BHA Administrator Kate Bennett. “The vaccine is on its way, and there’s cause for optimism going into 2021, but now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. There were reasons we put this moratorium in place, and those reasons are still with us.”
“This moratorium has given public housing residents some extra peace of mind at a time when many families are struggling,” said Matilda Drayton, President of the Alice Taylor Tenant Task Force. “BHA has been a strong partner for residents this year as we have worked together to keep our families and communities safe.”
Any BHA program participant who is unable to pay current rent during the pandemic should notify their housing manager or landlord through text, email or printed letter and establish a plan for repayment. Although there is an eviction moratorium currently in place for public housing, it is temporary, and tenants are still required to perform their contractual obligation to pay their rent.
BHA program participants facing a financial hardship must reach out to BHA to re-certify their income and reduce their monthly payments. Statewide financial assistance for rent is available through RAFT funding.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston and the BHA have taken swift action to protect homeowners and renters from eviction, and have made resources available to help residents stay in their homes. In March, BHA and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced a new partnership to house up to 1,000 families with BPS students at risk of displacement and experiencing homelessness over the next year.
Building on the Mayor’s support of promoting housing stability, the City has also made $5 million available to almost 1,400 households in Boston through the Rental Relief Fund to assist tenants who were unable to make their rental payments. The City has also enacted the Housing Stability Notification Act which requires landlords to provide information to tenants on resources available to help avoid evictions. The Landlord Pledge was created during this time to encourage landlords to work with their tenants on payment plans and strategies to keep tenants in their homes. To date more than 30 landlords have signed it including some of the largest property owners in the City.
In addition, the City has contracted with Greater Boston Legal Services to add additional attorneys to assist tenants facing eviction. The Office of Housing Stability (OHS) has expanded the Housing Court Navigator Program that assists tenants who are in Housing Court and need financial, legal or other assistance.
This effort supplements the City of Boston’s work in partnering with banks and mortgage lenders. Currently, 17 banks and mortgage lenders have signed on to a pledge, issued by the Mayor, which provides homeowners with at least a three month loan deferment from lenders.
The City has also taken steps to enhance services to help homeowners, many of whom are small landlords, to meet their own financial obligations, make critical repairs, and stay in their homes. The Boston Home Center (BHC) has partnered with the City of Boston’s Tax/Title division to send multi-lingual inserts in tax bills to more than 8,000 homeowners who are past due in property taxes to let them know that help is available from the City. The Boston Home Center also sent multi-lingual notices to 10,000 homeowners, in neighborhoods with traditionally high foreclosure rates, informing them of assistance available through Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention services.