In the age of Covid-19, evictions are on the rise as many Americans struggle to make ends meet; but Massachusetts housing equality advocates say the eviction crisis goes deeper than housing.
On Thursday October 21st, dozens gathered outside the Massachusetts State House located in the heart of Downtown Boston to protest what they call “needless evictions” in the Commonwealth. To date, over 24,000 evictions have been filed in Massachusetts which impact renters and homeowners alike. Nonprofit organization CityLife held the rally to urge lawmakers to pass H1434, otherwise known as the Covid19 Housing Equity bill.
On October 18, 2020 Massachusetts ended its Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures, despite the lack of economic recovery and the continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Moratorium was seen as a saving grace for thousands of residents who otherwise would have been left homeless. Only a month before this in September 2020, The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in the United States, making the choice to end eviction forgiveness senseless. Even now, the unemployment rate rests at 5.2% while the U.S. average is 4.8%. While that rate is considerably lower than that of October 2020’s 8.5%, it didn’t drop below 7% until March of 2021 and has since began rising again.
What does this mean for the people of Massachusetts? According to housing equity advocates, it goes far past homelessness. CityLife argues that studies have shown that people who lose their homes are more likely to report poor physical and mental health, and they’re right. There are multiple studies that have shown a direct correlation between evictions and health. For the thousands of MA residents who have lost their homes, and the millions in the U.S. overall, the eviction crisis has only made it harder to stay afloat both financially and physically. The seemingly never ending cycle hasn’t let up, and it likely won’t until something is done to prevent additional evictions. That something is the Covid-19 Housing Equity Bill.
The Covid-19 Housing Equity Bill, (also known as H.1434) is an act to prevent further evictions as well as promote equitable housing recovery. The bill claims it will “ensure that landlords pursue and cooperate with rental assistance programs”, “protect the most vulnerable tenants from forced removal”, and “pause no-fault evictions”. In addition to preventing evictions and protecting those most impacted by them, the bill also aims to ensure rental assistance funds are equally distributed amongst those in need.
When taking a closer look at the eviction crisis, it’s apparent that there’s a racial disparity as well. Not only are Black and Hispanic women at a greater risk of being evicted from their homes, but Black Americans overall face a higher eviction rate despite making up only 20% of renters in the United States. H.1434 aims to solve this problem, or at least begin to. Racial housing inequality has always been an issue, but the Covid-19 housing crisis only furthered the divide and made it abundantly clear that evictions are not just an economic issue, but a social justice one, as well.
As one month comes to a close and rent is due for hundreds of thousands who can’t pay it, the eviction crisis will only continue to worsen until action is taken. Massachusetts lawmakers have the power to do right by their constituents and make real, significant change in the lives of thousands.
To urge your local legislators to support the Covid-19 Housing Equity Bill, go to homesforallmass.org for instructions and more information.