Real estate industry leaders and landlords have lined up against the Beacon Hill bill that would revive the state’s eviction moratorium, arguing that the hundreds of millions of dollars that remain available in rental assistance will prevent any need for a temporary ban.
H.1434 / S.891 will reinstate a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures for 12 months after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency. Governor Charlie Baker lifted the state of emergency on June 15.
Other sections of the bill will also require homeowners to seek rental assistance and work with management agencies before they seek eviction, and will require the administration to streamline and streamline the process for applying for rental assistance.
As of Thursday, 82 lawmakers have supported one or both versions of the bill submitted by the House or Senate, which is a sign that the proposal may have a reasonable chance of adoption if it reaches the House or Senate.
The Greater Boston Real Estate Council, which represents thousands of property owners in the region, provided testimony calling the law “a de facto government-sanctioned rent waiver.”
One section of the bill would create “serious problems” for both landlords and tenants looking to relocate to new apartments, according to the industry group, by limiting the requirements that tenants leave after their lease expires.
“If the current tenant can stay despite clearly negotiated lease terms and the landlord has no remedy, the new tenant who is waiting to move in becomes homeless through no fault of his own,” GBREB wrote in his testimony. “The cascading effect this will have on the rental housing market will be significant and create tremendous uncertainty for tenants who have no guarantee that their new apartments will be ready when they qualify to move in.”
Government aid is slowly materializing
According to the Small Owners Association, small unincorporated owners provide more than half of the rental housing in Massachusetts.
SPOA Vice President Amir Shahsawari said the law “will exacerbate this problem by extending the moratorium on evictions without addressing the fundamental problem.”
“The dollars have been allocated, but they are not reaching the property owners,” Shahsawari said, urging lawmakers to create a new owner-based rent relief program that allows homeowners to seek help directly.
The Baker administration said last month that since its launch in October, the state has provided approximately $ 280 million in rental assistance to tenants and homeowners. Previous estimates indicated that Massachusetts had to distribute a whopping $ 968 million, with hundreds of millions of dollars left unused.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, offers up to 18 months of assistance with late and future rent incurred during the pandemic, the administration said. The RAFT and Emergency Rent and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs also offer eligible households up to $ 10,000 in rent, mortgage, or utilities.
In a letter to lawmakers on August 4, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Community Development Jennifer Maddox said lawyers were wrong when they said 90% of applications were rejected.
From May 31 to July 19, regional housing agencies processed 18,396 applications for ERAP, RAFT and ERMA, Maddox writes. About 48 percent of them were approved, 45 percent expired and 7 percent were rejected.
“In addition, DHCD estimates that about 80% of applications are initially incomplete,” Maddox wrote. “These incomplete applications are a problem because the tenants requested assistance, but they or their landlord did not provide what the RAA requires to process the application.”
Supporters: Too many are still at risk
While tenants in Massachusetts were gripped by either a state or federal pandemic, the legislature and Baker allowed the previous state moratorium to expire in October. At that time, Baker and the heads of the judiciary launched an alternative eviction program, which provided additional emergency assistance to tenants and property owners, as well as providing legal support to victims.
Baker and Democratic legislative leaders have publicly shown no interest in renewing the temporary ban.
Massachusetts is in a better economic climate than it was during the moratorium in the original state. Statewide unemployment fell below 5 percent in June for the first time since the pandemic began, and some businesses reported difficulty filling open vacancies.
However, supporters of the bill said Thursday that many families are still at risk. According to the trial court, about 20,000 new evictions for non-payment of rent have been filed in Massachusetts since the expiration of the state moratorium, and S.891 sponsor Senator Pat Jelen, Somerville State Doctor, said about 3,000 of them resulted in to the execution of the eviction.
Taking care of homeowners too
The speakers also said that the concerns are not limited to tenants.
Andrea Bopp Stark, staff attorney at the National Center for Consumer Law in Boston, told the committee that about 3.5% of the state’s more than 800,000 single-family mortgages, representing some 28,000 households, are more than 90 days overdue. payments.
“That number rises to over 15 percent for over 87,000 (Federal Housing Administration) loans in Massachusetts,” she said. “FHA loans are the main home ownership option for borrowers of color who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic. These are families that will probably never get ownership of their homes again if these defaults end in foreclosures. ”