Mayor Walsh signs Housing Stability Notification Act
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today signed the Housing Stability Notification Act, an ordinance ensuring Bostonians at risk of eviction know their rights and have access to information on the resources available to them. Mayor Walsh introduced the ordinance to the City Council last month, ahead of the end of the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. With its passage, property owners and constables are required to provide a document containing information on tenant rights and resources available when issuing their tenant a Notice to Quit (the first step in the legal process of an eviction) or Nonrenewal of Lease.
"Keeping families in their homes has been our top priority since the beginning of the pandemic, and we are committed to doing everything we can to prevent evictions during this difficult time," said Mayor Walsh. "The Housing Stability Notification Act is an important step the City is taking to help people at risk of eviction know their rights and the resources available to them. I want to thank the City Council and our housing advocates for their partnership in this ongoing work to prevent evictions and keep tenants in their homes during this crisis."
The document that must accompany a Notice to Quit or Nonrenewal of Lease provides information about City and State rental relief funds, guidance on filing a federal declaration of need to potentially protect against eviction, and a list of services such as legal counsel and other supports. The information contained in the document is intended to prevent an eviction by providing access to financial and legal resources. When issuing these documents to tenants, landlords must also provide a copy of the Notice to Quit and Nonrenewal of Lease to the Office of Housing Stability.
"I want to thank the Mayor for signing this ordinance and look forward to the Public Health Commission's consideration of the request to make enforcing an eviction a violation of our city's health and sanitation codes," said Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards. "We need to keep as many Boston families housed this winter as possible during the pandemic. We also need the State House to enact short term and permanent housing policies that are centered on the human right to housing and stable neighborhoods."
The Housing Stability Notification Act builds on Mayor Walsh's previous efforts to ensure stable housing for the residents of Boston, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City's Rental Relief Fund, launched in April, is currently accepting new applications to support residents who lost their income due to COVID-19 and are unable to pay their rent. Working in close partnership with three non-profit organizations, MetroHousing Boston, NOAH, and Project Hope, the fund has distributed almost $4 million in assistance to over 1,100 households across 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.
"The housing stability notification act is an important step in protecting tenants by helping them understand their rights," said Zoe Cronin, managing attorney of the Housing Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services. "It is another tool that we can use to help keep people stably housed and we are glad that Mayor Walsh signed it into law."
As part of its response to COVID-19, the CDC moratorium, tenants are required to sign and submit a declaration to their landlord stating that they qualify for protection under the moratorium. To support residents seeking to be covered by the CDC moratorium, the City of Boston has translated this declaration into 11 languages, and posted it on the Office of Housing Stability website so eligible tenants can sign it and send it to their landlord.
This direct outreach 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.
Prior to the pandemic, the Mayor has consistently advocated for protections against displacement, including in 2017 when he signed the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act, a home rule petition that failed to pass in the state legislature. Mayor Walsh has also advocated in support of An Act to Ensure Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings, which would provide any low-income tenant facing eviction with a court-appointed attorney for representation.
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.
The Department of Neighborhood Development is responsible for housing people experiencing homelessness, developing affordable housing, and ensuring that renters and homeowners can find, maintain, and stay in their homes. As part of the ongoing COVID-19 response, the Department's Office of Housing Stability is doing broad outreach to educate residents about the eviction moratorium and their rights and to provide direct financial assistance via the Rental Relief Fund. The Boston Home Center provides down payment assistance to first-time home buyers, home repair assistance for seniors and low-income residents, and foreclosure prevention services to homeowners at risk of losing their homes. The Supportive Housing Division is working with various partners around the city to rapidly house individuals who are experiencing homelessness. For more information, please visit the DND website.