Resources for tenants at risk of eviction available ahead of lift on statewide eviction moratorium
Building on his commitment to keeping residents in the City of Boston stably housed, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced steps the City is taking to ensure Bostonians at risk of eviction know their rights and have access to the resources available to them ahead of the end of the statewide eviction moratorium, which ends October 17. The resources include legal support, financial assistance and communications outreach. In addition, on Monday, Mayor Walsh will file an ordinance requiring property owners to include tenants' rights information and resources available when issuing a Notice to Quit, which is the first step in the legal process of eviction.
"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has made it a priority to provide supports to residents, including housing assistance. Now more than ever, as we get closer to the end of the statewide eviction moratorium, it's vital that we bolster our efforts to keep residents in their homes," said Mayor Walsh.
The City of Boston is enhancing its efforts to ensure that tenants at risk for eviction have better access to legal assistance. The Office of Housing Stability has hired an additional housing court navigator to assist tenants who are beginning the eviction process. Housing court navigators assess the tenant's situation and determine which resources and services would be useful to preserve and stabilize their tenancy. This may include linking them to financial assistance, housing search, and advocacy organizations. This broader social services approach supports tenants and helps them to access financial assistance from the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and the Rental Relief Fund.
In addition, the City will contract with Greater Boston Legal Services to add additional attorneys to assist tenants facing eviction. OHS staff will hold multiple weekly virtual clinics for eviction defense following the end of the moratorium.
As part of his legislative agenda, Mayor Walsh supports 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. He offered testimony in support of this legislation last July.
The Rental Relief Fund will accept new applications after the eviction moratorium ends, with up to $4,000 in rental assistance is available for eligible tenants. The Rental Relief Fund was established in April 2020 to aid residents who lost their income due to coronavirus and were unable to pay their rent. The City of Boston dedicated $3 million to the first round of the Fund, and then added an additional $5 million in June. To date, the Fund has distributed more than $3 million to more than 900 households.
To ensure that the information about the City of Boston's eviction prevention efforts will be received by those most at-risk, the Office of Housing Stability will be conducting a broad outreach and engagement plan. Beginning next week, a mailing encouraging residents to utilize the services available on the Office of Housing Stability (OHS) website will be distributed to to 46,000 households in Boston. Households receiving this mailing were identified utilizing a multi-modal analysis that factored in historic eviction data, equity and income in Boston's neighborhoods, and recent data on job loss. The mailing will provide eviction guidance in six languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Cape Verde Creole and Vietnamese.
In addition to mailing resources, the Office of Housing Stability will be conducting neighborhood community meetings starting in October to share resources on tenants' rights, applying for assistance, and filing for a CDC moratorium declaration.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a federal eviction moratorium intended to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The order, ending on December 31, 2020, prevents the evictions of people who lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be covered by the CDC moratorium, tenants are required to sign and submit a declaration to their landlord stating that they qualify for protection under the moratorium. The City of Boston has translated this declaration into eleven languages, and posted it on the Office of Housing Stability website so tenants can sign it and send it to their landlord.
The City has also taken steps to enhance programs 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 reach out to 8,000+ homeowners who owe the City property taxes. This multilingual insert directs homeowners at-risk to the BHC's Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention services. To ensure that homeowners have access to financial assistance for critical home repairs, Mayor Walsh recently announced that the Seniors Save program is increasing grants from $3,500 to $8,000 for the total replacement of a heating system for Bostonians older than 60 who meet income eligibility requirements. In addition, the Lead Safe Program is increasing its loan limit from $8,000 to $10,000 per unit as a three year deferred forgivable loan, and the Triple Decker program has been merged with the Homeworks program so that now any three unit home can be eligible for up to $30,000 in a deferred forgivable loan.