A Letter in Support of HD 5166 and SD 2992--An Act to guarantee housing stability during COVID-19 emergency and recovery

mcc

July 9, 2020

 

Honorable Joan B. Lovely                              Honorable William C. Galvin

Senate Chair, Joint Rules Committee             House Chair, Joint Rules Committee

State House, Room 413A                               State House, Room 166

Boston, MA 02133                                         Boston, MA 02133

 

 

Re: House Docket 5166 and Senate Docket 2992

 

Dear Senator Lovely and Representative Galvin,

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference is the public policy office of the four Roman Catholic Bishops in the Commonwealth, representing the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Dioceses of Fall River, Worcester, and Springfield. Please accept this letter in support of HD 5166 and SD 2992 “An Act to guarantee housing stability during COVID-19 emergency and recovery”.

These identical bills would significantly expand the timeline by which landlords of rental properties and mortgagees of real property would be prohibited from evicting or foreclosing on individuals for nonpayment of rent or mortgage. Specifically, the bills would build upon a law enacted in the legislature in April of this year, as the state was beginning to realize the impact of the pandemic on its residents. That bill passed and was signed into law by Governor Baker with overwhelming support of the legislature.

The law enacted in April prohibits the initiation of eviction or foreclosure proceedings for one month from the end of the state of emergency or August 18, 2020 - whichever date occurs first. These bills would move that timeline to one year after the Governor lifts the state of emergency. Among various safeguards, the specific provisions of the bills require the tenant and/or mortgage holder to be directly financially affected by the pandemic (not for any unrelated reason) resulting in such economic hardship that the monthly payment obligation for housing would be impossible to meet.

The additional time provided by this legislation is critical for thousands of our most vulnerable individuals and families. For example, as early as mid-August, the Commonwealth may see as many as twenty thousand eviction cases filed in the land courts if the current law remains unchanged. Our most vulnerable residents would suffer physical, economic and emotional hardships that would have immeasurable effects on their quality of life. Homelessness would spike to unprecedented levels. Our poorest communities would disproportionately suffer the most if the legislature does not act before the end of the formal session.

Over the past several months we all have witnessed the Covid-19 virus cause serious illness and deaths among the elderly, African American, Latino, and many other minority communities. Many of these people have been on the front lines providing critical services to Massachusetts residents as each of us struggle with this new way of life. We must be grateful for what they have done - not support a system that would abandon them and eventually lead them to homelessness. This is a matter of economic and racial justice that cannot be ignored.

As religious and legislative leaders, we are called upon to promote the “common good” for the residents of the great state of Massachusetts. That calling is more important today than ever. On behalf of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts, I urge you to move these bills quickly through the legislative process and assist those who need it most.

 

Very truly yours,

 

 

James F. Driscoll

Executive Director

 

 

 

 

cc: Representative Mike Connolly

     Representative Kevin G. Honan

     Senator Patricia D. Jehlen