State housing advocates say Massachusetts will see a wave of evictions if certain pandemic-era protections are not extended. They predict the public health crisis will turn into a homelessness crisis, and they are calling on city and state leaders to help.
When the pandemic hit, the Flores family in East Boston was forced to make a choice.
"We had to decide if we should pay rent to the owner so we don't get kicked out or if we should pay for food because we barely have food in the house," Mariela Flores explained.
Flores' father is still out of work due the coronavirus crisis and is now getting ready to face another crisis of losing his home. The family of six has nowhere else to go.
"My mom feels horrible, depressed and stressed," Flores said. "And my dad, who cleans offices, is still out of work, so we have no money."
According to state housing advocates, their family is one of an estimated 20,000 in Massachusetts facing threats of eviction since the start of the pandemic. The state temporarily halted evictions due to COVID-19, but that protection expires in August.
State Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, is filing a bill this week that would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium for a year. It would also ban no-fault evictions and rent increases for the same period of time.
"People need relief under these extraordinary circumstances," Conolly said. "This would guarantee a full year of housing stability, particularly for those who've been impacted by COVID-19."
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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he supports the bill. The City of Boston has also made $8 million in funds available for rental relief, some of which has already been distributed.
"As a commonwealth, we need to protect families and our communities from the threat of eviction and displacement," Walsh said.
Advocates are planning a number of virtual events leading up to July 1, when rent is due, to draw attention to the issue. State lawmakers are hopeful they will be able to pass some sort of relief before the session ends at the end of July.