Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday called on Gov. Charlie Baker to extend the pandemic eviction ban beyond its slated end this Saturday.
The statewide ban, in place since April, was aimed at heading off a housing crisis during the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Under the moratorium, landlords could not legally order tenants to move out for not paying rent, and could not take them to court to evict them.
It's been a hardship for many landlords, who complain that they need renters to pay, in order to cover their mortgages, taxes and other expenses.
However, the prospect of thousands of tenants at risk of being evicted from their apartments in the coming months is setting off alarms in the courts, among housing advocates and the attorney general as well.
"This pandemic has caused enormous economic hardship for so many Massachusetts families," Healey said in a statement. She applauded Baker's plan this week to deploy $171 million in assistance for renters and landlords. But housing advocates said that the $65 million dedicated to rent-assistance is not nearly enough to cover the scope of the need.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimates some 45,000 Massachusetts renters will not be able to cover their rent and living expenses this month.
Healey said of the Baker plan, "We need the time to do this right. That means extending the moratorium until the safety net created under this plan is up and running and resources are fully available to all residents." Citing approaching cold weather and and rising rates of COVID-19, she said now "is not the right time for evictions to resume."
Housing advocates such as City Life/Vida Urbana have led protests in recent days, seeking greater protections for renters.
The Baker administration did not appear to be shifting late Friday. In a statement, spokeswoman Anisha Chakrabarti said the $171 million plan rolled out this week aimed to “support both tenants and landlords during the housing and financial challenges that have been caused by COVID-19.” She added that the administration would “continue working with the courts and stakeholders to promote housing stability for all families and individuals in the Commonwealth.”
WBUR reported this week that some landlords have been defying the eviction moratorium, particularly in immigrant and Spanish-speaking communities around Boston. Healey's office has received more than 200 complaints related to violations of the ban and said they have stopped 80 illegal evictions from taking place.
A federal eviction ban would kick in if the state one expires, as planned. But it's narrower in scope than the state moratorium and more complex to qualify for, according to Healey.
This article was originally published on October 16, 2020.