Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will seek a stay to keep a citywide eviction moratorium in place after a housing court judge on Monday struck down the policy in a ruling that called the temporary ban an "overreach of power."
The Massachusetts Housing Court judge overturned Boston's eviction moratorium, saying the city's public health commission had overstepped its emergency powers.
Judge Irene Bagdoian wrote in her decision Monday that evictions are a matter of state law, not local authority.
“This court perceives great mischief in allowing a municipality or one of its agencies to exceed its power, even for compelling reasons,” she wrote, noting that a town could use a similar public health rationale to circumvent affordable housing laws.
She added that this type of expansion of power "should be unthinkable in a democratic system of governance.”
The moratorium that blocked enforcement of court-approved evictions was put in place on Aug. 31 by the administration of then-acting Mayor Kim Janey, who said it was to protect residents still struggling to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A city landlord and a constable, who serves judicial processes, challenged it in court.
Attorneys Jordana Roubicek Greenman and Mitchell Matorin, who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement that Boston “lacked the authority to override state law and render the court’s own judgments unenforceable.”
Mayor Michelle Wu Monday said she was "deeply concerned about the impacts of today's decision on struggling families." She said the city's law department is reviewing it closely and will seek a stay to keep the eviction moratorium in place.
"We need more protections for renters in Boston," she said in a statement. "Our focus remains on protecting tenants from displacement during the COVID emergency, and connecting our residents to City and State rental relief programs."
State lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker allowed a temporary statewide eviction moratorium to expire in October 2020, at which point the administration and court leaders launched a diversion program to connect landlords and tenants to emergency financial aid, mediation and legal assistance.
Through October 2021, the state had distributed $363 million in rental aid to more than 50,000 households, according to administration data. Housing advocates continue to press lawmakers to advance a bill that would pause no-fault evictions and require landlords to exhaust rental assistance options before pursuing an eviction.
The U.S. Supreme Court in August struck down the Centers for Disease Control’s nationwide eviction moratorium.
With reporting by The Associated Press and State House News Service's Chris Lisinski