Boston's Morning Newsletter
The clocking is winding down on a Mass. eviction prevention policy hailed by advocates
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Congratulations, we made it to Friday — and got a beautiful sunrise to boot. We have an action-packed first weekend of spring ahead. But first, let’s run through the news:
The clock is winding down. There’s one week left until a Massachusetts eviction prevention policy expires next Friday — and housing advocates are urging state lawmakers to act. Kelly Turley, the associate director for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, told WBUR’s Dave Faneuf that the law, known as “Chapter 257,” is a critical homelessness prevention tool.
- What it does: The law requires eviction cases to be paused when a tenant has an application pending for rental assistance. According to Turley, it’s a “win-win” for both tenants and landlords: “We’re able to buy some extra time for that application to be processed so that tenants can stay in place and preserve their housing stability, and the property owners can get the money that they’re owed.”
- The impact: At least 9,000 eviction cases have been paused under the law since it was implemented in January 2021, according to a letter signed by more than 100 groups earlier this week.
- Counterpoint: NBC Boston reports that some landlords argue the law pauses eviction cases in which tenants have already maxed out what they can get from the state’s rental assistance programs.
- What housing advocates want: They’re urging lawmakers to at least temporarily extend the law until the end of July 2024. That would give lawmakers the full legislative session to consider pending bills that would make the policy permanent.
- (Update) The state's response: In an email statement to WBUR, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Community Development said it is prepared for Chapter 257 to sunset, noting it "has made technology changes to improve the rental assistance process." The spokesperson added that the Healey-Driscoll administration is "committed to ensuring that Massachusetts residents have access to rental assistance to help people stay in their homes" and that it would review any legislation that reached the governor's desk.
- Zoom out: The calls come against the backdrop of the larger housing affordability crisis in Massachusetts. According to data tracked by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, the average number of weekly evictions in Boston is up 75% since last March.
Some pandemic-era policies that do seem poised for an extension: boosted SNAP benefits, alcohol takeout at restaurants and remote public meetings. All that and more was included in a $388 million short-term spending bill that state lawmakers hashed out and sent to Healey’s desk yesterday.
- She now has 10 days to decide whether to sign the bill.
Say what you will, but at least the MBTA's new online speed restriction dashboard arrived on schedule. T officials unveiled the real-time dashboard yesterday, which shows the length, speed limit and other details for each of the more than 200 speed restrictions currently in place across the system. There’s also a map showing each location.
- All in all, the slow zones — which have lingered for years but ballooned after a recent state inspection revealed a breakdown in track condition record-keeping — cover 27% of the T’s subway system. That includes 77% of the Blue Line, 25% of the Orange Line, 25% of the Red Line and 18% of the Green Line.
- What will it take to fix the slow zones? You probably guessed it: more shutdowns. Another round of weekend and nighttime closures is on the way this April. While the Red Line is in for the most extensive series of track work shutdowns next month, the partial closures will touch the three other lines, too. You can see the full April diversion schedule here.
- Reminder: All downtown Red Line service (from Harvard to JFK/UMass) will be replaced by shuttle buses this weekend for a different reason: the installation of a new digital signal system.
- Go deeper: State House News Service has more on the T’s current challenges — as well as tensions expressed at (and between) members of the T’s Board of Directors during yesterday’s meeting.
PSA: The environmental advocacy group Green Roots is telling people in Chelsea not to touch paint chips that have flaked off the Tobin Bridge and fallen into local streets and yards. WBUR’s Paula Moura reports the chips contain a high amount of lead, according to testing.
- While the state stopped using lead paint for bridges in 1992, MassDOT acknowledged there’s still some on the Tobin Bridge. They plan to inspect the area and develop a removal plan.
P.S.— Do you know who will be Harvard’s commencement speaker this May? Test your knowledge of the stories we covered this week with our Boston News Quiz.
Editor's Note: The story was updated to include comment from Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.
This article was originally published on March 24, 2023.