BOSTON (CBS) – On Friday morning, dozens of housing advocates and concerned residents gathered at the State House calling on lawmakers to pass the COVID-19 Housing Equity bill in hopes it could keep a roof over the heads of thousands.
More than 103,000 residents are behind on rent in the state, and more than 28,000 homeowners are behind on their mortgages, according to grassroots organization Homes For All Massachusetts.
During the height of the pandemic, those residents were protected by the federal COVID-19 Eviction and Foreclosure Moratoriums, but that protection is expiring Saturday.
“We still have COVID. Some people may not make it still, and yet to show how responsible we are, we’re telling them there’s no help?” Jamaica Plains resident Ronel Remy said.
Homes for All Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute are now calling on the state for immediate passage of the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. There’s been over 19,000 evictions, new cases filed since October, in addition to over 10,000 that were pending in the courts,” Attorney Andrea Park said.
Senator Pat Jehlen is sponsoring the bill, which would prevent evictions and foreclosures, but said it could be weeks or even months before it’s possibly passed.
“This bill will take a while. It hasn’t had a hearing yet. After the hearing, there would have to be a committee vote,” Jehlen said.
Lynn resident Maria Parras said she’s relying on the bill to give people like herself more time to get back on their feet.
“I lost my job in March 2020, and two weeks after, I was in the emergency room. They discovered cancer on my right kidney. I can’t work, and I need to pay one year of rent, and I don’t have the money to do it,” Parras said.
Back in October, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the Eviction Diversion initiative, which added $100 million to the “RAFT” Renter and Landlord relief program.
Park says the program isn’t enough.
“Getting people into the court system in order to get them disaster relief is not how this is supposed to work.”