Our Network annual event on June 4 was energizing in the moment and also received media coverage to help make the moment – and the message – last. Please check it out here:
And yesterday’s State House News reported on the Network’s testimony to the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion here:
Pamela Schwartz, director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness, warned Monday that an important protective measure aimed at staving off housing removals will expire when the calendar flips to Tuesday.
Under a COVID-era state law sometimes referred to as Chapter 257, courts are required to pause eviction cases for failure to pay rent if a tenant has an application pending for emergency rental assistance. Both the House and Senate bills would extend that section of the law until April 1, 2022.
“The bottom line is: Chapter 257 prevents people from becoming homeless during this COVID-19 recovery period,” Schwartz told the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion. “It has prevented a lot of people from becoming homeless already despite this current crisis, and we can’t afford for it to end.”
The state still has hundreds of millions of dollars in rental assistance available for those in need thanks to influxes of federal aid. While residential eviction filings have fallen in recent weeks to roughly half of pre-pandemic levels, housing justice advocates caution that a major safety net is about to vanish without legislative action.
Schwartz stressed that housing insecurity disproportionately affects people of color in Massachusetts, who represent more than 60 percent of tenants who are behind on rent.