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Springfield city councilors overwhelmingly support statewide housing protection bill (MassLive)

Read the original MassLive story here.

An almost unanimous vote was held by the Springfield City Council on Monday to extend the memorandum on evictions caused by the pandemic. Eleven of the 12 city councilors voted yes. Councilor Orlando Ramos abstained from the vote due to his dual role in the state legislature.

The city council members voted to support statewide legislation titled: An Act to Prevent COVID-19 Evictions and Foreclosures and Promote an Equitable Recovery.

Since Gov. Charlie Baker let the state’s eviction moratorium lapse in October, the state has seen some 18,000 eviction filings submitted statewide, nearing pre-pandemic levels despite the persisting pandemic.

City Councilor Jesse Lederman highlighted that there have been 1,128 evictions filed in Springfield in the same period.

“We must give tenants, homeowners and small-scale landlords a chance to utilize the housing assistance programs that have been put in place,” said Lederman. “The funds are there but people need time. We need to address, not reinforce, the inequities that have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the stabilization of our families and neighborhoods.”

According to the resolution, families across the commonwealth will be left vulnerable to eviction and foreclosure when the federal moratorium for tenants ends and the Cares Act protecting homeowners from foreclosures expires on July 31, 2021.

Massachusetts received more than $400 million in new federal funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act. Baker plans to distribute the funds through the administration’s eviction diversion initiative. Housing advocates say the funds aren’t reaching tenants fast enough to prevent evictions and landlords can decline to accept rental assistance.

When asked about the prospects of resuming the eviction moratorium, Baker has told reporters in recent months that the state plans to continue offering mediation through its eviction diversion initiative, but not a moratorium.

The statewide legislation would reinstate a pause on foreclosures and require forbearance for homeowners based on federal policies, pause no-fault evictions during the state of emergency and recovery period, require landlords to pursue and cooperate with rental assistance programs before pursuing eviction, protect the most vulnerable tenants from forced removal for COVID-19 debts and require the state to adopt equitable principles, flexibility, and simplification in the distribution of rental assistance funds.

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