BROCKTON — Winter can be a great time of year. Warm blankets, cozy fires, hot chocolate – the basics of staying warm in winter can make it a time of calm and peaceful reflection when you have a safe and dignified place to call home.
But, as we enter a new year amid a frightening new wave of COVID, tens of thousands of renters and landlords are at risk of losing their homes – unacceptable trauma for our communities.
When COVID-19 first hit our streets, Brockton Interfaith Community (BIC) launched Mutual Aid Brockton to meet immediate community needs. We did this by distributing food and masks, as well as rent and mortgage assistance.
But the current need for rent and mortgage assistance exceeds what we can meet.
Since the end of the state’s eviction moratorium in October 2020, more than 29,000 new eviction cases have been filed in Housing Court, including more than 18,000 evictions for non-payment of rent.
In Brockton, at least 559 eviction cases have been filed, 67% of them for non-payment. This number of evictions is outrageous, given that Massachusetts received $800 million in rent assistance from the federal government in March 2021 and still has more than $2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds available. for COVID-related emergencies.
Renters aren’t the only residents at risk.
About 30,000 Massachusetts homeowners are seriously behind on their mortgage payments and more than 200,000 aren’t sure they’ll be able to make their next payment. Forbearance programs that exist are scheduled to end in early 2022 or have already expired. Many homeowners with private lenders have never had access to relief or forbearance options.
At risk : ‘A perfect storm:’ Brockton rent crisis leaves scores on homelessness
Every day we hear from Brockton tenants and landlords about their struggles with housing, especially during the pandemic.
A community member said he couldn’t work full time because his heart condition made him medically vulnerable and as a result lost his insurance benefits. They were forced to buy their drugs out of pocket, which cost them almost half of their monthly income. They have also faced multiple rent increases during the pandemic, leaving them with little left over each month for basic necessities.
Another community member shared that she was laid off due to the pandemic, leaving her unable to pay her rent, causing tremendous stress and affecting her family’s mental and physical health.
Our communities should not continue to suffer unnecessarily when we have an effective political solution at our disposal. Since January 2021, lawmakers have been sitting on a bill to prevent unnecessary evictions and foreclosures.
The COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill is designed to help protect renters and landlords from losing their homes – their place of refuge. It would require landlords to apply for housing assistance before an eviction, suspend foreclosures and require forbearance in accordance with federal guidelines, and in doing so, protect vulnerable tenants and landlords from losing their homes.
Despite having a tool to solve the state’s housing crisis, Massachusetts lawmakers have failed to act. The COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill is currently blocked by the housing committee. Our residents cannot afford lawmakers to wait any longer. Lawmakers must act now to prevent further evictions and foreclosures by passing the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill. This will help protect the health and safety of our communities and ensure a strong and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.