Amidst Housing Crisis, Doctors, Local Organizations & Community Members Demand Eviction Moratorium in Boston

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Mayor Kim Janey

BOSTON- The Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity (MCHE) delivered an open letter to acting Mayor Kim Janey on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 demanding a citywide eviction moratorium in Boston. Signatories include over 20 local organizations and nearly 200 community members and healthcare workers, including over 50 physicians from area institutions, including MassGeneral Brigham, Boston Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The letter describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and housing insecurity on Black, Brown, and other marginalized people, as well as the long-term negative health impacts of eviction and homelessness. Further, the letter details the failure of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to prevent evictions in Boston and calls upon the City to protect residents with a municipal moratorium like the ones in Somerville, Cambridge, and Malden.

“There is a clear connection between the health of our communities and access to equitable housing. The Delta variant’s devastating impact on our communities is the latest example of how important public health measures such as masking and social distancing are in quelling this pandemic. Therefore, it is a moral imperative that every person has access to shelter during the pandemic, and that starts with a moratorium that extends to as long as our communities need it,” said LaShyra “Lash” Nolen, Harvard Medical School Class President, Executive Director and Founder, We Got Us Community Empowerment Project, and letter signatory.

At a forum sponsored by Right to the City Vote! on June 10, 2021, Acting Mayor Janey said “yes” to a Boston eviction moratorium. The petition created by the MCHE calls upon Acting Mayor Janey to act upon that commitment by enacting an immediate emergency citywide eviction moratorium.

“The thousands of Boston families that are vulnerable to eviction because of the pandemic largely live in communities of color where COVID-19 infection rates have consistently been highest, and sadly vaccination rates are lower. As the deadlier Delta variant spreads, it must be our top priority to keep people in their homes, and we cannot wait. I urge Acting Mayor Janey to enact a citywide eviction moratorium immediately,” said Boston District 4 City Councilor and candidate for mayor Andrea Campbell, and letter signatory.

“We overwhelmingly have seen patients throughout the pandemic living in overcrowded households, which contribute to the spread of COVID. Immigrants especially fear any interaction with the legal system. Few tenants know they have protections or rights, and at the first sight of an eviction order, they will quit, and many are afraid to apply for rental assistance, even if they are eligible,” said Lara Jirmanus, MD, MPH, a primary care physician in Revere, Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School, a member of MCHE, and letter signatory.

In spite of the CDC’s eviction moratorium, over 18,000 evictions have been filed across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since the sweeping protections of Baker’s eviction moratorium expired in October 2020. In addition, with a more limited CDC eviction moratorium in place since August 3, 2021, nearly 11,980 Massachusetts renters state it’s very likely they’ll be evicted from their homes in the next two months, and 85,409 Massachusetts renters say they have no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month, according to the Federal Census Bureau.

Housing advocates warn that the application and delivery system for rent and mortgage assistance is “incredibly slow, extremely difficult to navigate, prone to wrongful denials, and particularly inaccessible for people who do not speak English, applicants with disabilities, and those who lack access to computers,” according to a July 21, 2021 letter from the Homes for All coalition. The state’s own data show most rental assistance applications have been denied.

“We have to address the interlocking injustices of housing, homelessness, health, and the Opioid Crisis. We cannot address one without addressing the other. This crisis is now a state of emergency!” said Savina Martin, Clergy Council Member of the National and Massachusetts Union of the Homeless, longtime advocate of the unhoused, and letter signatory.

“Given the recent rise of the Delta variant, which is significantly more infectious than last year’s virus, it is clear that the pandemic is not over, and that an immediate emergency eviction moratorium has never been more timely or more necessary,” said Regina LaRocque, MD MPH, infectious disease specialist and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; member of MCHE; and letter signatory.

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