The MassLandlords Board of Directors met over zoom on July 9, 2020 to evaluate the eviction moratorium, the rent cancellation proposed in HD.5166 An Act to guarantee housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery, and recent public relations efforts by a corporate landlord to support extension of the moratorium.
“One size does not fit all,” is what we should remember. While a landlord with a greater number of tenants may be able to manage the COVID-19 pandemic with an extended moratorium, the situation of mom and pop landlords and our renters is not reflected in the blanket rent cancellation proposed in HD.5166.
“I have three apartments for rent. If this bill passes, I’m taking them off the market and leaving them empty. I can’t afford to provide free housing while still meeting my obligations as a landlord,” said Director Rich Merlino.
The MassLandlords Board of Directors strongly oppose HD.5166, consistent with near unanimous member sentiment expressed in related policy priorities surveys. This bill is exactly the wrong direction we should go.
We note that we have provided a Fair and Equal Housing Guarantee via Surety Bonds as a fully funded alternative to HD.5166.
We further note that the sweeping and race-neutral character of the language in HD.5166 will have a racist disparate impact on people of color. The reason is plainly given by Massachusetts’ own history:
During rent control in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, people of color occupied only 12% of rent controlled units, despite representing 24% of the populations of Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline (Sims 2007). When rent control was repealed, the number of people of color living in formerly controlled housing doubled (The Economist, 1998).
The reason for this is systemic racism present in America and the Commonwealth. Regulatory frameworks that drive landlords to screen tougher on econometric data, or hold units vacant, will invariably exclude those of us with unfairly, disproportionately weaker rental applications. Nothing proposed or imagined can force individuals to choose to be housing providers. Nor is the State or its network of nonprofits in any way capable of replacing the affordable, unsubsidized rental housing, most of which is provided by mom and pop landlords, that will disappear unfairly and disastrously for many.
We will continue to collect data to show the true impact of the Commonwealth’s policy decisions on renters, lenders, and municipal budgets. HD.5166 can be expected to lower an already low number of rental units available for tenants, and increase the number of Massachusetts residents experiencing homelessness, with racist disparate impact.
We are evaluating all options to ensure that every Commonwealth resident has access to safe, affordable housing, including possible litigation if this bill is passed.