Letter from the Executive Director for August 2019

Last month we discussed how MassLandlords was pushing back against the Eviction Lab narrative, testified on eviction sealing, and mourned the loss of Sandra Katz.

In July we participated in a national call about the housing crisis, gave a good showing at a State House hearing on right to counsel and eviction sealing, and lost another MassLandlords cofounder, Sandra Katz.

The Eviction Lab made headlines in 2018 for building the first nationwide eviction database. Unfortunately, despite clearly describing their methodology, the nuance of their findings has not been preserved in media reports. This was the subject of a national call in which we participated.

The call had representatives from a dozen different real estate industry groups around the country. Nationwide, could we do what MassLandlords did, and offer complementary research that clarified the narrative? It would be needed and useful, for instance, to include a record of levies of execution (which Eviction Lab does not), dive explicitly into the issue of race, and correct for the impact of “professional tenants” who appear in the record repeatedly. We will let you know if any momentum develops.

Closer to home, we attended our first housing-related hearing of the session on July 16 at the State House. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard eviction sealing, for which there was an astounding groundswell of support. We have copied our opposition on eviction sealing in this edition.

Our live tweets of the hearing generated invitations to meet with several key supporters to give our input. It is clear upon inspection of the bill that is has issues. But it is equally clear that the committee will feel inclined to recommend the bill, based simply on the outpouring. There was also plenty of the usual hearing tactic of offering unique testimony as if it were common: “Because one person was unfairly denied housing, we must pass a law that helps everyone hide during eviction, even the really bad tenants.” It is not a well drafted policy.

MassLandlords was cofounded by a team of volunteers, of whom George Valeri passed unexpectedly in 2017. Now two short years later we have lost Sandra Katz, a good friend who always laughed at my jokes and made me laugh. The loss has hit me rather hard, extending to a back injury incurred while thinking of Sandra instead of what I was lifting. (But following Sandra’s example, I’m keeping a full schedule, paying no mind to physical discomfort.) It was gratifying to see so many in the industry turn up at her funeral, including a city official and a state official who paid their respects. We are pleased to provide a full and heartfelt eulogy in this edition.
We have our work cut out for us on certification, but we are moving forward on all fronts. We are building the database to support the public search functionality. Three of the team have started writing exam questions. And continuing education events are scheduled to begin – with permanent attendance cards instead of paper – in September.

We are succeeding in our mission to create better rental housing, and influencing the policy debate in substantial and positive ways. Please share this newsletter with one person who should know about us. We are on to great things, and we need everyone’s support.

Douglas Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.