Letter from the Executive Director for June 2021: Emergency over? Covid not.

Over the last month we have continued to develop certification test questions and various other policy responses. Although Massachusetts may congratulate itself on a nation-leading Covid vaccine roll-out, we are part of a larger country and world where it now seems likely SARS-CoV-2 may circulate permanently.

Globally less than 10% of us are vaccinated. We are on track to vaccinate everyone in 30 months (anti-vax aside). Overall, this may be too slow to avoid new variants and vaccine escape. We should therefore expect, absent newfound political will for coordinated international action, that this virus will continue to circulate around and into Massachusetts in the medium term. The SARS-CoV-2 variants are roughly more transmissible than the cold and three times as transmissible as the flu.

Meanwhile, international travel to Massachusetts for tourism, scholarship, and business may continue to be less than what it was pre-pandemic. And working from home, which started before the pandemic, continues apace. Whether domestic activity will backfill shortfalls remains to be seen. Many of us in short-term, college, or tech housing markets will want to affirm or reevaluate which market we’re in.

During the pandemic, we communicated the value of small business housing providers in all markets. Especially last month, when the CDC moratorium was briefly overturned in court, we were responsive to media requests and told people not to worry. Now through certification we must make sure this good will endures. The most important thing we can do at MassLandlords is launch our certification program.

A Certified Massachusetts Landlord™ will demonstrate three levels of attainment, the second of which is a test. We got snared on some production server configuration issues in May, but otherwise this test is running internally. I am confident by the next letter it will be live, if not by the time you read this.

Just as the certification will build on the good will we have established, so too will good faith participation in the safety net. The RAFT/ERAP safety net requires landlords to participate (MGL Chapter 151b Section 4, with associated case law DiLiddo v. Oxford Street Realty, Inc. 2007). At a webinar on May 13, the Attorney General indicated that enforcement was likely to come soon.

Compare a five figure discrimination penalty to an equally large RAFT/ERAP award for rental assistance, and you’ll see participation is a no-brainer. Why should I even have to write about it? Well, many of us remain stung by our treatment over the last year and a bit. Don’t be. The better we are as landlords, the harder it will be for those policy mistakes to be made again.

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Encourage them to read and help our global neighbors still struggling with Covid. Thank you for supporting our mission to create better rental housing.

Stay safe,

Douglas Quattrochi

Executive Director

MassLandlords, Inc.

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