Letter from the Executive Director for August 2020: Political Opportunism

In July the forces arrayed against consensus-oriented policy worked furiously to achieve partisan goals before the end of the legislative session. None passed, but now the session has been extended through to January. All the worst ideas therefore remain under consideration, requiring sustained opposition from housing providers.

The eviction moratorium scheduled to end August 18 has been extended 60 days to October 17. Since that’s a Saturday night, and notice cannot be served off-hours, this means Monday October 19 is now the earliest anyone can issue a notice to quit if the moratorium is not further extended. It seems likely that the Governor will extend the moratorium an additional 90 days to clear the holidays.

Rent control and its COVID-19 analog, rent cancellation, gained enormous traction among a small but vocal group of left-wing populists. The data from Massachusetts’ history are clear and unambiguous: price restrictions reduce supply with racist disparate impact on people of color, among other serious economic shortcomings. We have written about this extensively, most recently in the amicus brief we filed pursuant to the lawsuit against the eviction moratorium.

In the case of Baptiste v Commonwealth, which MassLandlords is not funding, landlords have argued (rightly) that the eviction moratorium is unconstitutional for its violation of separation of powers, access to justice, and uncompensated taking. We are staying out of that particular fight, however. Even if the lawsuit succeeds, which it ought to, tens of thousands of landlords will remain unpaid for months to years longer, and possibly hundreds of thousands of renters more will remain headed for eviction. There is a policy vacuum in Massachusetts.

Advocates hope to fill the policy vacuum with RAFT, right of first refusal, free lawyers, and secret courts. RAFT is not funded anywhere close to enough. The other proposals are actively driving the market in the wrong direction. I have spoken to many landlords who are certain they will never purchase another property in Massachusetts. Our “small ‘a’ ” affordable housing is going away for good.

That is, unless the legislature adopts an approach like our Fair and Equal Housing Guarantee via Surety Bonds. We have the knowledge to fund the eviction moratorium and solve the housing crisis in the same action. Rental housing isn’t free. A small tax in a big single-family market will pay for it.

We welcome Naomi Richardson, our Community Builder and Accountant, to a full-time generalist role aimed at helping members navigate this difficult time and advocate for the appropriate reforms. We need every landlord reading this to contribute 1% of gross rents month after month to make sure we have the resources to keep you in business. That’s a small price to pay compared to the alternative. Thank you for supporting our mission to create better rental housing in Massachusetts.

Stay safe,
Douglas Quattrochi
Executive Director
MassLandlords, Inc.

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