This month’s letter is about MassLandlords strategy.
In the last few weeks and months, many of us have been threatened with insolvency by the pandemic and the resulting eviction moratorium. This law makes it seem that our professional contributions to the cause of rental housing are not appreciated. There are four long-standing facts that have combined to create the current climate:
1.) Renters outnumber landlords ten to one in Massachusetts. 2.) The profession of providing housing is viewed pejoratively by a small but vocal group of people who don’t understand the job, are ideologically opposed to private property, and claim to speak for the majority of renters. 3.) State voting methods make it easy for a perceived majority to vote away the rights of a minority. 4.) Owner advocacy was of important but limited effect.
MassLandlords was founded to amplify our advocacy. Since 2014, we have: A.) Grown from 160 to over 1,800 dues paying members statewide, representing over 30,000 renter households. B.) United 10 of the 20 independent chapters in Massachusetts. C.) Grown from a team of zero staff to 19 part-time team members. D.) Grown from zero web presence to over 200,000 unique site visitors annually, and since the pandemic started, thousands daily (a 4x increase in two months).
This increased size is still not a hundredth of what is required to lead the Massachusetts housing policy discussion. A single renter advocate in Boston, for instance, controls over $100 million a year in state and federal resources, and IRS limits on 501(c)3 lobbying activity are generous. Our policy strategy was therefore tailored to just what we can accomplish:
- A mission to create better rental housing by helping new, current, and prospective owners.
- A focus on doing our job above reproach, especially our voluntary professional certification, the Certified Massachusetts Landlord.
- Emphasis on voting reform that will help everyone to hear minority viewpoints, from the score voting we use internally to the state-level reform I hope will come this fall (ranked choice).
Our strategy has so far worked. True, we were caught mid-certification by the pandemic, but we are punching above our weight. Our careful focus on doing the right thing is the primary reason we have been able to participate the last several weeks in conversations in eight different print, radio, and television channels.
We must now take a detour, a statewide push for a Fair and Equal Housing Guarantee via Surety Bond. This law will ensure that everyone who provides housing during the pandemic will be made whole, and that no renter need be evicted when the eviction moratorium ends. Oh, that this would have been passed instead of the moratorium we got. But it is not too late.
While we work on this, continue to provide housing. Stay tuned for instructions. And let us know when you need help. We are doing everything right, we just have more work to do. Together, we will get it done.