By Councilor Lydia Edwards
With everything happening in the world I want to thank my statehouse colleagues for taking action on some amazing housing legislation last week that I introduced, led, and worked on. I was excited to work with them and a broad coalition of advocates on these laws that will protect residents and move us closer to housing justice.
I initially filed the HOMES Act with Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Mike Moran to seal eviction records in certain cases. I am thrilled to have partnered with them and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute on this legislation. The version approved by the State House last week will give residents across the state a second chance at finding stable housing after the pandemic. Residents with “no-fault evictions” will now be able to seal those records. No fault evictions are very common, but can have lasting impact on people’s ability to find housing. Examples of no fault evictions include landlords evicting tenants to raise rent or to turn a building into condos. The law will also allow tenants who have satisfied their judgement or worked issues out with their landlord to petition the court to seal the record and “ban the box” on eviction records. This means that once sealed, prior eviction records don’t have to be disclosed
on any future applications for housing.
The law will also prevent minors from being named as defendants on eviction cases and expunge any current records that people were named on as minors. This will clear the records of thousands of residents that are having a hard time finding housing because of things that happened when they were children and had no control over. I want to thank the Chelsea Collaborative for their leadership in advocating for minors’ eviction records to be sealed.
In addition to eviction sealing, the legislature passed a home rule petition to update Boston’s linkage policy. I first filed a home rule petition to update the policy in March of 2019. With approval from the state house, Boston will now have much greater control over its development dollars. This update will generate millions of dollars that will go to the Neighborhood Housing
Trust that I sit on and will help house Boston residents.
Finally, the statehouse approved Tenant Opportunity to Purchase. I’ve been advocating for this since I worked in the Office of Housing Stability in the City of Boston. This new law will give tenants and nonprofits the opportunity to purchase apartments when buildings go on sale. This will help preserve long-term affordability and prevent massive displacement.
I’m very grateful to all of my statehouse colleagues for working hard to make these victories a reality. I’m also grateful for the partnership of Mayor Walsh, the Department of Neighborhood Development, and the BPDA in advocating for these causes. We know there is more to be done, but these new tools along with local victories like the new fair housing amendment I proposed will go a long way to providing everyone in Boston and Massachusetts with the right to housing.
Lydia Edwards is a Boston City Councilor.