VICTORY!! Governor Baker Lowers MRVP Tenant Rent Share by 10%; MRVP Codification Bill Receives Favorable Vote from Joint Committee on Housing
For years, MAHT has advocated for changes to the State’s Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP). Thanks to pressure from MAHT and our partners at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Associations (CHAPA), we are now seeing results.
On January 26th, Governor Baker released a FY2023 Budget Recommendation that outlines several significant changes to the MRVP. Included was a plan to lower MRVP tenant rent share from 40% to 30% of household income. This major change, which has long been spearheaded and championed by MAHT, will affect upwards of 9,500 low-income households. Lowering tenant rent share to 30% is within the Governor’s discretion to enact administratively, meaning that the Department of Housing and Community Development can make the change without going through the long budget setting process.Read more
Joint Committee on Housing Hears Hours of Testimony in Support of Rent Control
On Tuesday, January 11th, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Housing heard over eight hours of testimony on several pieces of landlord-tenant legislation. Included were three of MAHT’s priority bills. Two of these bills were proposals to lift the 1994 statewide ban on the municipal adoption of rent control and other forms of rent regulation (H.1378/S.886 and H.1440). The third was a Boston Home Rule Petition (HRP), written by MAHT, to reestablish rent caps in former governmentally involved subsidized housing developments in Boston (H.4229).
The Committee heard testimony from countless local housing justice organizations, tenant activists, small homeowners, and elected officials from across the state.
Several MAHT tenant leaders testified in support of our priority bills:Read more
MAHT Celebrates A Year of Tenant Organizing with a Virtual Holiday Party
On Saturday, December 11th, nearly 70 MAHT tenants and allies gathered on Zoom to celebrate a year of successful tenant organizing despite continually difficult pandemic circumstances.
The night began with some holiday tunes led by Boston-based musician Helena Ruffen, followed by an attempted Zoom sing-along. We then moved on to the award ceremony! Award recipients included:
- The Forbes Building Tenant Association, for tirelessly working to save their homes from market rate conversion and re-file the Boston Home Rule Petition.
- Georgetowne Tenants United, for helping to end mass evictions at Georgetown and open a dialogue with the Beacon property management company for non-punitive alternatives to eviction for tenants who fell behind on rent.
- The Babcock Towers Tenants Association, for securing 56 Housing Choice Voucher from the Boston Housing authority and challenging illegal evictions in their building.
- The Marcus Garvey Tenants Association, for hosting a successful rally with Representative Ayanna Pressley to publicize and gain support for the national Tenant Empowerment Act.
- The East Canton Street Preservation Association, for working to hold luxury housing developers accountable to community promises and prioritize the development of low-income housing in Boston.
- The City Rent Subsidy Coalition, for winning $5 million for low-income renters and prioritizing seniors and families with children.
MAHT also honored long time housing advocates Beverly Estes-Smargiassi and Katie Forde of the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, as well as elected officials including City Councilor Matt O’Malley, Mayor Michelle Wu, and Representative Ayanna Pressley. We then heard remarks from Mayor Wu and Representative Pressley, expressing their commitment to continuing the fight for housing justice in the new year. Finally, we wrapped up the night with a piano performance by none other than MAHT Executive Director Michael Kane!
A huge thank you to all who joined us to celebrate a remarkable year of tenant organizing. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!
WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program Offers a New Model for Eviction Prevention
In 2018, WinnCompanies, a for-profit affordable housing property management company overseeing $14 billion worth of properties across the country, was Boston’s largest landlord and one of the City’s most frequent evictors. Today, thanks specifically to the work of retired Boston legal aid attorney Jay Rose and more generally to the entire anti-eviction movement, WinnCompanies has adopted a ground-breaking eviction prevention program centered on early intervention and housing stabilization, with the intention of cutting eviction rates by 50% over the next 5 years.
A recent Shelterforce article outlines the basic tenets of the WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program. Often times, a property management company first engages with tenants who are behind on rent when they send a Notice to Quit, which details the amount of rent owed and the date at which that amount must be paid in full to avoid being served a court summons. In contrast, the WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program implements a series of preventative measures to stop tenants from reaching the point at which they receive a Notice to Quit or a court summons in the first place.
These preventative measures involve proactively informing tenants of the WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program and tenant support options when they first move in and each time they renew their lease, connecting tenants who have unpaid rent with a Housing Stability Coordinator to support them in recertifying and applying for emergency rental assistance as soon as they begin to fall behind, and removing threatening or punitive bureaucratic language from rent collection letters. Importantly, if a tenant experiences a loss of income, the Housing Stability Program enables a property manager to apply on behalf of the tenant to recertify the amount of subsidy benefits they receive retroactively, to the date the income is lost, rather than to the date the loss is first reported. If WinnCompanies does serve a tenant a court summons, the Housing Stability Program instructs employees to set the court date as far out as possible, giving tenants the maximum 30 days to negotiate a manageable payment plan.
Already, the WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program has begun to shape the conversation around effective eviction prevention nationwide. Read more about the Housing Stability Program and its impacts here!
Mayor-Elect Michelle Wu Shouts Out MAHT Tenants in Election Victory Speech!
Boston Votes Yes to Pass Question 1!
Rally to Save the Forbes Building in Jamaica Plain
On Saturday October 23, Forbes Building tenants, neighbors and allies rallied to #saveourhomes and preserve the Forbes in Jamaica Plain as long-term, subsidized, truly affordable housing for seniors and persons with disabilities!
South End Residents Protest Luxury Housing Development
On Saturday, October 9th, the East Canton Street Canton Street Preservation Association (ECSPA) and MAHT hosted a rally with 120 attendees in front the East Canton Street apartments, to demand that the City hold developers of luxury housing accountable to promises of community benefits and invest in the development of more truly affordable housing in Boston.
Rally speakers included ECSPA tenant activists Kenneth Woods and Maggie Costa, Newcastle Saranac tenant activist Rahel Berhe, Marcus Garvey tenant activist Mr. Crimes, community activists Conrad Ciszek, Armani White (Reclaim Roxbury), and Ivonne LaLyre (Save the Trees/Melea Cass Coalition), and city council candidates David Halbert, Ruthzee Louijeune, Carla Monteiro, and Julia Mejia. We were also joined by the amazing Extraordinary Rendition Band, who travelled all the way from Providence, RI as part of the annual HONK festival!
Georgetowne Tenants United Wins Changes from Beacon
GTU members met with Beacon CEO Dara Kovel on August 26. Kovel confirmed that Beacon has dismissed 123 evictions filed last March; no one has been evicted for Nonpayment during COVID at Georgetowne. Beacon has suspended new Notices to Quit and court filings for Non-Payment Evictions and will help tenants with Emergency Rent Assistance. Beacon is considering new policies to support tenants who fall behind on rent and will meet again with GTU in the fall. Already, Beacon has hired new Management Office staff. Section 8 tenants who lost jobs and income during COVID can get a rent reduction to 30% of their new income, retroactive to the first of the month after they lost the income, NOT just to when they recertified. Beacon will consider a retroactive rent adjustment for those who did not get this.
Lost Your Job or Income? Having Trouble Paying Rent? Rental Assistance Programs or Income Recertifications are Available!!
Many tenants have lost jobs and income due to COVID and are having a hard time paying the rent! Although in Massachusetts there is an Eviction Moratorium for non-payment of rent through October 17, back rent will still be due, after that date.
Section 8 or Public Housing tenants can receive a rent reduction for a loss of income. If you lose your job or your income drops, Section 8 tenants can request an “interim recertification” to lower their rent, to 30% of their new, reduced household income. All Section 8 tenants have this right!
Tenants with “Project-Based” Section 8 can request a rent reduction from their landlord retroactive to the first of the month following the loss of income. Section 8 Voucher or Public Housing tenants can request a rent adjustment from their Housing Authority, generally effective the month after the request is made.
Some Massachusetts tenants who pay a fixed monthly “Tax Credit” or “Market” rent, under their lease lose a job or income, their rents are NOT automatically reduced, to reflect the lost income. However, these families can apply for emergency rental assistance from the state.
For Market tenants who earn less than $96,250/year for a family of four or $77,000/year for two people, the State has created the Emergency Rent and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) Fund to help tenants who are unable to pay the rent. Eligible families can apply for up to $4,000 to cover back rent owed since April 1, 2020. Funds are not guaranteed; applicants must document loss of income and how much rent they owe in order to apply.Read more