While the pandemic has shaken up life for millions of Americans, it has thrust those already in precarious housing situations into survival mode.
In a LendingTree study released on May 17, Massachusetts ranked 14th for fear of foreclosure and 31st for fear of eviction. Two other New England states, however, reportedly have it far worse, with Maine topping the threat-of-eviction list (70.2 percent) and Rhode Island leading the foreclosure-risk rankings (14.5 percent).
These concerns certainly existed prior to the pandemic, but with unemployment rates at record highs across the country and eviction moratoriums sunsetting, it’s easy to see how the pandemic is still exacerbating the nationwide housing crisis. When you couple that with stagnant increases in income and an exponential rise in housing costs in the past decade, it might seem like the housing market is about to implode. In Massachusetts however, there is hope on the horizon for renters.
In November, the Baker-Polito Administration, MassHousing, the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Organizations announced a five-point “Eviction Diversion Pledge’’ aimed at assisting tenants facing financial difficulties and finding eviction alternatives such as mediation, rent adjustments, and payment plans. At the time 50-plus property owners had signed the pledge.
Lawmakers on Beacon Hill have also introduced a bill to continue efforts to prevent evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic and stabilize the market during the recovery. The bill states that no property owners may pursue an eviction unless they establish that the parties have exhausted all available remedies and that the tenants are aware of all opportunities to defend themselves. The bill would prevent tenants from being removed if they can prove financial hardship caused or exacerbated by COVID-19. In October, Governor Charlie Baker also unveiled a $171 million package of programs aimed at keeping struggling renters in their homes.
Gabriela Cartagena, a community organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana, said the bill is the only way the state “can prevent mass displacement of homeowners and tenants.’’
“Rental aid and mortgage aid that’s being provided by the state won’t get us to a place where we can actually prevent mass evictions and foreclosures. We see state-level action as the only way to prevent this catastrophe,’’ Cartagena said.
Cartagena stresses that for working-class families and Black and brown communities in Massachusetts, the recovery from this pandemic has yet to begin as restrictions on businesses and statewide mandates are lifted.
“During the foreclosure crisis there was a lot of talk about recovery, but the word ‘recovery’ was not reflective in communities like East Boston and Brockton, where the housing crisis is starting to downfall again and leave homeowners and tenants homeless.’’
The bill was sent to a Joint Committee on Housing in March, where it sits.
But what about the people who are sitting in fear, waiting for help?
“Your home is worth fighting for,’’ Cartagena said.
Jakob Menendez can be reached at [email protected]. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes.