This week we celebrated as Governor Baker signed into law a moratorium
COVID-19 related evictions and foreclosures
. While this is a huge victory for our communities and will keep many families stably housed throughout the crisis, our work is not done.
Consuelo Esperanza Alvarado is a single mom with two daughters, ages 15 and 12. For the past four years, she has subleased a single room in a five-bedroom Chelsea apartment for $700/month. On March 27, Consuelo tested positive for COVID and was forced to leave her job working nights at a fish market in order to quarantine. Nearly a month later, she's still sick, without income, and wondering what will happen to her family when she can't pay her rent on May 1. She's facing verbal harassment from the lease holder of her apartment and worries about her daughters, who have witnessed the harassment and are afraid of losing their home - particularly with their mom still so sick.
Consuelo is one of thousands of tenants in Chelsea who are subleasing rooms informally, without any lease agreements on record. Their rights as tenants are unclear, and they are still vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, and displacement at the hands of their lease holders.
The Chelsea Collaborative is currently supporting more than 900 families in Chelsea alone who believe they are at significant risk for displacement in the next two weeks. Most of these are subleasing tenants. Many are sick and already behind on rent. They're being asked to leave their apartments and are unsure of their rights under the new law. They wonder how they'll ever catch up on rent payments when the moratorium ends and back payments are due.
We are working with these families and housing attorneys to determine legal protections available, inform tenants of their rights, help mediate housing situations, connect to rental assistance programs, setup payment plans for back rent, and secure new emergency housing for displaced individuals and families as needed.
We need better options and more resources to keep everyone stably housed.
Long-term, we need a plan to keep families in their homes after the eviction moratorium, as rent payments are still due. We continue our call for local and state officials to take the following steps:
- Expand rental assistance resources for more subleasing tenants to access funds and stay in their homes.
- Conduct multilingual outreach to increase awareness of the eviction moratorium and tenants' rights under the new law.
- Grant rental amnesty to allow impacted families a chance to recover financially once the COVID-19 crisis passes.
- Pass the Work and Family Mobility Act so individuals and families can access Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) funding and other COVID-19 resources.
- Pass Right to Counsel legislation and increase funding for civil legal aid when Governor Baker's emergency order ends.