Will MA Be a Leader on Housing Access & Equity?

Chairman Eldridge, Chairwoman Cronin, and Members of the Judiciary Committee: 

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts. Progressive Massachusetts is a statewide grassroots advocacy organization that fights for shared prosperity and racial and social justice. 

Shared prosperity is impossible in a state where people cannot afford to live or are barred from opportunities for housing. Tackling our affordable housing crisis requires action on a wide variety of fronts, and curbing the outsize role of eviction records in access to housing is an important part. We urge you to give a favorable report to the HOMES Act (S.824/H.3566). 

Having an eviction record is creating a devastating barrier for tenants looking for housing. Since 1988, over 1 million eviction cases have been filed in Massachusetts. Records are created as soon as a case is filed and are publicly available forever––regardless of the outcome. These records impact people’s ability to obtain housing, credit, and employment, harming many, especially women and people of color. 

Regardless of whether one does anything wrong or is actually evicted, being party to an eviction or housing case is being unfairly held against tenants when they try to rent a new place. Even winning in court hurts tenants. If an eviction case is not the fault of the tenant, is dismissed, or ends with a tenant satisfying an agreement, these records should not be made public.

Even worse, under the current system, children being named in eviction proceedings and burdened with eviction records that follow them into adulthood, complicating their efforts to obtain housing and credit. 

Moreover, under the current system, mistakes, errors, and common names result in incorrect information being reported to landlords. Housing should be viewed as a human right, and no one should lose their rights due to a clerical error. 

With the HOMES act, Massachusetts has the opportunity to be a leader in ensuring that housing is accessible for all. We hope that you take it. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Jonathan Cohn 

Chair, Issues Committee

Progressive Massachusetts

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