Guest Blog Post: How We Can Prevent an Elder Eviction Crisis in Massachusetts

The following is a guest blog post by Betsey Crimmins, Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services:

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Baker signed a statewide eviction moratorium on April 20, 2020 which prevented all but “essential” evictions and the issuance of eviction notices to tenants.

This moratorium is scheduled to end on October 17, 2020 and we are expecting a flood of eviction cases including many older adults who live in public and subsidized housing as well as private market rentals. Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and other legal services agencies across the state are preparing for this crisis and recognize that it is essential to collaborate closely with our community partners in the aging network to proactively try to stabilize as many “at risk” tenancies as possible.

Tenants who are at risk for eviction include people who were involved in an eviction case which paused once the moratorium began. Those cases may resume after the end of the moratorium.  At risk tenants also include people who have been told by their landlord that they will start eviction proceedings right after October 17th.  This includes tenants  who have struggled to pay rent due to loss of income and tenants who may be in violation of their leases because they have not had access to in-home services such as hoarding specialists, protective services workers, home health aides, and other helpers who assist in stabilizing housing.

There are two key rent arrearage funding sources available to tenants who have been unable to pay their rent.  The Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA). If you know of someone in this situation, have them file an application right away. More information on that is available here. 

Access to affordable, accessible, and safe housing for older adults is often the most important social determinant of health.  This has never been more true than during this pandemic where a person’s home is the best safeguard against contracting or spreading COVID-19.  Evictions profoundly affect individuals, families, and entire communities.  An eviction greatly diminishes a tenant’s chance of accessing affordable housing in the future and can lead to homelessness, exacerbation of health problems, and for some older adults premature institutionalization in nursing homes.