Poll: Residents divided on policy response to evictions

Most say state should do more, but unclear about what

AN ONLINE POLL of 1,000 residents indicates 28 percent support resuming the state’s ban on evictions, 29 percent back increased state funding for landlords and tenants, 28 percent favor a combination of the two options, and 4 percent favor neither option.  The remaining 11 percent were unsure what to do.

The survey was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group from October 23 to 30, the week after the six-month-long eviction ban lapsed.

The survey participants were told that Massachusetts had banned landlords from evicting most tenants due to unpaid rent during the pandemic, that the moratorium had expired, and that Baker had proposed letting it end and increasing state aid to landlords and tenants instead.

Support for extending the moratorium was a little higher among Democrats and in and around Boston, where 31 percent favor extending the moratorium alone and another 32 percent favor doing it alongside increased funding for landlords and tenants. Location also played a role in the responses. Only 23 percent of respondents within Route 128 supported increasing funding alone.

Joey Michalakes of Greater Boston Legal Services, which supported the eviction ban in court, said he wasn’t surprised by the poll results.

“It speaks to the urgency of further legislative action to keep people in their homes during the pandemic, beyond what the Baker administration has already proposed,” he said.

Michalakes said the Legislature should enact the Guaranteed Housing Stability Act, which would cover all the same bases covered by the poll.

“It will stop mass evictions and foreclosures, like a moratorium; it will benefit both tenants and landlords, like Governor Baker’s plan; and it is balanced and sustainable, which is what people who support the ‘both’ option may be indicating,” he said.

Douglas Quattrochi, executive director of MassLandlords, said the poll asked a leading question because not enough information was provided. He said the poll failed to note the existence of a federal eviction moratorium implemented by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and concerns about extending the state moratorium raised by a federal judge during an unsuccessful challenge of the measure.

Advocates had predicted a flood of evictions following the end of the state ban, and landlord groups had anticipated their members would begin housing court proceedings, which were paused in most scenarios during the moratorium.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

It’s too early to tell if this has happened, because landlords first have to send 14-day notices to quit to tenants if they wish to evict them for nonpayment of rent. That process began October 18, and likely could be delayed if the tenant balks.

More than 540 eviction filings were made from Monday through Thursday this week, up from 404 last week. Housing court judges are expected to start hearing the cases next week.