Advocates: No evictions during pandemic

You feel sick. But you could get evicted from your home if you don’t show up in court. What do you do?

Boston-area activists are mounting a campaign to end evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

City Life/Vida Urbana, representing tenants facing eviction, planned to hold a rally Thursday morning outside Boston Housing Court to call for the postponement of almost all eviction cases.

Organizers say  crowds of people are often squeezed into small spaces without adequate ventilation in the housing court. A tenant who is sick can’t stay home without risk of defaulting and being evicted. People have less access to public informational meetings or to assistance organizations, which may be curtailing operations.

The group also says if someone loses their home, it could become harder for them to secure health care. (The group wants to allow evictions by owner-occupants, who rent out part of their personal home, arguing that this situation is unique and comprises a small number of cases.)

Helen Matthews, an organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana, said people facing eviction are generally the same people without substantial work benefits that let them take time off to heal. “We’re saying we don’t want a critical mass of people crammed into that space where the virus can spread, and we also don’t want people with the least resources in the city to be most affected by the virus,” Matthews said.

Legal advocacy group Lawyers for Civil Rights is calling for a statewide moratorium on evictions. Executive director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement that many low-income individuals cannot take time off work without jeopardizing their income and their housing. He said weekly eviction proceedings are exactly the type of crowded environment state officials are trying to discourage. “It is unfair and counterproductive for the governor to ask people to quarantine themselves in their homes while simultaneously allowing them to be stripped of their housing,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.

Rep. Mike Connolly, a progressive Democrat from Cambridge, wrote on Twitter that he is preparing a bill to halt all evictions for the duration of the public health crisis.

Doug Quattrochi, executive director of MassLandlords, said he does not believe civil processes should be closed to everyone without cause. But he agrees if someone tests positive for coronavirus, a tenant should be exempt from evictions – just as a landlord should be exempt from paying a mortgage.

Massachusetts state courts are taking steps to prevent the spread of disease: using stronger-than-usual disinfectants daily on high-touch areas; keeping soap and hand sanitizer around courthouses; and requiring employees who traveled to highly affected countries to stay home. The court is encouraging judges to reduce the number of jurors called in unnecessarily and is allowing jurors who are sick or worried about remaining on a jury to reschedule their jury service. The court is working with sheriff’s offices and law enforcement to establish a protocol for dealing with anyone who is in custody and has respiratory illness.

In California, San Jose city officials are already moving forward with a temporary ban on evictions of tenants who lose income due to the pandemic. The 30-day moratorium is expected to receive approval from the San Jose City Council in the next couple of weeks. Landlords in San Jose opposed the policy, telling city officials that they did not know how they would pay their mortgages if tenants weren’t paying rent.

“We know it’s a public health and public safety issue if thousands of residents are being pushed out onto the street,” San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo said at a press conference.

Fast Company reported that San Francisco and Seattle are also considering banning evictions of individuals who lose income due to COVID-19, although no actions have been taken yet.



Secretary of State William Galvin seeks emergency election powers to respond to the coronavirus. (State House News) A Globe editorial says any such authority should not be vested in one person and changes to election dates should require court approval.

The coronavirus could have a big impact on the state budget. (Boston Globe)


Joe Biden spent nothing on TV ads on Greater Boston TV stations in the leadup to the Massachusetts and New Hampshire primaries. Is that an anomaly, or a sign of things to come? (CommonWealth)

Despite a poor showing in Tuesday’s primaries, Bernie Sanders says he will stay in the race and debate Joe Biden on Sunday. (MassLive) His remarks announcing that, however, could be seen as a certain kind of concession speech. (New York Times)

Rep. Joe Kennedy says the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is blocking his effort to raise money for Democrats making runs against Republicans in other states. (Boston Globe)


President Trump announces a sweeping 30-day travel ban on most entry to the country from Europe. (Washington Post) He said in the Oval Office address that the ban would include “trade and cargo” — but then sent out a tweet soon after the speech correcting that and saying that wasn’t true. (Daily Mail)

Testing delays have been a critical setback to US efforts to control spread of coronavirus. (New York Times)

The NBA is suspending its season (NPR) The NCAA’s March Madness will go on, but only with family members and essential staff in attendance. (AP)

Italian doctors are facing extraordinary life and death decisions. (The Atlantic)

CLOSINGS: UMass is among the latest schools to close campus and switch to virtual instruction, but so far not for the remainder of the school year. (MassLive) Smith and Amherst colleges will reimburse students for their fees. (MassLive) Gloucester’s mayor asks that all major events be postponed. (Gloucester Daily Times) Fall River has cancelled an important cultural district meeting with the Mass. Cultural Council. (Herald News) Rockport postpones town meeting. (Gloucester Daily Times)

In the Berkshires, 54 nurses are quarantined. (MassLive) Central Massachusetts hospitals are limiting visitors. (Telegram & Gazette)

The crisis is putting work-from-home protocols to the test. (Boston Globe)

Though it may feel unseemly to say, commutes have gotten shorter. (State House News Service)


Cape art venues are seeking balance between safety and alarmism as officials mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (Cape Cod Times)

A new music venue touted as being unlike any other on the mid-Cape has secured the alcohol and entertainment licenses needed for its planned opening on Memorial Day weekend—but residents are now saying they’re concerned about noise. (Cape Cod Times)


The MBTA didn’t follow through on pay raises its top two employees were owed. Meanwhile, a bonus is being discussed for General Manager Steve Poftak, who makes $320,000 a year. (CommonWealth)


Owen Jones, a columnist for the Guardian, asks what would happen if we treated the climate crisis with the same sense of urgency as the coronavirus outbreak. (NPR)


Harvey Weinstein, whose case gave rise to the #MeToo movement, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assaults. (NPR)

Bridgewater State professor Nicholas Pirelli was arrested again by the Bridgewater State University Police Department after a warrant was issued for his arrest Tuesday. Police say additional victims came forward following Pirelli’s arrest last week on rape charges. (The Enterprise)

State Police have nearly run out of space to store illegal cigarettes seized from smugglers. (Daily News)


President Trump’s re-election campaign is filing SLAPP suits against news organizations — libel suits with no legal merit whose goal is to intimidate rather than to expose the truth. (Media Nation)