Report shows 200+ evictions filed in Boston during state of emergency, 78% in communities of color

BOSTON — A new study finds more than 200 evictions were suspended in Boston in the seven weeks before the state was locked down in the coronavirus pandemic.

New research from housing advocacy group City Life / Vida Urbana and MIT found 243 evictions were filed in Boston during the period between the outbreak linked to a Biogen conference in February and the governor’s passage of a moratorium on evictions.

“During the first seven weeks of the pandemic spread in the Boston area, we know that 78% of eviction filings in housing court occurred in census tracts where a majority of residents are people of color," said MIT researcher Ben Walker. "These are the same communities where a high number of essential workers live.”

The study found that many essential workers live in Boston’s communities of color. While 50.3% of Boston’s employed workforce works in occupations considered essential, that number jumps up to 70.1% in majority-minority communities.

Annie Gordon has lived in Mattapan for 44 years and, while managing a dispute with her landlord about handicap access to her building, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

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“My rent at this time, with being on a fixed income, is like 80% of what I get in the first place, so I have, but it’s a struggle. It’s been a struggle,” she said.

The state passed an eviction moratorium on April 20. The measure puts evictions and foreclosures on hold for 120 days, or 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

“The idea was this was just going to cover April rent and maybe people would be back to business as usual by May or June," Arroyo said. "That might’ve been public opinion, but privately, many public officials were grappling with the reality that this might be something we were going to be dealing with into June, July and August.”

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo called for an eviction and foreclosure moratorium for the city a month before the governor signed the measure into state law.

”I do believe that when we have a federal government that’s able to bail out large corporations to the tone of $500 [million] and $600 million, that we’re able to do something similar for our communities.”

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