City announces anti-displacement legislation

January 27, 2017
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Mayor Martin Walsh submitted a package of legislation at the State House to address displacement of Boston residents from their homes, according to a press release.

The package aims to help existing tenants remain in their homes by expanding tenants’ rights, rewarding good landlords, and creating additional funding for affordable housing.

“Even as Boston sees historic levels of housing being built, we must make sure that no one is left behind. The people who have built this city into the thriving, attractive place it is today must be able to remain in their homes and neighborhoods, and we will not stop until we have significant protections in place for them,” said Walsh. “I want to thank the legislators who took the lead on these bills for their wisdom in recognizing that displacement is not just a Boston problem, but also a statewide issue. I look forward to working with the state Legislature to ensure these bills are passed so that we can better protect our citizens’ abilities to remain in their homes.”

One bill in the package, sponsored by state Sen. Sal. N. DiDomenico, would make legal representation in eviction proceedings a right, and would ensure that the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services appoint a tenant an attorney if they cannot afford their own. Currently, only 7 percent of tenants brought to Boston Housing Court receive some type of legal assistance while a majority of landlords have representation.

A similar act, sponsored by state Rep. Chynah Tyler, would codify conditions under which landlords can evict a tenant or former homeowner living in their foreclosed unit. This act needs to be approved by the Boston City Council before state action can be taken, so it has not yet been submitted.

In the case of a foreclosure, an Act Regarding Right of First Refusal would allow tenants and nonprofits a right of first refusal to purchase properties subject to foreclosure or short sale at fair market value.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Honan would allow the City to amend the zoning code in order to strengthen the Inclusionary Development Policy, a policy which raises funds for affordable housing. Currently, the policy comes into play when a residential development project of 10 or more units requires a zoning variance, but this proposed Inclusionary Zoning Article would insure that affordable units are created based on the size of the project, and not the need for zoning relief. This act also needs to be approved by the City Council before state action can be taken, so it has not yet been submitted.

Honan also sponsored another bill, along with state Sen. Joseph Boncore, to incentivize landlords to charge below-market rents by providing an income tax credit of $1,500 for landlords who provide unsubsidized units.

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