JPNC Housing and Development Committee Talks about Eviction Moratorium, Equity in Housing

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Housing and Development Committee met virtually on July 21, where they briefly discussed the status of the state’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium, and discussed how the committee can contribute to addressing issues raised by the Black Lives Matter Protests relating to housing and development in Jamaica Plain.

Committee member Samantha Montano talked about Governor Baker’s 60 day extension on the current moratorium, which will now expire on October 17.

She also brought up a bill filed by State Representatives Mike Connolly and Kevin Honan called “An act to guarantee housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery,” which she said will “provide more lasting security for tenants,” as well as a fund for small landlords and provisions for non-profit landlords and lenders.

“Right now, the moratorium doesn’t carry anything else with it,” Montano said, besides preventing eviction for non-payment of rent, but people will eventually still have to pay their back rent.

There is a push to get this legislation passed before the end of the legislative session on July 31, and while representatives and senators in the JP area are in favor of the legislation, neighbor Kathy Brown said it is “good to call them even though they’re supportive.”

On the topic of Black Lives Matter protests and advocating for more equitable housing in Jamaica Plain, Sarah Horsley of the Boston Tenant Coalition brought up the effort to strengthen the Inclusionary Development Policy in the City, as it “certainly has equity and racial justice implications,” she said. “We want to make sure that the inclusionary units are more deeply affordable,” and that there are enough affordable units. She said that this summer, more research is being done to gather updated data on the demand for affordable units.

She said that City Council support for this is necessary, and the Coalition is trying to work with them to hold a hearing at some point, as well as continuing to mobilize its grassroots efforts to advocate for permanently affordable housing.

Kathy Brown mentioned that some of the City Councilors, including Kenzie Bok, have been talking a look at areas of the City that have been segregated, and there is a push for a sort of “anti-displacement checklist,” where developers who want to build housing will have to take a look at the displacement impact of any particular project.

“We’re going to be responsible for making sure that projects that come up are affirmatively furthering fair housing,” Brown said.

Samantha Montano talked about Section 8 vouchers and the need for fairness surrounding the program.

“Contrary to fair housing law, a lot of folks don’t respond to folks who reach out with Section 8 vouchers,” she said. She said the City Council “is going to be reviewing how to create more equity in that process and how to handle landlords who don’t provide housing to folks who qualify for it.”

She mentioned a study by Suffolk University that found that real estate agents and landlords in the Greater Boston area do not provide the same opportunities to renters with Section 8 housing vouchers as they do to those without. 

Brown said that education of realtors and landlords and putting “public awareness or pressure:” on them with regards to this issue could be a start to ending the discrimination.

Committee Chair Carolyn Royce said the group could start with realtors in Jamaica Plain, since they make up a fairly small group.

Montano also brought up the issue of homeownership as a gateway to wealth, and how that can be problematic for some families for whom this is unachievable. She said discussions have been started in the city around figuring out other ways for people to have more stability with something like a co-op or land trust but still have something to pass along to future generations, even if it is not a home owned solely by the family.

The committee said they would continue this discussion at a future meeting, and the August meeting will feature an update from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation  (JPNDC) about its housing and retail project at 3371 Washington Street. 

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