A key concern in Everett and surrounding communities since last November has been the lifting of the eviction moratorium and how that might affect thousands of residents and their housing situations, but initial statistics through Jan. 1 from the state Housing Court show Everett seems to be in a good position so far with a lower number of filed evictions.
It’s a piece of good news in what has been a huge worry for elected officials over the past several months, with many worrying that joblessness as a result of the pandemic could lead to massive numbers of people without homes. So far, that hasn’t come true, to the relief of everyone.
In Housing Court, to begin an eviction process one must file a Summary Process Eviction for non-payment of rent. It is a standard process for most landlords and tenants, but it had been frozen during COVID-19 until last fall – when Housing Court opened back up for evictions.
While other locales have been swamped with such filings, Everett only had 87 Summary Process Evictions filed for all of 2020. That was far less than 10 per month and showed that the City has staved off the onslaught of filings that many expected. It’s not the case in other places like Worcester, Fall River and New Bedford.
Worcester led the state with 874 filings as of Jan. 1 for all of 2020. That was 10 times more than Everett had. Springfield had 711, Fall River had 604, and Brockton had 315. All were well above Everett’s numbers.
Everett did have a lot in common with Chelsea and Revere too, which also expected a lot of filings but so far have not had so many. Chelsea had 129 filings and Revere had 154 – all well-below what was expected and, like Everett, places where substantial resources were directed to stemming the tide.
Councilor Stephanie Martins, who chairs the City Housing Task Force, said the numbers are very interesting, but have two sides to them. While they do show the City’s efforts and the efforts of non-profits have been working, they don’t show that many evictions happen under the table and outside a court process.
“There are two sides to all of this in Everett,” she said. “There has been a great effort with rent assistance from the City and we have been able to reach a lot of people and have been able to get funds in people’s hands much quicker than the state RAFT program. That’s been a great help to a lot of people. However, I think our numbers don’t reflect a lot of tenants who leave when they get the Notice to Quit and whose cases never made it to a court because they didn’t know their rights and were under pressure and harassment at times.”
She said in those cases, there is a need for landlords in Everett to be educated. Many, she said, are senior citizens or new immigrants and don’t know that there is a court process to evict people. Tenants may not know that either, and so she said much education is needed to stem that problem.
However, she said the low numbers of filings so far this year does also reflect a great deal of effort by the City and herself and other elected officials to face the problem before it got out of hand.
“The fact that we had a rental assistance program was definitely incredibly helpful,” she said. “We have reached a lot of people in our diverse communities. Many of these people continue to reach out…The application was easy to navigate.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said keeping up the effort will be critical in the next few months, but he is encouraged to see that it appears the current efforts are succeeding in Everett and Chelsea.
“We have to continue working to ensure that we don’t have any evictions,” said Senator DiDomenico. “But, we can see that the work being done in our community through state and local partnerships has had positive outcomes for many residents. There is still much more work to be done and we will keep pushing to get resources to address our housing crisis.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin – who with Martins was an early advocate of starting a rental assistance program – said it showed that people in Everett are getting the help they need, and that many people have continued to work through the pandemic – most on the front lines of their industries.
“I think these numbers show good reason for optimism going into 2021,” he said. “It also shows strong partnering relationships with organizations in the community and strong relationships between the City and state. There has been great work between the mayor, Senator DiDomenico, Stephanie Martins, Gerly Adrien and myself – all working together on this. When we work together we can get these kinds of outcomes.”
He added that many Everett residents have continued to work, allowing them to pay rent and bills, but also put an exclamation point on the need for a vaccine prioritization in Everett.
“I would say all of this is a success story for Everett, but it also shows our residents are still going to work and getting paychecks,” he said. “Everett has a workforce that’s on the front lines and that means a vaccine is so much more important to our community.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the key, so far, has been anticipating the problem and training staff to mediate dispute and be proactive in getting people help before it’s too late.
“The focus of my Administration was to jump out ahead of this important issue,” said Mayor DeMaria. “The Administration has mediated dozens housing disputes throughout the pandemic acting as third party where both landlord and tenant could talk out their options. As soon as the eviction moratorium was in place, we began educating both tenants and landlords on how the Executive Orders impacted and as well as protected them. The City has utilized CARES Act funding for rental and mortgage assistance to provide some stability to our residents during these unprecedented times. I credit our standing to proper planning, well-trained staff, and the proper resources to help those who needed it.”
Many expect the numbers of filed evictions to increase in the coming months, but a nationwide rebound in the economy is also predicted for the second half of 2021 – leading many to believe at the City and state level that getting through the last two months and the next four could be enough to avert a housing disaster.