Statement on Tenant Protection Legislation
Before the Joint Committee on Housing
January 11, 2022
Chairman Keenan, Chairman Arciero, members of the Committee,
I am submitting this statement in support of the Tenant Protection Act (H.1378) on behalf of A Better Cambridge (ABC). ABC is a Cambridge-based all-volunteer organization working to solve our local housing affordability crisis. This solution must involve producing more housing, especially affordable housing, in Cambridge and elsewhere to meet the critical regional demand. It also requires protecting tenants from the immediate effects of this crisis; today, extreme winter conditions and two years of a global pandemic highlight the persistent gaps in our housing system. All options to create more housing equity in our Commonwealth must be considered.
Massachusetts’ ongoing housing crisis has worsened displacement in high-cost cities, disproportionately impacting communities of color and eroding our neighborhoods. Cambridge’s Mayor’s Task Force on Tenant Displacement documented the serious affordability and displacement problems facing renters, who make up the clear majority of Cambridge’s population, in 2019 and 2020. Subsequent reports from the Cambridge Housing Authority (“Stories of the Can’t Wait List”) and the Cambridge Community Foundation (“Equity & Innovation Cities: The Case of Cambridge”) bring new voices to the forefront of our housing discourse and demonstrate the urgent need for additional tenant protections in Cambridge.
ABC supports H.1378 and other bills before you today that would further tenants’ rights: the Homes Act (S.921 / H.1808, an Act promoting housing opportunity and mobility through eviction sealing); SB874 (SD1906) / HB1436 (HD2441), an Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention in Massachusetts; and SB890 (SD1672) / HB1426 (HD2984), an Act to guarantee a tenant’s first right of refusal.
Cambridge is already taking important steps in this area, including funding legal services for tenants facing eviction and hiring staff to further fair housing goals. We realize that passing additional legal protections will require state legislation, which is why we support H.1378 and similar bills. ABC will continue to advocate for our new City Council to develop detailed policies for tenant protections and housing affordability as relevant for our housing market and community. In Cambridge, this could include regulating extreme rent increases, restricting arbitrary evictions, and strengthening controls on condominium conversions. We will also continue to advocate for increasing enforcement of fair housing law and improving mechanisms for voucher holders to find safe, stable housing.
Thank you for your prompt support of this important legislation. We hope you will report it favorably and soon, because this crisis is a serious and immediate one for us.
Co-Chair, A Better Cambridge