Housing activists score a victory

August 23, 2010

BOSTON--The housing rights struggle in Massachusetts won an important victory at the end of July when the state Senate and House voted unanimously in favor of legislation that prevents eviction without just cause of tenants in foreclosed properties. The bill also includes protection for homeowners in default.

The legislation extends the state's "right to cure" law from 90 to 150 days, giving homeowners more time to rectify a mortgage loan in default if a lender does not meet at least once to re-negotiate the loan. Local housing rights activists say this legislation is the most significant tenant protection law passed in the state in over a decade.

City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU), a tenants rights organization that fights eviction and played a key role in getting the law passed, sees the law as a crucial step forward, especially considering that the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts is only getting worse. Foreclosures are up 56 percent from last year, and banks have begun to speed up the foreclosure-to-eviction process.

More tenant protection is welcome in this context and, according to CLVU activists, homeowners with tenants may benefit. Eviction is less likely for a homeowner if their tenants cannot be displaced. With more tenant protection, activists can focus more on the housing issues that homeowners face, such as reduction of principal in mortgage loans.

Members of CLVU along with other housing rights lobbying groups have been pushing for this kind of tenant protection legislation since 2008. CLVU organizers believe that the activism of tenants and homeowners facing foreclosure in the past year made the key difference.

Public protests against banks and against wealthy property owners, organized testimony at public hearings related to housing, and eviction blockades (some of which were victorious) were some of the many actions that helped create an atmosphere in which lawmakers felt pressured to pass this bill. As the U.S. housing crisis continues, this is an important lesson about how those facing foreclosure and eviction can make change.

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