Campaign to end no-fault eviction wins new attention

Just Cause Eviction push draws eye of media, politicians

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 12/30/2015, 6 a.m.

Members of the Right to Remain Coalition got a boost of confidence and now seek to seize momentum after their campaign for legislation protecting tenants from no-fault evictions received a flurry of media and political attention.

This December, the Just Cause Eviction campaign, which started collecting signatures in June, drew attention from outlets including WGBH, WBUR, The Boston Globe and the Neighborhood Network News, as well as comments from Mayor Martin Walsh. If passed, the proposed legislation would require landlords to provide a reason to evict and to sit down to non-binding mediation with tenants before raising rents by more than 3-5 percent. The goal is to make it harder for landlords to force out responsible tenants in order to pursue higher rents and greater profits.

“[The attention] has made us really believe that this is a priority in the city,” said Yvette Modestin, community organizer with Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation.

Coalition members said they hope to get their proposed ordinance before the city council in January 2016. If it succeeds there, the measure goes to the mayor and then — if he signs — to the state Legislature.

Where the council stands

To pass in the city council, the Just Cause Eviction bill needs sponsorship from one city councilor and the support of seven. If the campaign can win over nine councilors, it will be immune to a potential mayoral veto.

Among the strongest champions of the cause are Tito Jackson, newcomer Andrea Campbell and departing councilor Charles Yancey, said Jason Boyd, director of communications for Codman Square NDC.

But all councilors are for — or, at least, not against — the idea, according to coalition members.

“All of the [councilors] at this point have expressed support to one degree or another for the legislation,” Boyd said. “There’s been varying degrees of support and enthusiasm.”

“No councilor has said, ‘No,’ that they don’t like the idea,” Modestin added.

Seven councilors attended or sent representatives to voice support at an assembly and rally this past October: Jackson, Yancey, Campbell, Ayanna Pressley, Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty and Michelle Wu. At that point, councilors were only speaking about the general cause — no specific legislation had been written.

In the recent months, campaign members wrote and sent the proposed ordinance to all councilors and have followed up with individual meetings. To date, Right to Remain coalition members have met with eight councilors and have several more to go: Mark Ciommo and Michael Flaherty — who are scheduled for early January — Bill Linehan and Salvatore LaMattina, Modestin said.

Mayor Walsh

Among the coalition’s next discussion topics: potential bill sponsorship, Modestin said. Coalition members also hope to meet with the mayor in January.

Walsh supports the general idea of just cause eviction and his administration is examining how such a move might be implemented, he told Boston Public Radio in December.

“We’ve had some conversation about this and how it works,” Walsh said. “If everything worked out positively we could do something, absolutely.”