The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act is intended to help address a real problem in the City of Boston — displacement. Specifically, it is intended to generate data on evictions by requiring notice to the City of eviction events.
Recently, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary voted to put the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act to study, which means ending its prospects in this legislative session. The City will need to submit a new petition to get the process started again.
Over the past few months, I’ve met with advocates for the bill on multiple occasions and I understand the good motivations behind the bill. While I am concerned about displacement, I voted to put the bill to study because it was flawed in four ways:
- First, it was presented with a cover petition that was worded to make it unamendable by the legislature.
- Second, it included a broad and awkward definition of the events which would trigger notice — it would require notice to the city not just on notices to quit but on any “provision in a written rental agreement for a housing accommodation or rental unit that the lease will expire either as of a fixed date, or at the election of the owner or the failure of the tenant to take certain affirmative action.” This could be read to require notices in many unintended situations.
- Third, while it attempts to exempt the smaller landlords who would have a hard time keeping up with the new paperwork requirements, it fails to do so, because it exempts only properties held by “natural persons” — it is not uncommon for small landlords to own their property through some legal entity.
- Finally, it includes a new rule applicable to foreclosure situations. This new foreclosure rule has little to do with the displacement of renters, but instead speaks to the mortgage problems more prevalent in the previous decade. Putting aside the specific problems with the new rule, the legislature has been very uncomfortable allowing individual communities to write special rules related to foreclosures. Many people that I talk to are unaware that this provision was included in the petition.
Absent the first problem — the prohibition on changes — we could, perhaps, have worked out the other problems. I cannot speak for every member of the Committee or for the legislature as a whole. Other members may have additional concerns.
I welcome a collaborative discussion on how to better address the problem of displacement and look forward to continued discussion with people on all sides of this issue.