Regarding housing and homelessness in Boston, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is hearing a case on appeal stemming from the Fenway neighborhood. A 173-unit complex in Boston’s Fenway section called the Burbank Apartments is at the crux of the case. However, the effects of the decision may be felt throughout the state, because many owners are looking to shed the housing affordability restrictions. Tenants want to keep their Section 8 Housing Certificates while the owners, who have owned properties and complied with affordable housing for decades do not want to continue with it as the owners say they can get a much higher rent and do not want the restrictions. Obviously, in the city of Boston, the rents are skyrocketing. The owners also want to share in getting the rising market rents. A database kept by the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, as of July 2015 showed that Massachusetts is at risk of losing nearly 20,000 additional subsidized units by December 31, 2019, after having previously lost more than 16,000 units through prepayments and rent subsidy contract terminations. Many of us who are now living in the city of Boston know that rents have doubled and tripled in recent years.
The homelessness has also increased with families. Tenants’ advocacy groups are fighting for the tenants. However the landlord/owners are happy with the recent decision of Boston Housing Court Judge Jeffrey Winik who stated that the tenant, Plaintiffs had failed to state a claim, because the landlord/owners had complied with all substantive procedural and notice requirements of the state and federal law and abided by the terms of the Section 8 rent subsidy program for the term they had were required to.
The tenants’s position is that the decision is violating the Federal Fair Housing Laws, as it is disproportionately impacting racial minorities, the elderly, the disabled and other protected class.
On the other hand, the landlord/owners feel that it is a matter of principle and that they had a deal and complied with it. They believe that the state and federal governments should have to live up to their end, no matter how compelling the reasons to do otherwise.
It is the position of the landlord/owners that they have now endured nine years of litigation over the issues presented in this appeal, after completing 40 years of participation in federal subsidized housing programs. They contemplated that their participation in those programs would at some point end says the pleading filed with the court.
The plaintiffs’ question on appeal is whether Section 8 non-renewals are categorically excluded from fair housing scrutiny in the absence of a specific “clear legislative statement.”