Testimony on H.4718, An Act providing for a rent increase freeze in response to COVID-19
May 20, 2020
Dear Chairs Honan and Crighton,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on H.4718, An Act providing for a rent increase freeze in response to COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, tenants are in dire need of relief. We are in a global recession and have staggering rates of unemployment. In Massachusetts, as of the file week ending May 2nd, federal data shows that we have an unemployment rate of 15.97% (1). People who have had their pay reduced on unemployment cannot be expected to pay their regular rent, let alone a rent increase.
We have heard from many landlords and renters about their concerns, and while we have many generous landlords in Framingham, the concern lies particularly with large companies enacting new rent increases. For example, we have received information from one tenant whose current rent is $2,279/month who is expected to see an increase to somewhere between $2,364/month for a 24 month term to $2,848/month for a month-to-month term. Recognizing that many residents are without work and are not sure whether they will need to move to follow work in the coming months, asking for a commitment of two years for a reasonable rent increase is difficult to understand; asking for a nearly 25% increase is simply unacceptable.
With the uncertainty of the virus as well as the uncertainty relating to work and family needs, this is the time to enact emergency measures relating to rent. While a cost of living increase might be reasonable, acknowledging that certain costs, especially utilities, have increased with more people spending time at home, the base cost of rent should not be allowed to balloon. With watchful eyes on a potential re-emergence of COVID-19, asking people to move and inspect new apartments is also a public health risk at this time. Instead, we should be doing what we can to keep people in their existing homes. Having more residents in need of crowded homeless shelters is also not the answer.
I ask you to quickly pass this bill out of committee so that we can create some certainty for our constituents during these otherwise uncertain times.
Maria D. Robinson
6th Middlesex District