Eviction Moratorium Passes Constitutional Challenges in Superior Court

On August 26th, Judge Wilson of the Massachusetts Superior Court issued an order in Matorin v. Commonwealth denying injunctive relief to plaintiffs advocating for the end of the eviction moratorium. Passed into law in April, the eviction moratorium was recently extended by Governor Baker until October 17, 2020 citing the ongoing spread of COVI-19.

Ruling on claims of infringement of core judicial powers, access to the courts and the takings clause, Judge Wilson found that any harm to landlords is “far outweighed” by the potential harm that would be caused by putting an end to the moratorium.

The order states, “…access to stable housing is a crucial component of containing COVID-19 for every citizen of Massachusetts. Judge Wilson continued, “By temporarily keeping people where they currently live, (the moratorium) ensures efficacy of social distancing guidelines, prevents homelessness, and limits housing overcrowding, thereby limiting the spread of the disease.” Addressing economic harm as well, Judge Wilson stated, “The Law also promotes economic health not only for the potentially displaced tenants but also for all residents of Massachusetts, as displacement and increased reliance on the shelter system and emergency services would increase costs to the Commonwealth.” In conclusion, the order recognized that the moratorium has allowed for tenant stabilization programs to be developed, funded and made available to preserve tenancies and maintain properties.

CHAPA, along with Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA), filed an amicus brief in support of the Commonwealth to illustrate the central role of housing stability in stemming the viral spread. Our brief together with statements of experts, Lyndia Downie, President and Executive Director of the Pine Street Inn, Rafael Mares, Executive Director of The Neighborhood Developers and Megan Sandel, MD/MPH, Co-Lead Principal Investigator, Boston Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, can be found at CHAPA/MACDC/MPHA Amicus Filing.

Plaintiffs have indicated their intention to appeal. A companion case in US District Court in Boston is pending with a hearing on federal constitutional claims to continue next week.