Report Release: Eviction, Health, and Stabilization in Boston | A community-academic collaboration of MIT, CLVU, and the Right to Remain Coalition

Healthy_Community_Howard_Rotman.jpgThis week, the release of a Rapid Health Impact Assessment of the proposed Just Cause Eviction Ordinance for Boston - months in the making - coincided with the formal filing of the legislation, after over a year of public debate and advocacy.  The study was conducted by a team of graduate students at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning, guided by City Life/Vida Urbana members and organizers, in collaboration with the Right to Remain Coalition.  It was funded by the Health Impact Project.

KEY FINDINGS:
  • Based on a literature review and input from stakeholders, this RHIA assesses the impact of the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance on factors that affect health, including stress and environmental exposures, and health conditions, including depression and substance use disorder.
  • The populations most vulnerable to “no-cause” evictions in Boston struggle with disadvantages on several fronts, from educational attainment and income levels to physical and mental health challenges.
  • Health effects for Boston renters stem from two predicted consequences of the ordinance: reduced incidence of eviction and reduced anticipation of eviction.
  • The assessment finds that the ordinance may prevent eviction for a small number of people, but the health benefits for these people may be substantial. In contrast, the number of people who may experience reduced anticipation of eviction as a result of the ordinance is much larger – potentially the entire population of Boston renters, or over 400,000 people.
  • If the Boston City Council adopts the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and investigates and implements additional policies to reduce the overall incidence of eviction in Boston, it will likely improve renters’ health.

Click "read more" to see the executive summary, download the full report, get a plain-language version of the summary & report plus a discussion guide, and see a media roundup and more links on housing, displacement, and health.

RAPID HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT: JUST CAUSE EVICTION IN BOSTON
Student authors: Jennifer Hiser, Ellen Morris, Hannah Payne, Amy Plovnick, Ayesha Shahid
Research assistance: Melissa Chinchilla, Amy Plovnick, Alina Schnake-Mahl, City Life/Vida Urbana
Project supervision: Professor Mariana Arcaya
Funding and technical assistance: The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Media roundup Dec 2016:     WBUR     Boston Globe     Boston Herald     Bay State Banner  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This Rapid Health Impact Assessment (RHIA) evaluates the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, proposed in the City of Boston, for potential health impacts on Boston renters. The proposed ordinance, now titled the “Jim Brooks Stabilization Act of 2016,” would limit evictions by non- owner-occupant landlords to those with a “Just Cause,” which includes any violation of the lease terms. The ordinance is intended to reduce gentrification-related displacement in Boston by restricting the ability of corporate landlords to evict tenants for the purpose of renovating their properties to luxury standards and/or soliciting new tenants who will pay higher rents.

A baseline analysis of housing, socioeconomic, and health indicators in Boston finds substantial health inequities between low-and high-socioeconomic groups. The populations most vulnerable to “no-cause” evictions in Boston struggle with disadvantages on several fronts, from educational attainment and income levels to physical and mental health challenges. Neighborhoods with large percentages of low-income and minority residents tend to have high percentages of renters, more renters who spend a significant proportion of their income on rent, and more eviction cases in Housing Court, compared to other Boston neighborhoods. Continued pressure on the rental market will likely exacerbate the inequities between rich and poor and inflict greater hardship on the most vulnerable residents in the city.

Based on a literature review and input from stakeholders, this RHIA assesses the impact of the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance on factors that affect health, including stress and environmental exposures, and health conditions, including depression and substance use disorder. The primary stakeholder giving input was City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU), a community organization that works to help people in the Boston area remain in their homes and, an organizational member of the Right to Remain coalition. The RHIA focuses on health effects for Boston renters, stemming from two predicted consequences of the ordinance: reduced incidence of eviction and reduced anticipation of eviction. Within the category of incidence of eviction, we evaluate the health effects associated with processes resulting from an eviction: residential mobility, moving to poor quality housing, material hardship, homelessness, and loss of place attachment and social capital. In terms of anticipation of eviction, we examine effects on stress.

The assessment finds that the ordinance may prevent eviction for a small number of people, but the health benefits for these people may be substantial. In contrast, the number of people who may experience reduced anticipation of eviction as a result of the ordinance is much larger – potentially the entire population of Boston renters, or over 400,000 people. However, there are likely more limited health benefits from reduced anticipation of eviction than reduced incidence of eviction, and stem mainly from decreased stress.

Based on these findings, the RHIA offers recommendations to limit negative health effects associated with eviction and ensure that the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance is implemented in a way that improves the health of Boston renters. If the Boston City Council adopts the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and investigates and implements additional policies to reduce the overall incidence of eviction in Boston, it will likely improve renters’ health. The Boston Office of Housing Stability should provide tenants with information about community health services, share eviction data and collaborate with the Boston Public Health Commission. Right to Remain campaign member organizations,* such as City Life/Vida Urbana, can use this RHIA as a way to continue conversation about the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and other policies that would protect Boston residents from eviction. The Right to Remain organizations could also maximize the health benefits for the communities they work with by offering counseling services and partnerships with community health organizations.

*The Right to Remain Coalition is anchored by Right to the City Boston in partnership with Boston Tenant Coalition. Other organizational members are: Action for Boston Community Development, Action for Regional Equity, Allston Brighton CDC, Alternatives for Community and Environment, Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian Community Development Corp, Black Economic Justice Institute, Boston Jobs Coalition, Boston Workers Alliance, Brazilian Worker Center, Castle Square Tenants Organization, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown Resident Association, City Life, Codman Square NDC, Community Labor United, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester Bay EDC, Dorchester People for Peace, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Egleston Sq. Youth Group, Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, Fairmount Indigo Line CDC Collaborative, Fenway Community Development Corp., Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Greater Four Corners Action, Homes for Families, Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, JP Neighborhood Council, JP Neighborhood Development Corp, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Jobs with Justice, Mass AFL-CIO, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, MA CDC, Mass Vote, Matahari, Mattapan United, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, New England United for Justice, Progressive Communicators Network, Progressive Mass, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU 32BJ (District 615), Union of Minority Neighborhoods.


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