HOUSING

Housing is a human right. There is no doubt that Massachusetts is in the grip of a debilitating affordable housing crisis, affecting renters and homeowners alike. For far too long, our housing courts have operated as eviction mills, with the disparity in power and resources between landlords and tenants on full display with disastrous consequences. Shannon will seek to remedy this power imbalance and keep people in their homes. She will ensure that the Attorney General’s Office plays a more active role in advancing housing justice, rooting out housing discrimination, and passing new laws to strengthen tenant rights and address our affordable housing crisis.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      1. Create an Office of the Tenant Advocate; 
      2. Increase investigations into allegations of housing discrimination;
      3. Actively promote legislation to remedy our affordable housing crisis and strengthen tenants’ rights;
      4. Work to ensure our housing stock is free from lead;
      5. Protect manufactured housing communities and residents.

Create an Office of the Tenant Advocate

Disparities in legal resources between landlords and tenants create inevitable power disparities and bad outcomes for tenants when problems arise. In Massachusetts, landlords have counsel in 78 percent of eviction cases, while tenants are represented in just 9 percent. These kinds of resource disparities have helped turn our housing courts into eviction mills, fueling displacement and worsening Massachusetts’ already-bad affordable housing crisis. Having spent decades representing low-wage workers and marginalized communities, Shannon knows how important effective legal representation and resources are in court. Shannon will create a new Office of the Tenant Advocate to marshall needed resources to tenants and ensure the AG’s Office plays a more active role in advancing housing justice. 

 

As Attorney General, Shannon will establish an Office of the Tenant Advocate in order to:

      • Provide legal assistance and resources to tenants;
      • Help mediate disputes between tenants and landlords;
      • Connect individuals and families with emergency housing services; and
      • Engage in policy advocacy to strengthen tenants’ rights.

Increase Investigations into Allegations of Housing Discrimination

Having spent decades litigating large scale civil rights cases (including while running for Attorney General), Shannon knows firsthand how important it is to take on discrimination at a systemic level to effectuate meaningful change. While Massachusetts has strong anti-discrimination laws on the books, these laws do not enforce themselves. Research has shown that renters with housing vouchers face higher levels of discrimination in Massachustts. Additionally, Massachusetts no-fault eviction laws, which allow landlords to evict tenants without having to show just cause, have functioned as a loophole in our anti-discrimination laws.

As Attorney General, Shannon will: 

      • Empower the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office to tackle housing discrimination on a larger, systemic scale;
      • Crack down on landlords who discriminate against renters with housing vouchers;
      • Work with the legislature to pass critically-needed just cause eviction laws to protect renters from no-fault eviction.

Promote Legislation to Remedy Our Affordable Housing Crisis and Strengthen Tenants’ Rights

While Shannon is committed to strongly enforcing our existing fair housing laws and empowering the office with new tools, she will also be a vocal advocate for new laws to protect tenants and address our affordable housing crisis.

As Attorney General, Shannon will fight for legislation to:

      • Lift the statewide ban on rent control and allow municipalities to make their own decisions about local rent control and housing stabilization policies;
      • Establish tenants’ right to counsel in eviction cases;
      • Establish just cause eviction laws to put an end to no-fault evictions;
      • Provide tenants of multifamily properties with the right of first refusal when the owner plans to put the property on the market (often referred to as Tenant Opportunity to Purchase)
      • Seal eviction records.

Work to Ensure Our Housing Stock is Free from Lead

Our housing stock in Massachusetts is older than that in most states. While we have made some progress towards removing lead from our housing stock over the last few decades, nearly one-third of our housing stock still has a potential elevated risk of lead. Massachusetts’ current Lead Law, enacted in 1978, requires the removal or control of lead paint in houses with children under 6. Yet reports from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) show that since 1971 only ten percent of all pre-1978 housing stock has been confirmed as free from lead hazards. Rather than lead to the rapid de-leading of our housing stock, our current Lead Law has instead caused rampant discrimination against families with children under 6, as many landlords would rather refuse housing to these families than de-lead their housing units.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Partner with the legislature to update our de-leading law to ensure that our entire housing stock is free from lead and that our de-leading laws do not lead to discrimination against families with young children;
      • Strive to resolve issues relating to de-leading to ensure that the state does not have to defend indefensible provisions in existing state law that lead to discrimination.

Protect Manufactured Housing Communities and Residents

Issues impacting manufactured housing communities are at the intersection of housing and consumer protection. The Attorney General’s Office has published regulations to protect manufactured housing communities and residents in accordance with the Manufactured Housing Act. But these laws and regulations are only as good as they are enforced. Over the past several years, residents of manufactured housing communities have seen a wave of big corporations buying up entire communities, raising rents, and forcing residents out. These acts of corporate greed are worsening our affordable housing crisis, throwing residents into economic uncertainty, and present serious consumer protection issues.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Reinstate staffing and resources to the Manufactured Housing Unit in the Attorney General’s Office;
      • Expand outreach to manufactured housing communities to ensure they know their rights under the law and have access to legal assistance;
      • Investigate any big corporations who may be violating state law and regulations with respect to manufactured housing communities.