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The City of Cambridge announced Friday it would establish a temporary moratorium on eviction enforcement for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
The order bans owners of residential and commercial properties from evicting residents and from entering their tenants’ homes for “non-essential purposes” in an attempt to mitigate spread of the disease.
“We need residents to stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said in a joint statement released Friday. “In order to comply, residents must have a place to call home. Evicting residents and commercial tenants during this time would go against our public health priorities and our decency as a community during a public health crisis.”
The order does not bar property owners from filing eviction actions. Rather, it bans them from executing forcible evictions until the end of the public health crisis.
“I think that it was absolutely the right move,” Cambridge City Councilor Marc C. McGovern said in an interview Friday. “This is obviously a very difficult time medically, but it’s an incredibly difficult time economically for people as well, and so this was the right thing to do.”
The announcement came after the City Council passed a measure earlier this week urging city landlords to halt evictions and freeze rent, but did not mandate that they do so. McGovern, who was the lead sponsor of the effort, said the Council did not have the authority to unilaterally mandate an evictions moratorium. He said state rules would require an emergency order from the Public Health Department and the city manager in order to enforce the policy.
Harvard — which owns 61 properties around Cambridge and Boston — had already halted eviction proceedings for its tenants.
The Cambridge City Council passed a resolution Monday that called on the state and federal government to enact eviction moratoriums on a broader scale. The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a measure earlier this week that, if enacted, would block most court-ordered evictions in the state.
McGovern, the former mayor of Cambridge, said he thinks the city has responded well, despite being in “unchartered waters.”
“I think it’s frustrating for everybody that we’re not quite as nimble or as flexible as we would like to be in a crisis like this,” he said. “But people are working incredibly hard to do everything that they can to move things along as quickly as we can.”
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