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Analysis of Mass. housing data shows a higher rate of evictions where people of color live

Yellow dots on a map of Springfield, Massachusetts, highlight higher eviction rates in neighborhoods where  predominantly Black and brown people live.
Map by Eric Robsky Huntley / Data from MassCourts, American Community Survey 2015-2019 estimates, and MassGIS
MIT and Homes for All Massachusetts
Yellow dots on a map of Springfield, Massachusetts, highlight higher eviction rates in neighborhoods where predominantly Black and brown people live.

Renters in Massachusetts' mostly non-white neighborhoods were evicted at significantly higher rates than in other areas, according to a new report from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and affordable housing advocates.

The report looks at housing court eviction numbers from October 2020 to October 2021, when Massachusetts ended its eviction moratorium.

Rose Webster-Smith, the director of Springfield No One Leaves, contributed to the report. Webster-Smith said that while Boston has many more rental units, the report shows a higher rate of landlords filing for eviction in Springfield.

"We knew going into this report that the majority of evictions filed, especially here in Springfield, were in the Black and brown neighborhoods," Webster-Smith said.

A lot of the western Massachusetts neighborhoods with eviction filings actually follow historical redlining maps, Webster-Smith said.

"[Like] parts of Chicopee, parts of Springfield, which I found interesting, as I already knew that was happening," Webster-Smith said.

In the 1930s, as part of a government home ownership initiative, federal housing officials created maps of cities showing neighborhoods of Black people and other minorities outlined in red. People of color who qualified for loans were denied them.

The report released this week also found that statewide there were higher rates of eviction where a corporation owned the property, or the property was owned by an individual who didn't live nearby.

Webster-Smith said the new analysis (written by MIT, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Americorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute) highlights that state lawmakers should grant municipalities the controls to protect their residents, referring to the need for a home rule petition on housing costs.

"It's time for the legislature to give municipalities those powers, so if Springfield wants to enact rent control or a foreclosure ordinance they can," Webster-Smith said. "Right now they cannot."

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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