2019 Urban Research Award: Evictions and Substandard Housing in Boston: The Unfulfilled Promises of the Public Health and Legal System

Wendy Heiger-Bernays

PI: Wendy Heiger-Bernays, PhD; Clinical Professor of Environmental Health, School of Public Health
Co-PI: Ethan Mascoop, MPH, MUA, RS; Adjunct Clinical Instructor, Environmental Health, School of Public Health
Collaborator: Andrea M. Park, JD, MA; Housing and Homelessness Attorney, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI)

Boston is one of the least affordable housing markets in the country. While policymakers have focused largely on new housing supply, but existing housing – much of which is substandard and located in low-income neighborhoods and in communities of color – is often overlooked. As neighborhoods are squeezed by new, unaffordable development, families are displaced by gentrification making it increasingly difficult for tenants, particularly low-income tenants, to find safe and affordable housing. The current eviction court process does not effectively address the problem of substandard housing conditions, which is exacerbating the cycle of evictions and displacement in the Greater Boston area. The investigators will explore the relationship between public health, specifically housing codes, and the legal eviction process, which was designed in part to address substandard housing conditions.