HOUSE MEMBERS GET BEHIND BAKER'S HOUSING COURT EXPANSION BID

March 9, 2016

State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTONMARCH 9, 2016….A plan to expand the Massachusetts Housing Court system has the support of at least 49 House lawmakers, who signed on to a letter urging budget writers to include funding for the initiative.

Gov. Charlie Baker's fiscal 2017 budget proposal appropriates $1 million in new funding for Housing Court expansion, and outside sections of the budget detail the restructuring of the court into six divisions that would serve all parts of the state.

Under current law, the court has five divisions and does not have jurisdiction to hear cases from Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties or portions of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties.

About one-third of the state's residents do not have access to the Housing Court under this setup, according to Rep. Chris Walsh, who delivered a letter signed by 48 other representatives to the House Ways and Means Committee asking its members to include the $1 million in their version of the budget.

The letter says that the court, which hears cases including evictions, code enforcement, certain zoning appeals, small claims and civil actions, can help prevent homelessness and give municipalities the ability to “address serious housing and health code violations efficiently and effectively.”

“This is an investment that makes fiscal and policy sense,” the letter reads.

The $1 million for expansion of the Housing Court is separate from the court's $8.1 million budget, which Baker funded at the same level as in 2016.