In the twelve days between March 10th and March 22nd, 2020, thousands of students across Greater Boston were forced out of their residences, left scrambling to find alternative housing. A month later, Governor Baker would sign into law an eviction moratorium, halting eviction proceedings during the course of the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency and ensuring tenants could stay in their homes. This served to temporarily halt the eviction mill, which for so long had been powered by the large corporate landlords of Greater Boston. Over generations, these landlords had amassed immense amounts of property and wealth, often while driving systemic displacement, evictions, and gentrification. But finally, thanks to the moratorium and efforts of legal aid organizations, the momentum of these landlords was stalled, as they began to face resistance in court.
“It was really scary because I came to [Harvard Law School] with my two suitcases, with literally everything I have….and I was expecting to be supported… at least like, have safe housing.”
However, the thousands of students who had been swiftly evicted from their university-owned housing a month earlier were not so lucky. “It was really scary because I came to [Harvard Law School] with my two suitcases, with literally everything I have….and I was expecting to be supported… at least like, have safe housing,” recalled Mark, a student who had battled housing insecurity previously, only to again find himself without stability. His plight, and the plight of many other students like him, went unaddressed in the local and national conversations about the greed of corporate landlords. These conversations completely overlooked a benign, non-profit behemoth hidden in plain sight – one of the largest entities in Greater Boston, with countless properties, and yet with the least civic accountability: Harvard University.