Local Government and Politics, News

Advocates fight to keep Lynn’s housing court

LYNN  —  Court officials will meet with housing advocates, tenants and landlords on Tuesday about plans to shutter the city’s housing court.

The Coalition to Preserve Lynn Housing Court, an alliance of advocacy groups, said closing housing court in the city and moving it to Salem would create a hardship for residents.

In a letter to Chief Justice Timothy F. Sullivan, the group said the proposed closure would force low-income residents, immigrants, people of color, elders, and people with disabilities to travel to Salem, and add to the physical and financial hardship of appearing in court.

“This would almost certainly increase the number of defaults,” the letter said. “It would also make access more difficult for moderate-income, owner-occupant landlords, small landlords, and officials from the Inspectional Services Department.”

The Lynn Housing Court meets on Tuesday mornings on Central Avenue at Juvenile Court. Under a plan crafted by Chief Justice Timothy F. Sullivan, Lynn’s housing matters would be moved to Salem Housing Court.

Jeffrey Hernandez, acting clerk magistrate at the Northeast Housing Court, who will host Tuesday’s meeting, said Lynn has outgrown the space and it’s no longer viable.

“We’re considering because we’ve outgrown the space in Lynn,” he said. “Our numbers have increased by 40 percent compared to 2014…It’s just not safe.”

Sullivan has said no decision has been made and won’t be until he hears from all stakeholders. Earlier this year, the governor and the Legislature provided $1 million to add 84 communities who lack access to Housing Court. Sullivan said they have to figure out a way to absorb these municipalities into the Housing Court system.

Isaac Simon Hodes, director of Lynn United for Change Empowerment Project, said many people in the community were unaware until recently that the court planned to consolidate in Salem.

“This is a big decision that will have a serious impact on many people and we would like to have the court consider the feelings of the people who would be hurt by this,” he said. “There was never a survey by the court’s constituencies.”   

Launched in the 1970s, Housing Court hears eviction and small claims cases, and civil actions involving personal injury, property damage, breach of contract, discrimination, and other claims. Housing Court also hears code enforcement actions and appeals of local zoning board decisions that affect residential housing. The Housing Court has 10 judges authorized to serve its five divisions, including Central, Eastern, Northeast, Southeast, and Western Massachusetts and conducts sessions in 18 locations weekly.

More Stories From Lynn