BROCKTON – Five years ago, Ramon Sepulveda collapsed with a bad heart and was flown to a hospital in Boston.
Sepulveda, a former school bus driver and city activist, ended up on disability. Shortly afterward, the bank that held the mortgage of his Habitat for Humanity home more than doubled his monthly payments to $2,000.
Five miles south of Boston’s city center, in the neighborhood of Dorchester, an empty white house sits at the junction of Norwell and Athelwold streets. Rising from the peak of its roof is a red brick chimney and, next to it, a long, silver spear. It’s an uncommon roof ornament for a neighborhood of mostly working-class families—not as busy with prongs as the iconic rake antennae, and curiously taller than the chimney it parallels. But when members of Boston activist organization City Life/Vida Urbana occupied this house on the morning of June 7, the roof antenna was one of the first, and most pivotal, announcements of their arrival.
THE DIFFICULTY of finding and holding onto an economical rental unit in Boston is enough to make a grown man cry. Not just any man, but Stephen Key, a Hall of Fame member of the World Martial Arts Federation. Key, 53, has shown the skill and courage needed to reach grandmaster status in kung fu. Yet he shed tears last week while describing his efforts to keep a roof over the head of his wife and three children on Norwell Street in Dorchester after government-sponsored mortgage giant Fannie Mae foreclosed on his former landlord and moved to evict the building’s tenants.
Boston Police swiftly cleared out furniture and other living amenities from a foreclosed Dorchester home this week, owned by Fannie Mae, after two people occupied it as part of a protest to rising housing costs, predatory loans, and evictions citywide.
Sometimes the best way to make a point is to commit a defensible crime. And so earlier this month, more than a hundred Boston residents and allies occupied a vacant, foreclosed home on Norwell Street in Dorchester. Once there, organizers settled in a family that had previously been booted from another house, and also built a pop-up pirate radio station with a rooftop antenna to broadcast their message: The housing crisis isn’t over!
MASSACHUSETTS PICKED a fight with the federal government and the companies behind half the country’s mortgages last week. Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision to sue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nationalized mortgage giants, is a preemptive strike meant to defend the state’s tough foreclosure prevention laws. It’s also a serious uphill slog. Chicago was the last government to take on Fannie and Freddie, and it lost the fight badly.
Karen Chen of the Chinese Progressive Association and Darnell Johnson of Right to the City talk about a new report on steps needed to reverse the widening affordability gap in Boston's housing market. Interview for BNN News. Aired June 11, 2014.
A coalition of community groups protested outside a foreclosed Dorchester home Tuesday and called for more affordable housing in Boston.
The group, made up of seven nonprofit organizations, took to Norwell Street for the second time this week. Over the weekend, the group attempted to move a homeless family into the vacant house, only to be driven out by law enforcement officials, said Darnell Johnson, a coalition spokesman.