Council Hearing Set Today on Rent-Raising Landlords

Published on October 20, 2014 by the Boston Herald.

A City Council hearing today is shaping up to be a showdown between Hub real estate owners and community groups who say the owners are unscrupulously pushing to evict longtime neighborhood residents so they can jack up rents.

“This should not be a city that’s only made up of million-dollar condos and million-dollar homes,” said Councilor Tito Jackson, who organized the hearing. “The objective is to hear all aspects of what is going on, and then look at the possible solutions that would lead us to a city where people who have been here through the hardest times are here through some of the best times that are ahead of us in this city.”

Groups that represent tenants from across the city will participate, including City Life Vida Urbana, the Chinese Progressive Association and Right to the City Boston. Owners are expected to largely be represented by City Realty, a rapidly expanding Brighton outfit that Jackson called “notorious” for displacing tenants.

Matt Whitermore of City Realty Group said the company “remains committed to being transparent and complying with all government regulations.”

“Our company prides itself on providing high quality residential and commercial properties at affordable rates,” Whitermore said. “We look forward to having a productive discussion with the City Council.”

The hearing comes after the release of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s housing report, which found only 9 percent of the city’s rental housing listings are within reach of households with incomes of $50,000, and only 1 percent are affordable to households earning $25,000.

Karen Chen of the Chinese Progressive Association said she is working with a family whose $1,110 unit in Chinatown is being advertised for $2,100 after City Realty purchased it and initiated eviction proceedings.

“People live in Chinatown not out of convenience, but out of necessity, because of the services that are available,” she said. “But it’s 
becoming more and more unaffordable.”

Chen said her organization has worked with tenants facing displacement due to rent increases in more than 10 buildings in the last year, an outgrowth of the more than 3,000 luxury units approved or built in Chinatown.

Displaced tenants put strain on public resources such as shelters and subsidized housing programs, said Darnell Johnson of Right to the City Boston.

“The costs shift onto the public sector,” Johnson said, “enabling the private sector to just continue to make money off the backs of working-class communities.”

Author(s): Jack Encarnacao