Tenant leaders from the Fairlawn Tenants Association were joined by residents from other tenant associations across Suffolk County in a march to DSF Group’s office, as a part of the “Homes! For the Holidays'' action series organized by City Life/Vida Urbana. With the support of over 50 tenants, homeowners, a city councilor, and community members from across the city–Fairlawn leaders called upon DSF to meet with them to start negotiations for a fair contract. Fairlawn leaders have been without a lease for 3 years while fighting off rent increases, ever since DSF group purchased the Fairlawn building and renamed it SoMa by the T. / Loslíderes de la Asociación de Inquilinos de Fairlawn acompañados por los residentes de otras asociaciones de inquilinos de todo el condado de Suffolk marcharon a las oficinas del Grupo DSF,como parte de la serie de acciones de ”¡Hogares! Para las fiestas”. organizad por City Life/Vida Urbana. Con el apoyo de más de 50 inquilinos, propietarios de viviendas, una concejal de la ciudad y miembros de la comunidad de toda la ciudad, los líderes de Fairlawn pidieron a DSF que se reuniera con ellos para iniciar las negociaciones de un contrato justo. Los líderes de Fairlawn han estado sin un contrato de renta durante 3 años, mientras luchaban contra los aumentos de renta, desde que el grupo DSF compró el edificio de Fairlawn y le cambió el nombre a “SoMa at the T”.
Tuesday, November 30th: Organized Broadway Capital tenants and advocates gathered in Chelsea City Hall to oppose Managing Director of Broadway Capital Mikael R. Vienneau's project proposal for 20 luxury condos at 146-150 Williams & 65 Pine street. This project proposal would worsen gentrification in the City of Chelsea and price out long-term residents already struggling with terrible conditions. / El martes 30 de noviembre, se reunieron los inquilinos y los defensores organizados de Broadway Capital en el Ayuntamiento de Chelsea para oponerse a la propuesta de proyecto del Director de Broadway Capital, Mikael R. Vienneau, de 20 condominios de lujo en 146-150 Williams y 65 Pine Street. Esta propuesta de proyecto empeoraría la gentrificación en la ciudad de Chelsea y afectaría a los residentes de mucho tiempo que ya enfrentan condiciones terribles.
We hope you consider donating to support the critical work City Life / Vida Urbana does today and beyond the pandemic this holiday season. Please make your gift today while it's on your mind. Donate here.
En esta temporada navideña, esperamos que considere hacer una donación para apoyar el trabajo crítico que City Life / Vida Urbana está haciendo durante y más allá de la pandemia. Haga su donación hoy, mientras lo tiene en mente. Done aquí.
In November, HFA led a digital day of action in response to the formal legislative session ending last week 11/17. We tweeted, made calls and emails to hit communications lines of Housing committee co-chairs Senator Keenan and Representative Arciero. // En noviembre, la HFA lideró un día de acción digital en respuesta al final de la sesión legislativa formal que terminó la semana pasada el 17 de noviembre. Tweeteamos, realizamos llamadas y correos electrónicos hace los copresidentes del comité de vivienda, el senador Keenan y el representante Arciero.
Towards the end of October, tenants, homeowners, and Homes For All Mass (statewide coalition HFA) rallied in front of the statehouse to urge the Joint Housing Committee to immediately advance the COVID19 Housing Equity Bill (H.1434/S.891). / Hacia finales de octubre, los inquilinos, propietarios de viviendas, y los de la coalición Hogares Para Todos MA (HFA) se manifestaron frente a la casa estatal para ponerles presión al Comité de Vivienda a avanzar de inmediato el Proyecto de Ley de Equidad de Vivienda durante COVID19 (H.1434/S.891).
Saturday, July 17th, 2021: About 75 tenants and supporters rallied at SoMa Apartments to demand that DSF Group, the corporate owner of the housing complex, either negotiate affordable, long-term leases with households living there or sell the property to an owner who will do so. The protest was led by the SoMa Apartments Tenant Association in collaboration with City Life/Vida Urbana.
The crowd rallied at the entrance to SoMa Apartments and then paraded along the winding footpaths of the property, accompanied by a lively brass band while displaying colorful signs that said "People Over Profit" and "We Shall Not Be Moved".
Photo: A resident of SoMa Apartments rallies with the tenant association to stop rent hikes and displacement at the 300+ unit apartment complex (credit: City Life/Vida Urbana).
The parade ended in Mattapan Square, where long-time residents of SoMa Apartments performed street theater depicting a mock trial in which DSF Group is charged with outrageous rent hikes, threatening no-fault evictions, and giving organized residents the silent treatment when they call for meetings.
"I've been a resident of here for 48 years and I've always paid my rent on time," testified Ms. Annie Gordon, a SoMa Apartments renter, as part of the street theater. "But 3 years ago, when DSF Group bought the complex, they raised my rent by over $300," she said, noting her inability to pay the increase on her fixed retirement income.
After hearing from several resident "witnesses" in the mock trial who shared similar experiences about receiving overnight rent hikes of hundreds of dollars and threats of eviction, the "judge" in the skit issued a lyrical decree.
"This is my ruling, DSF Group: to your wealth you are addicted, your behavior must be restricted, in this trial you have been convicted. So, DSF, YOU'RE EVICTED!," the mock judge pronounced.
Photo: SoMa Apartments resident Betty Lewis (foreground) rallies for stable housing with the activist street band BABAM! (Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians) in front of her apartment complex (credit: City Life/Vida Urbana).
"We asked DSF Group to sit down with our tenant association and negotiate a fair rent increase, but they refused to sit down with us," said Gordon.
During the time in which Gordon hasn't paid the unaffordable rent hike codified in the lease DSF has presented, the company has repeatedly sent her $500 charges on a monthly basis. Those charges, which Gordon is also unable to pay, have racked up to several thousand dollars that DSF alleges she owes. Other longtime households at the complex have similar stories.
Photo: Residents of SoMa Apartments and supporters march for affordable, long-term leases holding a sign in Haitian Creole that reads "Housing Is The Cure!" (English translation). Credit: City Life/Vida Urbana.
"Corporate greed doesn't even stop for a global pandemic," said Helen Matthews, Communications Director at City Life/Vida Urbana. "The only thing that can stop corporate greed is collective organizing like what the SoMa Apartments Tenant Association is doing here," Matthews said.
Lawmakers locally and nationally are debating the eviction crisis as a problem of non-payment evictions during the pandemic, and many are essentially ignoring families' struggles with rent hikes, luxury redevelopment, and the "no fault" evictions that follow corporate profit-seeking, say organizers at City Life/Vida Urbana.
"They're greedy," said Manuel Mena, a SoMa Apartments resident when describing his landlord's refusal to meet negotiate with tenants.
Rally participants also called for the passage of a state-wide law known as the COVID Housing Equity Bill which would pause no-fault evictions, prevent non-payment evictions, and support distressed homeowners during the pandemic recovery period.
When we fight for housing justice at City Life/Vida Urbana, we're fighting for racial justice. That's because evictions disproportionately and unjustly impact Boston's neighborhoods of color, destabilizing whole communities and pushing families into poverty, physical and mental health struggles, unemployment and often homelessness.
Working class Black, Brown and immigrant areas of Boston are enduring eviction filing rates at double to almost quadruple the rates of eviction filings during the COVID-19 pandemic in areas where most renters are white. The good news is that renters in these areas are organizing and building their collective power, challenging corporate landlords and bringing them to the negotiating table.
Click HERE to read the report (or click the image below).
In collaboration with our research partner, Benjamin Walker of MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, we're publishing a new report, "Evictions in Boston's Communities of Color: The First Year of The Pandemic". In this report, we look at Boston's eviction filings from late February, 2020 to late February, 2021.
We find stark disparities in the rates of eviction filings between communities where most renters are people of color and communities where most renters are white. This report is a precursor to a forthcoming larger report on Boston's eviction crisis and collective organizing for stable housing during the pandemic.
71-year-old Dorchester renter Frank Sharpe was on the brink of homelessness, but with strong legal aid and community organizing, he won a reprieve from eviction
Boston, MA: Mr. Frank Sharpe, an elderly veteran who rents an apartment in Dorchester, was expecting moving trucks and a sheriff to show up at his house next week and remove him from his home. With his small fixed income, Sharpe has been unable to line up an affordable alternative to call home and feared homelessness as coronavirus cases continue to spread.
But on Friday, February 12th, Sharpe won a reprieve from eviction. A judge postponed his eviction for another three months after hearing arguments from legal aid attorney Maggie Gribben ofGreater Boston Legal Services. Sharpe has a "no fault" eviction case - he's been able to make his rent payments, but his landlord is still pushing to evict.
"I feel elated," said Mr. Sharpe from his Dorchester apartment. "It's a relief. The pressure was on me. It’s like a balloon being released, and I want to thank God,” Mr. Sharpe said.
City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots housing justice organization that has supported Sharpe throughout the pandemic, organized opportunities for Sharpe to speak out publicly in defense of his home. Throughout the pandemic, Sharpe has shared his story with news outlets andat vigils aimed at preventing evictionsaround Boston.
Photo: Mr. Frank Sharpe speaks out to prevent his eviction at a vigil in December, 2020. Courtesy of City Life/Vida Urbana.
Driven by Sharpe's enduring spirit, a team of community organizers and legal aid attorneys coalesced to prevent Sharpe's eviction. The combination of public protest and legal defense is what the team calls the "sword and shield" model - an effective strategy that has prevented evictions throughout the Boston area since the foreclosure crisis.
The handful of months that Frank won in his home give him a little more time to secure an alternative apartment and avoid homelessness. But nothing is guaranteed.
A flurry of media attention surrounding Sharpe's eviction brought the case to the attention of Governor Baker's office. Whether or not Baker will step in and assist Sharpe in landing an affordable apartment for the long-term is yet to be seen. Anonline petitionis calling on Baker to support Sharpe and all Massachusetts residents facing non-emergency evictions.
"Governor Baker allowed non-emergency evictions to continue in this pandemic, which almost led to a veteran becoming homeless," said Helen Matthews of City Life/Vida Urbana.
"We shouldn't have to work miracles on a case-by-case basis to prevent evictions - and the spread of the coronavirus that flows from evictions. So we're calling on the Governor to stop all non-emergency evictions in the pandemic and to help Sharpe find an affordable home," said Matthews.
"Governor Baker needs to put a ban on all unnecessary and no-fault evictions to protect thousands of families during this pandemic," said Antonio Ennis, a housing justice organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana.
Despite a federal moratorium on evictions in place through next month, many Massachusetts judges are still evicting families in the pandemic. In December 2020 alone, Massachusetts judges executed 449 evictions, according to the Massachusetts Trial Court. Housing justice organizers and attorneys say that the moratorium's failure to clearly address and prevent no-fault evictions is one of its biggest loopholes.
"There are many people in Frank's shoes right now," said Steve Meacham, Coordinator of Organizing at City Life/Vida Urbana. "No-fault evictions like this are not clearly prevented by the federal eviction moratorium from Centers for Disease Control, so many people are falling through the cracks," Meacham said.
Photo: Boston residents show solidarity with Frank Sharpe at a vigil to prevent his eviction in December, 2020. Photo courtesy of City Life/Vida Urbana.