Petition for Moratorium on Evictions during COVID-19

Today, we launched a petition for a state-wide moratorium on evictions in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Massachusetts residents, please sign the petition and share! No one should have to choose between saving their home and being exposed to #COVID19, especially folks with the least resources. And no one should have to lose their home due to the pandemic's impact on their income. #HealthNotEvictions


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We're demanding that Boston Housing Court close during COVID-19 crisis

Public statement by City Life/Vida Urbana on COVID-19 and evictions: Shut down the eviction court during the coronavirus crisis.

Trips are cancelled. University classes are going online. Conferences and conventions are postponed. All of this is due to the coronavirus, which is clearly a real public health emergency. One obvious place not mentioned which should close down is the housing court.  It is one of the worst places to leave open if you want to prevent a spreading infection. More specifically, all evictions except those by owner-occupants should be stayed.

1. There are hundreds of people squeezed into a small space without adequate ventilation.

2. Even a person who is ill will feel that they must go to Housing Court.  Otherwise they will be defaulted and forcibly removed from their home. In other words, you can’t “self-quarantine” when you’re sick.

3. Places where people go to get help with displacement will become much harder to reach during the crisis. Hundreds of people get legal and social support each week in an attempt to prevent displacement.  But legal systems will be compromised during the crisis. Access to back rent help and mass informational meetings may have to be postponed or curtailed.

4. The stress of eviction court, the stress of threatened displacement will contribute directly to both contracting an illness such as the coronavirus and to how severely it affects you if you do contract the illness.

5. Losing your home will disrupt a family’s ability to secure heath care and necessary medicines, thus adversely affecting an individual family and encouraging the spread of the virus. Therefore, we demand, “Close down the eviction court at the Eastern Housing Court, except for evictions by owner occupants, until the coronavirus crisis is past.” 

Cerrar el tribunal de desalojo durante la crisis del coronavirus. 

Los viajes están cancelados. Las clases universitarias son por internet. Se posponen las conferencias y convenciones. Todo esto se debe al coronavirus, que es claramente una verdadera emergencia de salud pública. Un lugar obvio no mencionado que debería cerrar es el tribunal de vivienda. Ese es uno de los peores lugares abiertos al público si se desea prevenir la propagación de una infección. Más exactamente, se deben suspender todos los desalojos, excepto los de los ocupantes propietarios.

1. Hay cientos de personas aglomeradas en un espacio pequeño sin ventilación adecuada.

2. Incluso si una persona enferma sentirá que tiene que ir al Tribunal de la Vivienda. De lo contrario, perderán por incumplimiento y serán expulsados ​​de sus hogares. En otras palabras, no pueden "estar en cuarentena" aunque estén enfermos.

3. Los lugares a donde las personas acuden por ayuda con el desplazamiento serán mucho más difíciles de accesar durante la crisis. Cientos de personas obtienen apoyo legal y social cada semana en un intento por evitar el desplazamiento. Pero los sistemas legales se verán comprometidos durante la crisis. El acceso a la ayuda de alquiler atrasado y las reuniones informativas masivas pueden tener que posponerse o cancelarse.

4. El estrés del tribunal de desalojo, el estrés del desplazamiento amenazado contribuirá directamente a contraer una enfermedad como el coronavirus y a la gravedad de esa enfermedad si se contrae.

5. La pérdida del hogar afectará la capacidad de las familias de asegurar la atención médica y los medicamentos necesarios, lo que afectará negativamente a esa familia y fomentará la propagación del virus. Por lo tanto, exigimos: "Cerrar el tribunal de desalojo en el 'Eastern Housing Court', a excepción de los desalojos por parte de los ocupantes propietarios, hasta que la crisis del coronavirus haya pasado".

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Our Section 8 tenant organizing pushes forward into 2020!

In January, we held our 5th mass meeting for Section 8 tenants so that we can all learn our rights and fight for our homes! We've been meeting in different zip codes around the Boston. In 2019, we gathered with Section 8 residents in Mattapan, Roslindale, Dorchester and Roxbury, and in January, 2020, we met with Hyde Park residents. This formation is a kind of city-wide tenant association for Sec. 8 tenants, and it represents our historic collaboration with the Boston Housing Authority and Metro Housing.

In recent years, we've seen an uptick in Section 8 tenants struggling with rent hikes above the payment standard because there is no rent control in Boston, not even for Section 8 voucher holders. We're organizing so that we can all keep our homes in the face of real estate greed!

If you are a Section 8 tenant that wants to learn how to stay in your home, please contact Judy Burnette ([email protected]), Gabrielle René ([email protected]), or Steve Meacham ([email protected]). 

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Grandmothers win fight for their homes after landlord tried to hike rents by $700. Now they're advocating for rent control.

In the Spring of 2018, real estate speculators Josh Cohen and Christ Stamatos bought a 6-unit apartment building at 22 Rexford St. in Mattapan. By that September, they were demanding hundreds of dollars more per month from their tenants.

Ms. Ruby James Saucer and Ms. Michelle Ewing are grandmothers who've made a home at 22 Rexford St. for years. Ms. Saucer moved there at the start of the decade after being displaced from her last home during the foreclosure crisis. Both of the women are very involved in their neighborhood - recently, Ms. Saucer became a councilmember of the Mattapan Neighborhood Council.

When Stamatos and Cohen notified the grandmothers of the astronomical rent hike, they marched over to City Life/Vida Urbana for support. They knew they were completely unable to stay in their homes at the raised rent; both live on limited, fixed incomes. The very real prospect of homelessness hung over their heads. So, they committed to fight the increase.

With legal help from Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and public actions alongside dozens of Boston supporters, the grandmothers fought the rent hikes in Boston Housing Court over the course of 17 months and multiple housing court appearances. They also spoke out publicly about their story: they appeared on Boston 25 News and BNN, and in September of 2019 they led a march to Cohen's house in Jamaica Plain. 

Ms. Ewing and Ms. Saucer finally brought Cohen and Stamatos to the negotiating table. In November 2019, Ms. Ewing won a 3-year lease with moderate rent increases, and in January 2020, Ms. Saucer also won a 3-year lease at an affordable rent. Both will remain in their homes.

The grandmothers have also joined the campaign to lift the state-wide ban on rent control. In October of 2019, they spoke at a rally in front of the State House about how rent control would shield people like them from outrageous rent increases and displacement.
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We CAN lift the ban on rent control in Massachusetts!

The Tenant Protection Act (H.3924) is a bill that would lift the 25-year-old ban on rent control in the state of Massachusetts (as well as allow cities and town to enact other crucial protections from displacement). On Tuesday, January 14th, 2020, we flooded the Massachusetts State House for hearing and rally in support of this transformative bill. 

Now, we're asking YOU to take moment TODAY to call your State representative and senator - ask them to support the Tenant Protection Act. Find instructions on how to call your legislators here:

The committee reviewing the bill is set to vote on it on Wednesday, February 5th. That's why it's helpful for you to call now! Please make sure to check out the instructions and report that you've called. THANK YOU! #LiftTheBanMA

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Residents March for 50% Affordable Housing at Suffolk Downs

Saturday, December 14th, 2019: we marched through East Boston with over 100 residents and our coalition partners demanding 50% affordable housing in the plan for the old Suffolk Downs racetrack. Read The Boston Globe's coverage of our march:

Immigrant and working families around Suffolk Downs need REAL affordable housing & protections from displacement. That's why we're calling for 50% of the units to be affordable. TAKE ACTION WITH US: sign on to our public letter at

Tom O’Brien (of HYM Investment Group) and billionaire William Bruce Harrison are planning to build the largest residential development in Boston's recent history at the old Suffolk Downs racetrack. They want to build a new luxury neighborhood just like the Seaport—almost 10,000 new housing units—that will largely be far too expensive for most Eastie residents. This will lead to a segregated neighborhood for the rich, causing big rent hikes for the rest of us.

That's why we're joining forces with other grassroots organizations making it loud and clear: 50% of the residential units built at Suffolk Downs should be affordable for folks earning 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

A few weeks ago, we shared our demands in a letter drafted by Lawyers for Civil Rights. That letter spelled it out: "A project of this magnitude, in a lower-income, historically immigrant community suffering from rising rents, must incorporate a far fuller set of benefits for the communities of color harmed and displaced by the proposed redevelopment."

Earlier this month, we also submitted a fiery second public letter to the BPDA, criticizing O'Brien's inflexibility around the project's community benefits and the inaccessibility of the community process for Spanish-speakers. That letter points out that HYM is "dead set on approval of the project as is, no matter what the consequences may be for residents of East Boston and the surrounding area."

Help us hold O'Brien and Harrison accountable as they plan this massive new neighborhood that will shape our city for generations; we can't let them build another Seaport under our feet!

Thanks to our coalition partners GreenRoots, Neighbors United For A Better East Boston, MassCOSH, Stand for Democracy, Cosecha Massachusetts, Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity-CCDS and ZUMIX.

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Donate to City Life/Vida Urbana this #GivingTuesday!

This #GivingTuesday - December 3rd, 2019 - we need your help to reach our $10,000 Facebook fundraising goal to help families keep their homes. On the morning of Tuesday, December 3rd, please make your donation via our Facebook fundraiser (no processing fee will be charged, and it may be eligible for a match from Facebook).

Your donation will help us stop unjust evictions across the Boston area and win strong protections for renters such as #RentConrol. Together we can do this!

Since 1973, City Life/Vida Urbana has worked in Boston's neighborhoods to prevent unnecessary evictions, keep families in their homes, and keep communities in tact. Boston's #DisplacementCrisis, fueled by big real estate, is pushing low-income families of color out of our city, but we CAN stop it and create stable, affordable homes.

It's our mission to fight for racial, social, economic justice and gender equality by building working class power. We use direct action, coalition building, education and advocacy. Through organizing poor and working class people of diverse races and nationalities, we promote individual empowerment, develop community leaders, and build collective power to effect systemic change and transform society.

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VICTORY for Dorchester Renters Fighting Eviction amid Displacement Crisis

After more than 18 months of fending off no-fault evictions, our leaders Tunde Kunnu and Jean Paul Doh are now free from the threat of eviction!

Greg McCarthy, their landlord, tried to "clear out" their entire apartment building at 6 Humphreys Place in Dorchester by issuing no-fault eviction notices.

But with support from the incredible lawyers at Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and City Life/Vida Urbana's deep community organizing, these brave fighters WILL NOT BE EVICTED!

Thanks to the hundreds of you who signed their petition, rallied in Dorchester, spoke out to McCarthy at a public hearing, and showed solidarity in housing court!

Read the Dorchester Reporter's excellent coverage of their powerful victory.

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Elders and Families at SoMa at The T Apartments Rally to Save Their Homes

Boston, MA - A rally on Thursday evening, October 17th, 2019, shined a light on a trend of steep rent hikes and unlivable conditions at a 400+ unit apartment complex in Mattapan. About fifty supporters gathered in front of the complex and then marched through the grounds, supporting the demands of organized residents for stable, decent housing. The rally was organized by the Fairlawn Tenants Association with support from City Life/Vida Urbana.

For decades, Fairlawn Apartments in Mattapan was affordable for families, especially low-income families of color and recent immigrants. But since DSF Group bought this 400+ unit apartment complex last year, they've displaced many of these families, according to housing stability organizers from City Life/Vida Urbana who've canvassed the buildings several times in recent months.

Now, three elderly residents are in the throws of a struggle to keep their homes. Ms. Betty Lewis, Ms. Annie Gordon and Mr. Jean Antoine all received new leases this past summer with rent increases ranging from $265 to $365 dollars.

DSF Group, alongside their management company, Corcoran Management, has raised some families' rents by as high as 20%, according to canvassers.

DSF's rent hikes are causing residents to quietly pack up and leave. "People are moving out, but you don't know it, all you see is their furniture in the dumpster," says Ms. Lewis.

"This is a case in point for why Boston desperately needs rent control," says Steve Meacham, a Community Organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana. 

A large percentage of current tenants have been at Fairlawn Apartments for decades and live on fixed incomes. Many Fairlawn residents hold Section 8 vouchers, and many are recent immigrants from Haiti.

In July of 2018, months before the new Blue Hill Ave. stop opened, DSF Group, which is managed by Corcoran Management Company, purchased Fairlawn Apartments for $65 million dollars. DSF Group came to Fairlawn Apartments to take advantage of the community's hard work and the new train stop. They quickly rebranded Fairlawn Apartments to “SoMa Apartments at the T” - short for South Mattapan Apartments at the T. 

SoMa at the T's website advertises its accessibility to a new commuter line station, proclaiming, "We are happy to announce that the Blue Hill Avenue MBTA Commuter Rail Station has just opened right across the street from the entrance to SoMa..."

"It's an unjust irony - after this community advocated for better public transit and put sweat equity into improving their neighborhood, they are getting driven out by because speculative investors like DSF Group see it as valuable now," says Gabrielle René, a Community Organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana working directly with the residents.

Although Mattapan is located within the city of Boston, it did not have a stop on the Fairmount commuter rail line, which had passed through the community for decades. Mattapan residents, along with civil leaders and community activists, believed a train stop in Mattapan would help Mattapan become more accessible and encourage better economic development. For nearly 20 years, these residents worked diligently to bring this train stop to their community. The new Blue Hill Ave. stop on the Fairmont line opened February 2019.

In the beginning of the 2019, a group of tenants met for the first time with the help of City Life/Vida Urbana. They decided to form the Fairlawn Tenants Association to fight against injustices.

The displacement crisis in Boston has affected many communities in Boston, countless families have been displaced and many communities have become gentrified. Mattapan has remained a community with predominately working class and immigrant families.

The elders fighting displacement have sent letters to Corcoran management requesting that they reschedule a meeting with representatives from the Fairlawn Tenant Association to discuss their three demands. The association's demands are:

1. Keep rents for section 8 tenants within the payment standard and keep rent increases for all tenants to a manageable affordable level of 2% per year maximum.

2. Fix the poor conditions in all of the apartments, including addressing pest and mold issues, providing adequate security for the buildings, and allowing children to play outside and providing a safe area such as a playground or park for them to play.

3. Meet with the Fairlawn Tenant Association to work out a long-term plan for the tenants of this building.

Please SIGN THE PETITION to support these courageous renters!

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Our coalition, Right to The City Boston, launches push for rent control

At the 4th Boston People's Plan assembly in late September, dozens of grassroots organizations led by Bostonians on the frontlines of the displacement crisis launched a push for rent control. Over 100 people divided into teams and hit the streets of several Boston neighborhoods, door-knocking and asking residents to sign a pledge to support rent control. 

25 years ago, real estate giants and the politicians that do their bidding dismantled protections from rent gouging and sent our housing market spiraling out of control. Now we're living in the extreme aftermath of that moment. It's time to revive rent control in Boston! 

SIGN THE PLEDGE ONLINE to support rent control in our city:

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