Housing is health!

City Life/Vida Urbana is lucky to announce that Noel Sanders recently began working with us to support people who have intersecting housing and health struggles. Noel is working with us through the Boston Community Health Initiative (BCHI), a community health organization "dedicated to addressing the racism & classism in our state’s healthcare system."

From Noel: "The Boston Community Health Initiative is a project that addresses healthcare inequality. Our goal is to seek out patients who have gotten compromised care, help them gain access to quality care, and empower them to fight back. We understand that the healthcare industry is a for-profit model that is not meant to serve those who need it most; it actively makes money off of people being sick. These disparities are present disproportionately in communities of color. In Boston, these communities are Dorchester, Roxbury, and East Boston. We empower patients to fight for the quality care they deserve, and through that, we are working to create an equitable healthcare system Boston! 

Along with City Life, we’re fighting the biggest forms of oppression that Boston faces: gentrification of housing, and gentrification of healthcare access. The two work together to keep racism, ableism, and sexism alive. They keep residents from having access to the human rights of housing and health. It often presents as tenant health issues that are caused or worsened by housing conditions. We’re standing with you to say NO to that! We work directly with community residents to identify their health needs and the extent to which they’re currently being unmet by existing institutions, laws, and policies. 

BCHI is currently working with Covid-19 mutual aid networks to connect those that they serve with healthcare support. We are helping people deal with barriers that arise with their healthcare providers, both in seeking care during the pandemic and with their preexisting needs."

If you know anyone who needs access to affordable medical care or medical advocacy, reach out to Noel Sanders at [email protected]!
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Updated COVID-19 Statement to CLVU Community

Effective immediately, City Life/Vida Urbana's OFFICES ARE CLOSED to the public through at least Monday, 3/30/20 (two whole weeks) due to the COVID-19 crisis.

BUT our movement for housing justice, dignity and care for all won't stop! We're moving our weekly meetings online, starting this week. We won't meet in person at all for our our weekly Tuesday night meetings in Jamaica Plain, nor our Wednesday night meetings in East Boston, until the crisis is over. But please do join our meetings online - FIND OUT HOW TO ATTEND OUR ONLINE MEETINGS HERE: clvu.org/virtualmeetings

Our organization is continuing to work hard for mutual aid and other forms of social and economic justice in this crisis. We're turning our attention to the many ways that we can support each other right now.

IMPORTANT NEWS: A Massachusetts judge has postponed most evictions in our state. Please call our hotline (above) with any questions about how the eviction postponement affects your case. 
With solidarity and care for one another,
City Life/Vida Urbana 
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A Message to the City Life / Vida Urbana Community regarding COVID-19

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Every week, between 80-125 people from all walks of life, including many who are facing displacement, come to City Life meetings in Jamaica Plain and East Boston to build a vibrant local movement for housing justice. Our culture is one of deep relationship and connection to each other, and we hold that very dearly. We are committed to protecting both this crucial movement space as well as the health and wellness of the hundreds of people who walk through our doors.

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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

SIGN HEREhttp://www.clvu.org/petition_covid19_eviction_moratorium

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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: facebook.com/events/464872310870596

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: bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/12/14/protesters-call-for-more-affordable-housing-suffolk-downs-redevelopment.

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 reclaimboston.org.

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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