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East Boston tenants protest rent increases

Investor said to increase rents by as much as $1,000/month

Anna Lamb
East Boston tenants protest rent increases
Demonstrators with the Grid Management Tenant Association and City Life/Vida Urbana protest in East Boston. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB

Last Wednesday, members of the Grid Management Tenant Association came together in East Boston alongside housing rights activists from advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU) to rally against what they say are no fault evictions in their building.

Four families living at 298 Meridian Street — a property owned and operated by The Grid Management group — gathered for a brief march around the block before rallying in front of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Paris Street to share their stories. The tenants faced eviction court Wednesday afternoon, where they met with management to discuss a potential agreement.

“It’s hard to find a new apartment now for $3,000 rent a month, $4,000 rent a month,” said Meridian tenant Nery Parras, who said her daughter was missing school to attend the eviction hearing, despite having an important test.

“And right now, my son who’s 20 years old, he’s going to college right now and paying off his loans and paying for school at the same time, and it’s really hard for him to see me struggle to find a new apartment and question how we’re going to afford it. It’s hard to even eat because sometimes need to decide whether we’re going to eat or pay rent,” she said.

Other tenants recounted similar situations — with one man being on fixed income, while also providing care to a sick granddaughter and sick daughter.

“My daughter and granddaughter together suffer from schizophrenia and epilepsy. And it’s really important for us to stay in East Boston and stay in this home to be a walking distance from the appointments my daughter and granddaughter need to go to,” resident Jose Valasquez said.

Residents say that poor conditions have been at the root of the dispute, with tenants refusing to pay higher rents without a fix for their buildings’ problems. Complaints include leaks, rats and poor waste management. Tenants say they’ve complained to management, but have instead of problems being addressed, have been slapped with rent hikes as high as $1,000 monthly.

This is the second eviction fight for the tenants of 298 Meridian Street — in 2017 the Grid Management tenants association received their first eviction letters after Grid Management purchased their building from the previous private owners. The tenants association members say they fought against the eviction and won contracts with stabilized rents — until now.

“They’ve been fighting since 2017,” CLVU organizer Evelyn Gomez said. “[Now] they want a five-year contract with 3% of rent increase.”

In addition to the treatment of the tenants, CLVU activists say the situation at 298 Meridian points to a more systemic issue happening in Boston and across the Bay State. They point to corporate landlords buying up buildings under multiple LLCs.

The Meridian Street property, under Grid, is part of an LLC managed by Joseph Donovan of MG2 Group — a real estate investment and property development firm in Boston. Donovan has dozens of active LLCs.

“Corporate landlords are evading responsibility for the mass displacement they are perpetuating, and tenant associations will not allow this without a good fight for their right to housing,” a statement from CLVU says.

Representatives from Grid Management did not respond to a request for comment.

The eviction proceedings Wednesday ended without an agreement being reached. CLVU representatives say they will continue to stand firm on their demands.

Resident Ana Castro said in a statement, “I’ve been living here for over 30 years, and I will not move because the owner wants to evict us to rebuild luxury to get new tenants and charge more rent.” 

The activists say that in addition to ongoing advocacy on behalf of Meridian tenants, they are also continuing to push for legislation like the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill H.1434/S.891, adopting local rent control and the passage of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

City Life/Vida Urbana, east boston, evictions, Grid Management Tenant Association, housing rights, rent increases