Activists hold rally for tenant protections
Activists for tenant protections, including rent control, rallied outside a gated community across from Jamaica Pond Saturday, calling on the owners of a Boston-based private real estate company — apparently who reside within the gates — to negotiate with the last remaining tenants of a Medford property the company recently purchased.
The event, organized by the group City Life/Vida Urbana, is part of a much larger effort across Greater Boston and the commonwealth in support of legislative efforts to allow municipalities to establish rent control and tenant protection measures, including prohibiting “no-fault” evictions.
According to the group, Boston-based Savage Properties purchased the apartment complex, on Bradlee Road in Medford, only to announce a series of renovations that would effectively force tenants, mostly working-class residents, to leave — a move the group describes as “a prime example of corporate greed, gentrification and displacement across Massachusetts.”
Organizers say some 17 families were displaced through no-fault evictions. In statements to the Boston Globe, Savage Properties has denied “evicting” any residents — though the Globe has cited evidence that at least some residents were served “quit notices,” which precede a formal eviction action.
The activists say just one family in the Bradlee Road Tenant Association remains in the complex and are demanding their landlords negotiate.
“The no-fault evictions at [the complex] clearly show why rent control is urgently needed to stop mass displacement of families by corporate landlords,” the group said in a statement.
Speaking through a megaphone, organizer Eduardo Palacios, of Malden, recounted his own harrowing experience with having received a similar quit notice from a landlord.
“I fell into a deep state of depression, of worrying, of not even wanting to get up and go to work anymore, because I was like, ‘Why even bother if it’s going to happen like this anyways?’” Palacios recounted.
After working with City Life / Vida Urbana to preserve his apartment, Palacios said, “We fought back, and we won. And this is why we’re here today. And we’re going to be here tomorrow for anyone else who need someone to stand with them.”
Medford City Councilor Isaac Bears, who says he has been working with residents from the Bradlee Road complex and supports their efforts to stay, said the conflict is indicative of broader challenges around housing.
“It’s a shameful thing, this situation, but it’s also representative of what’s happening in Medford, where rents are going up and skyrocketing and people can’t afford to stay here … and it’s changing the fabric of our communities and what it means to be someone from Medford or someone from Boston,” said Bears. “No one is really able to make a go of it here unless they’re making six-figure salaries or even more than that. I don’t think anyone wants our communities to be a place where only rich people can live.”
Bears said that without action in the state legislature — including enabling legislation around rent control, inclusionary housing measures, and tenant protections — there is only so much municipalities like Medford can do to prevent displacement of working-class families.
“We need more housing, and we need more affordable housing — and we can try to do those things, but those tools we have now are not enough,” said Bears. “The State House really holds the cards right now. They hold the power.”
Organizers of the rally are supporting one of multiple pairs of legislation filed in the state legislature that would enable municipalities to pass rent control measures as well as encode tenant protections.
Those bills, sponsored by Representatives David Rogers and Samantha Montaño in the House and Patricia Jehlen in the Senate, would let cities and towns pass their own rent control measures but would also cap rent increases at 5% annually, as well as ban no-fault evictions and codify legitimate reasons to evict.
The bills would also exempt homeowner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units as well as new construction for five years.