Friday, March 03, 2017

Housing advocates drop banners across Boston to set the stage for landmark City Council hearing

Housing advocates drop banners across Boston to set the stage for landmark City Council hearing

Boston residents to flood City Hall hearing demanding passage of eviction protections

JCE banner-brookside close.jpg  

Friday, March 3rd, 2017: From the JP/Rox redevelopment zone to the Allston/Brighton neighborhood, housing justice advocates dropped large-scale banners Friday morning, a few days in advance of Boston City Council’s hearing on the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act. Banners unfurled from windows and rooftops, and some were displayed at street-level to passing traffic. “Stop Displacement: Pass the Jim Brooks Act” and “Don’t Displace Boston Residents” were a few of the banners’ statements. Banners were displayed on Storrow Drive, Morrissey Boulevard, Brookside Avenue, and other sites across Boston.


The banner-drops concluded a week of intense debate and fierce battle over affordable housing in Boston's quickly-gentrifying neighborhoods. At the Monday, March 6th City Council hearing on the Jim Brooks Act (formerly known as the “Just Cause” ordinance), homeowners, tenants, and community activists are expected to flood the City Council Chamber to demand the Act’s passage. The Act, named in honor of the late housing justice and disability rights organizer Jim Brooks, is an emergency protection bill sponsored by Mayor Marty Walsh.

The Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act is intended to protect residential tenants against arbitrary, unreasonable, and retaliatory evictions, and to ensure tenants are aware of their legal rights and the available resources to help preserve their tenancies.  

Darnell Johnson, Coordinator of the Right to Remain Coalition including over 40 local community-based organizations, said, "In a city with 67% renters, high foreign interest and outrageous speculation, Bostonians are taking back their city and City Council must act."

A final banner-display is scheduled for Friday afternoon, March 3rd, at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Hancock Street in Dorchester from 3:30pm to 5:30pm.

WHO is the Right to Remain Coalition?

Right 2 Remain Coalition and partners: anchored by Right to the City Boston in partnership with Boston Tenant Coalition: ABDC, Action for Regional Equity, Allston Brighton CDC, Alternative for Community and Environment, Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian Community Development Corp, Black Economic Justice Institute, Boston Homeless Solidarity Coalition, Boston Jobs Coalition, Boston Workers Alliance, Brazilian Worker Center, Castle Square Tenants Organization, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown Resident Association, City Life, Codman Square NDC, Community Labor United, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester Bay EDC, Dorchester People for Peace, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, 100% Egleston, Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, Fairmount Indigo Line CDC Collaborative, Fenway Community Development Corp., Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Greater Four Corners Action, Homes for Families, JP Neighborhood Council, JP Neighborhood Development Corp, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Jobs with Justice, MA CDC, Mass Vote, Matahari, Mattapan United, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, New England United for Justice, Progressive Communicators Network, Progressive Mass, Reclaim Roxbury, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU 32BJ (District 615), Union of Minority Neighborhoods (from Right to Remain Coalition)

WHY the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act?

On Monday March 6, the Boston City Council will hear testimony on the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act: An Emergency Protection Bill sponsored by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Now, renters in privately owned housing can be evicted for no reason when their lease expires, or any time if they have no lease. Under this new law, large landlords and banks would have to give a legitimate reason for eviction. The law would let the City track eviction notices and provide tenants with information and resources to stay in their homes.

Displacement in Boston is widespread -- from Chinatown to Dorchester, East Boston to Roxbury, and Mattapan to Jamaica Plain. Corporate, non-resident and speculator landlords are purchasing homes in these communities, evicting current residents and raising rents to attract wealthier tenants. Cuts in government spending for housing has added pressure to the private rental market. The Boston Housing Authority has a waitlist of 40,000 households for 15,000 units while budget cuts eliminated 1,500 rental subsidies last year.

"The city is in crisis,” stated Kathy Brown, coordinator of the Boston Tenants Coalition, “Currently 35,000 renters have housing costs exceeding 50% of their household income. Almost all, 92%, of these rent-burdened households are very low-income. The crisis is especially severe in immigrant neighborhoods and communities of color.”

Profit-driven development has taken place without regard to those who currently call Boston home. For example, in East Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has approved over 1,000 units of luxury development. The resulting pressures cause rent increases at an average of 30 percent per year. At this rate, only one in 10 current residents in East Boston, the majority of whom are Latino, will be able to stay in this largely Latino immigrant neighborhood.

“As the crisis deepens for renters, low-income homeowners and homeless families, we’re beginning to see the resurgence of a mass movement of renters standing up to say enough is enough,” says Rachel LaForest of the Right To The City Alliance. “At every level of government, from local city councils to the president, the ability of renters and working families to thrive needs to be a central economic justice issue of our time.”  

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 1 in 2 renters now pay more than 30% of their income on rent and 1 in 4 pay more than 50%.  

While renters of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds are being impacted at historic levels by this crisis, communities of color, women and families with children are being displaced and targeted at disproportionate levels. One in five Black women report being evicted at some time in their life, compared to 1 in 15 white women and 1 in 14 renters overall, according to Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted. Further according the report “Evicting Children” published by Harvard University, nationally the “probability of a household with children to receive an eviction judgment is about .17 higher” than those without children.”

Exposing the escalating rate of evictions and displacement happening in Boston’s poor and working-class neighborhoods, thousands of residents and community leaders from across the city took part in Right to Remain actions all year long to bring this to the attention of Boston City Council.

The Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act Hearing follows a series of 3 prior hearings - 1) Corporate Landlords and Displacement, and introduction of JCE in Oct 2014, 2.) part 1 April 2015 and 3) part 2 March 2016 both of which were sponsored by Councilor Jackson and presided over by Councilor Baker (as head of the housing committee) then by Councilor Baker with Zakim presiding (new housing chair). Part I examined displacement associated with increasing corporate landlord ownership and luxury development in Boston. The Council had opportunity to explore and understand how the housing crisis has developed from one of foreclosure & blight, to one of rental speculation & gentrification. The focus was on testimony by community members directly affected by displacement as the best experts on the problem.  This hearing featured the example of a particularly egregious corporate landlord, City Reality, who has profited off the foreclosure crisis and was causing widespread displacement.  Part II progressed to examine community-generated solutions to the problem of displacement, and the response of the City to both the problems presented in Part I and the solutions presented in Part II. Grounded in the lived experiences of directly-affected residents, the people of Boston demanded that the City shift focus to concrete proposals on stopping displacement. Advocates presented, City officials testified, and a representative of the real estate industry spoke. Part III focused specifically on Just Cause Eviction and was space for both sides to present to the Council reasons for this bill.   

After a year of lobbying efforts and community meeting and assemblies, late in December 2016 Mayor Walsh stepped up and out as sole and lead sponsor filing a re-tooled and  renamed JCE "Petition for a Special Law Re: The Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act."

In Jan 2017 Mayor Walsh was required to refile the bill due to inactivity with City Council. Advocates pushed the council and March 6, 2017 Boston City Council will finally hold a hearing on the bill presided over by Councilor Flaherty (as head of the government operations committee).

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