Rally for affordable rents
Hope to preserve lower rates
Residents of a 147-unit Jamaica Plain affordable housing complex, many of whom are elderly or disabled, rallied outside their building as they fear they’re on the verge of being priced out.
“I don’t want to have to move again,” said Susan Owens, who has lived in The Forbes building for 20 years. “This is the last stop.”
The residents of The Forbes on Saturday were joined by elected officials including City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu, state Rep. Nika Elugardo, D-Boston, City Councilor Michael Flaherty and City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley.
O’Malley, who represents the area and spoke at the event, announced that he, Flaherty and City Councilor Lydia Edwards will reintroduce a home-rule petition that would offer protections for people in this type of situation in Boston’s 30,000 subsidized buildings upon the expiration of their subsidy contracts.
“Make no mistake, we are going to fight like hell to protect the residents of this building and do everything we can to make sure there is no displacement whatsoever,” he said.
The owner of the complex, Paul Clayton, promised the tenants and the city that he would keep the units affordable after a two-year contract negotiation period. However, on Dec. 23, he refused to sign the contract with the city and instead proposed the site be turned into a market-rate intentional artists’ community, advocates and politicians said.
Clayton could not immediately be reached for comment. If no agreement is reached, the rent restrictions will expire in March.
“It’s imperative that we put elders and people with disabilities right at the center of both protecting and expanding affordable housing,” Elugardo said in an interview at the event. “These are the last people that we want to be sitting around worrying about where they’re gonna live in a couple years.”
The Forbes resident David Nollman said in a speech that he has suffered two heart attacks and survived two types of cancer, and that his apartment is “a godsend.”
He and other speakers at the rally advocated for a long-term contract instead of a year-to-year one. “(The landlord) is holding us hostage, right? We are the people who are going to suffer because the landlord won’t sign contracts with the city and the state to make the apartment affordable. We are the pawns.”
“We are in a displacement crisis in Boston,” Wu said. “We are in a moment of time where our recovery cannot just be putting Band-Aids on long-standing wounds. We need to change the system, we need to transform our city and our economy. That starts right here.”