Demonstrators with City Life/Vida Urbana protest against the Malden Towers. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB
Dozens of tenants and housing rights activists gathered outside Malden Towers last Sunday to demand an end to evictions, safer conditions and a seat at the table with landlord Carabetta Management.
“We have a lot of problems here, like trash everywhere,” resident Sam Melo said. “We don’t have staff to clean, to pick up garbage. So on weekends you can see trash in the hallway everywhere. We have a lot of leakage issues. The AC is disgusting. So many respiratory problems because of that.
He added that he and other residents also saw an abundance of mice and cockroaches, which management did not address.
Tenants say several of them began withholding rent in response to the company’s negligence and Carabetta Management retaliated with eviction notices and non-renewals of leases.
The tenants, holding signs and standing in front of a large inflatable union rat, demanded that Carabetta management drop all eviction records and correct the unsafe conditions.
They chanted, “You can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!
The rally was organized by housing justice group City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU), a Boston-based organization that typically focuses on advocacy for tenants in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Hyde Park and East Boston.
However, representatives of the organization interviewed over the weekend said gentrification and displacement have bled beyond the city line into areas of Greater Boston where the working class has moved over the course of decades to escape rising housing costs.
A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University shows that between 1990 and 2016, Malden gained a very poor neighborhood, while joining the ranks of gentrified municipalities.
“On average, home values in gentrified areas increased 47%, rents increased 39%, incomes increased 29%, and the share of adults with bachelor’s degrees increased 27%,” indicates the study.
Tatiane de Oliveira, a resident of Malden for 15 years and a member of one of the town’s other tenant associations, said shWe have seen the change by itself.
“I think Malden is a community of working class. And I think since gentrification started, we’re the ones that’s been hit the hardest, because of the rent increases,” she said. “The big companies, they just don’t care about us. They just want money, they don’t want to fix anything and they don’t want to negotiate. And I mean, yeah, I think that’s a big deal for the working class right now, not just here in Malden but everywhere.
De Oliveira’s tenant organization, United Properties Tenant Association, was able to reach an agreement with their property management to stabilize rents and keep residents in their homes last year. Since then, she has continued to work with CLVU to help her neighbors protect their homes.
Among those de Oliveira has helped are tenants from the Maplewood Tenants Association, which continues to demand labor negotiations with the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School (MVRCS), which has sought to purchase their buildings for the campus expansion.
“Today we all move from individuals to gatherings of solidarity, friends who fight for what is right, just and dignified. Today we join our ranks and become the movement and the voice we need not only for ourselves, but also for those who come after us. Everyone here is a leader in their own right, and together we will be the light that wishes to see in the world,” Maplewood tenant Eduardo Palacios said Sunday. .
After holding a rally in February, tenant organizers said they were able to begin talks with the Mayor of Malden and the MVRCS to see what kind of deal could be reached. They will also hold a course on the right to housing at the MAlden Education Association office later this month.
Katie McCann, a community organizer with CLVU, said the group began organizing with Malden tenants during the fight against United Properties. She said CLVU’s mission and the issues it tries to solve extend beyond the city proper.
“It’s definitely a Greater Boston area issue,” she said. “And so we’re working with tenant associations throughout the Greater Boston area to help them organize, pressure their landlords to negotiate, and build a statewide movement to laws like rent control that we really need.”
Some of the statewide laws CLVU hopes to pass include the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill, Local Rent Control Options, and the Tenant Purchase Opportunity Act. (TOPA).
“Those involved in both fights – as well as the thousands of families who see their lives reflected in these fights – will finally breathe easier when the state finally approves protections for renters and landlords from evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. ”, a press release from the CLVU states. “Working class people need a path to economic recovery in Massachusetts.”