Boston Tenants Press for Eviction Protections

Boston Tenants Press for Eviction Protections

March 2016

The Boston City Council will hold a hearing March 14 on legislation that would require “just cause” before tenants can be evicted.

If the city enacts such a measure, it would restore a protection eliminated when rent control was abolished in Massachusetts in 1994. Landlords can now force tenants out through “no-fault” evictions. Many are 30-day “tenants at will.”

East Boston, a working-class, heavily Latino neighborhood across the harbor from downtown, is the “epicenter” or no-fault evictions, Lisa Owens-Pinto, head of the community-organizing group City Life/Vida Urbana, told WBUR radio in December. “Things are changing so quickly, so rapidly. This is a citywide crisis, but this is the heart of the crisis.”

City Life held nine major rallies in East Boston in 2015, many aimed at landlord Alex Hodara, who has bought dozens of properties there in the last two years. On Feb. 17, tenants organized by the group sent him a letter urging him to sell some of his buildings for affordable housing.

 “You buy buildings aggressively, evict residents, and re-lease at a much higher rent. Many long-term Latino residents are being forced out, to be replaced by higher-income white residents,” the letter said. “But more positively, we want to suggest that you sell some of your holdings to local nonprofits to create affordable housing. This could include, among others, buildings where we currently have disputes with your company.”

Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, told WBUR in December that a just-cause ordinance would “chill the market in Boston and send us back to the dark ages of rent control.”