On October 3, Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-IL) filed the Right to Organize Act, with nine co-sponsors!! The bill would extend an enforceable Right to Organize, modeled on 24 CFR Part 245, to Voucher and LIHTC tenants, and provide Section 514 organizing money to locally based coalitions to organize the unorganized tenants in their communities.
Michael Kane helped to draft the original bill with former Rep. Levin's office last fall. Organized by Susie Shannon of Housing Is a Human Right, several LOFTE reps (MAHT; HJN of MN; TTU) and Rod Wilson from the Lugenia Burns Hope Center won support for the bill from several Members of Congress in DC in April; Rep. Ramirez and Tlaib agreed to be lead sponsors. LOFTE groups helped refine the bill that was filed October 3.
So far, other sponsors are Pressley (D-MA), Gomez (D-CA), Cesar (D-TX, Bowman (D-NY), Crockett (D-TX), Scakowsky (D-IL), Lee (D-CA), Norton (DC), and Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Thanks to all LOFTE groups that signed on as endorsers and helped line up Congressional support!
In 1994, Massachusetts outlawed any attempt to regulate market rents or evictions. Todays unprecedented housing emergency is the result!
At the Statehouse, legislative leaders have declared their opposition to any regulations on market rents. It is now clear that a ballot referendum is the only way to Lift the Ban so local governments can act!
On September 6, the Attorney General approved an Initiative Petition filed by Rep. Connolly and 15 other voters to Lift the Ban and allow local governments to protect tenants. A recent poll shows 65% of voters in all parts of the state support Lifting the Ban; only 28% are opposed! You can read the results in this article: Massachusetts voters want rent control option - CommonWealth Magazine.
If we can get 80,000+ signatures by November 22, 2023, the referendum could go on the ballot in 2024--a high turnout Presidential Election when it is most likely to pass. We can't afford to wait till 2026 or a later date!! A growing statewide movement is mobilizing now to collect these signatures!
Here is where you come in!
MAHT is coordinating outreach in Boston, but the Campaign needs help everywhere! Volunteers can sign up on the Rent Control 2024 Website from anywhere in the State! The website it run by Rep Mike Connolly and campaign coordinator Art Gordon. There are a number of events listed on the website you can sign up for to collect signatures. Great places to collect signatures are farmers markets, block parties, festivals, shopping centers, and grocery stores.
If you can help MAHT collect signatures in Boston or want to learn more, leave a message for MAHT Petition Coordinator Mike McDonough at 617-522-5133x15 or [email protected]. Petitions are now available at the MAHT office at 42 Seaverns Avenue in Jamaica Plain (near JP Licks) for pick up!
Here some links to further information about this process
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is considering nationwide standards for tenants rights to rental properties with federally backed mortgages. The LOFTE Network, 20 locally based areawide nonprofit tenant organizing groups across the country has weighed in with 7 recommendations which are:
- Extend and enforce a federally guaranteed right to organize based on 24 CFR Part 245, Subpart B which covers multifamily housing.
- Outlaw discrimination based on source of income as many landlords refuse to rent to low-income tenants and few jurisdictions have law prohibiting discrimination.
- Provide just cause for eviction as many tenants live in fear of being evicted.
- Prohibit rent gauging and only allow reasonable rent increased to provide stability to tenants.
- Require the strongest state/local tenants rights protections nationwide as different states have different laws and there should be nationwide standards.
- Adopt uniform standards for decent safe and sanitary housing using the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate as a reference.
- Provide tenants with access to information like tenants’ rights and information about important changes in the building so tenants can better partner with owners.
You can read the full recommendations here. It is the hope that the combined experience within the LOFTE Network with be noticed and these recommendations will be taken into serious consideration.
It was June so that meant it was time for the MAHT Annual Meeting.
This year's meeting was unlike any previous MAHT meeting. It was the milestone anniversary meeting of MAHT turning 40!
An good and productive time was had that Saturday morning with recognition awards given out to several tenant groups (some of them new) and the MAHT Civic Engagement Team (Thanks Ivonne, Art, Cheryl, Louis, Rob, Laura, Cherai, Carmen, Eric, Prendee and others). Plus there was the election of the new MAHT board pictured at left.
Mary Yeaton, one of the founders of MAHT was also in attendance. She walked us all down memory lane with a fascinating speech on those early days and the formation of MAHT. We expect to have more of Mary and other memories and reflections of MAHT, its history and victories, as the year moves on.
Happy 40th Anniversary MAHT!
On Monday, June 26th, 16 MAHT tenants helped pack a State House hearing room to get the bullying bill passed. In 2017, Governor Baker appointed a commission to study ways to prevent bullying in senior and handicapped housing. MAHT was appointed to the Working Group on Best Practices and Legislation to help create a bill to stop the bullying.
Watch MAHT tenant groups from Beverly, Salem, Acton, and Lowell testify starting at around 1:02.
You too can help by calling the State House and ask your Senate and House rep to Support bill S. 887 in particular. Take a look at the bills fact sheet for more info and then make that call.
Sunday June 25th was a warm, if not hot, summer's day but that did not deter MAHT and MAHT tenants from getting out and participating in Open Streets Boston, the Jamaica Plain version.
A closed off Centre Street became crowded with hundreds and hundreds of Sunday strollers, young and old, tiny and tall, stretching their legs and taking back the streets for pedestrians only.
MAHT set up its table, strategically located, just across from the Forbes Building. Joyce Mcdonald, George O’keefe, Jean Weber, Ed Pazzanese, all members of the Forbes Building Tenant Association, who were joined by Luke , Mike, Rob, Yvonne and other MAHT friends in collecting over 200 Save The Forbes Building signatures. It was a festive event that emphasized one meaning of community, helping your neighbor.
The Forbes Tenant Association Newsletter
Forbes Owner Fails to Submit a Workable Plan to Save Our Homes
Since November 2021, All City Management (ACM) has declared its “intention” to preserve all 147 apartments as affordable housing for mostly senior and handicapped tenants. However, ACM has yet to take any concrete steps to make this happen. In October, 2022, ACM missed a key deadline to apply for State funds, despite months of promises to do so. Reportedly, ACM is requesting $38 million more in public subsidies than State guidelines allow. But ACM has not prepared an appraisal to justify this request, nor has ACM even hired a qualified consultant to prepare State and City subsidy applications!
The State and City housing agencies have made it clear they will not consider ACM’s requests for capital grants and loans without an appraisal, realistic repair plan, and a qualified consultant. Although the State offered a Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) contract to keep rents low for 113 Forbes tenants for 40 years, while negotiating capital refinancing plans, ACM has refused to consider this offer, leaving tenants at risk.
ACM has now been stalling for more than two years. Meanwhile, vacant apartments are rented to market rate “Tenants at Will”. The character of the Forbes as a community of predominantly elder and handicapped lower income tenants is changing.
Rent Freeze Expires at End of 2023
The one year rent freeze won by the Forbes Building Tenants Association (FBTA) for 75 former 13A "legacy" tenants last January, will expire in December 2023. ACM has made no commitment to limit rents after that date. These tenants will face up to $1,200 per month rent increases to full market levels at that time, unless ACM agrees to a further rent freeze or accepts State subsidy offers to keep rents low.
Another 37 low-income tenants in Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) apartments will also face rent increases. The MRVP contract expires in October 2023. Unless ACM renews this contract, these tenants will receive a rent increase of 3% plus inflation for each of three years. After that, their rents, too, could rise to full market levels.
State Legislation Could Save the Forbes
The FBTA is working closely with our newly elected Representative, Samantha Montano, and our new Senator, Mike Rush, to pass legislation at the Statehouse to Save the Forbes. Rep. Montano has re-filed MAHT’s Home Rule Petition to Save Affordable Housing (H1360 and S891, filed by Sen. Liz Miranda) and has also filed Mayor Wu’s Home Rule Petition (H3744) to stabilize rents in Boston. Passage of either bill would Save the Forbes! Contact the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants at: 617-233-1885 or by email at: [email protected] if you can help!!
It is impossible to overstate the impact Mel King had on my life. His example inspired a career in tenant organizing and housing advocacy and a lifelong passion to save the South End as a racially and economically diverse community, not just at Tent City but by organizing more than 2,000 South End HUD tenants to save their at-risk homes as affordable housing, one building at a time, over the past 30 years.
I first met Mel in 1974, shortly after starting at the South End Project Area Committee (SEPAC), the elected Urban Renewal committee that grew out of the Tent City protests in 1968. Nothing happened on the Tent City site itself until October 1974, when the BRA abruptly advertised the land for an 18-story luxury high rise. SEPAC convened a neighborhood Task Force, co-chaired by Mel, to develop community Guidelines for mixed income housing. SEPAC adopted the Guidelines and blocked the luxury high rise plan.
In weekly Task Force meetings, Mel guided group discussion to focus on what we really wanted, not what we “thought we could get.” That was my first exposure to Mel King in action. He had an uncanny ability to intervene at exactly the right moment in every meeting, to move the group discussion to the next level of understanding. He always knew how to use his presence in each space to maximum effect. His approach was always inclusive and respectful, and empowering to everyone in the room.
Soft spoken and gentle, Mel could be forceful and courageous in challenging injustice and micro-aggressions when needed. A poet, he had a deep understanding of the power of language to liberate or oppress. After one contentious meeting in 1978, Mel rad his poem "Struggle" at the next meeting and looked me in the eye after he read it. I felt empowered, recognized and loved.
Mel was there at every step of the 1978-1983 campaign to build Tent City, from founding the Tent City Corporation, speaking at yearly rallies, to daily pickets in 1981 blocking the parking lot to demand housing. In 1980, Mel served breakfast to protestors on the future Copley Place site at the “This Could Be Your Last Chance to Eat Here” demonstration, remembered by people decades later who saw it on TV. Mel’s 1983 campaign for Mayor cemented commitments from the other candidates to support TCC’s goals for mixed income, community-controlled housing, which Mayor Flynn implemented after the election.
Over the decades, Mel brought his organizing approach to literally every setting—from community and tenant meetings, Statehouse meetings with legislators, candidate forums during the 1983 election, small groups to large. His manner with individuals was equally empowering—always gently challenging you to be better than you were, to do more than you thought you could do, to take it to the next level.
During the 1983 election, Mel’s vision of personal liberation and growth linked inextricably to community empowerment and racial justice, set the substantive and moral tone of the election. He was consistent in carrying this message to every voter and neighborhood, a transformative moment for Boston. After the election, the power of Mel’s message and the continued presence of the Rainbow Coalition ensured that Mayor Flynn would carry through on commitments to address racial divisions in the city. Mel King emerged as the indisputable moral conscience of Boston.
News coverage since last week has not fully done justice to Mel’s impact across the US. Elected to the legislature as an iconoclastic radical and one of only a handful of Black representatives, Mel quickly developed a capacity to pass cutting-edge, progressive legislation—for community development, food and agriculture reform, education, divestiture from South Africa and more. By 1977, Mel had emerged as a national leader for the Conference on Alternative State and Local Public Policies, ensuring his proposals were emulated by progressive officials nationwide. Through the Community Fellows Program, Mel directly mentored and inspired hundreds of talented agents for change in communities across the US.
Mel was a brilliant policy innovator. In the early 1960’s, Mel and Marty Gopen created job training and youth development programs at United South End Settlements which served as the model for the Job Corps and other War on Poverty programs nationwide. As a State Representative, Mel convened the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Group at MIT with community practitioners and academics to incubate pathbreaking legislation, which Mel then worked to pass. He had an unmatched capacity to bring people together to achieve visionary change.
Mel understood that what happens locally is quantum linked to what happens globally. He supported liberation struggles from South Africa to Palestine and Northern Ireland, mentored and trained youth from Mumbai to Cairo, and presented workshops in Cuba. His famous weekly brunches often featured visitors from around the world, who shared the table with local activists and neighborhood residents alike. He understood and taught that none of us are free, until our brothers and sisters everywhere are free.
In recent years, Mel was a frequent speaker at Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants membership meetings. Representing “Love Is the Question and the Answer”, Mel joined MAHT’s City Rent Subsidy Coalition to win Mayor Walsh’s commitment of City funds for low income rent subsidies. Arriving in a wheelchair to push the Mayor in 2019, Mel was forceful and effective in helping persuade the Mayor to act. This was perhaps one of Mel’s last organizing campaigns. As Mel told the press in January 2020 when Walsh announced the plan, “Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork.” Up to 900 houseless families and individuals will find permanent homes as a result.
Mel was an avid proponent of the power of personal connections with people on the “Street”. For decades, he connected with people on Columbus Avenue outside his Tech Center office. As they passed, almost everyone knew and spoke with Mel.
When we named Tent City “Tent City”, some objected by saying, that if you lived there, you’d always have to explain to people why it was named that way. Exactly right! We wanted the story to be told.
What more appropriate tribute to our city, than to rename “Columbus Avenue”, Mel King Way?
Mel King: Rest in Love and Power.