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.
Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants
42 Seaverns Avenue/Jamaica Plain/MA/02130
617-522-5133/617-233-1885 [email protected]
To: Mayor Michelle Wu
Arthur Jamison, Director, BPDA
Sheila Dillon, Chief, Mayor’s Office of Housing
From: Michael Kane, Director, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants March 8, 2023
Staff, City Rent Subsidy Coalition
Re: Proposed changes to Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy
This letter is submitted on behalf of the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants (MAHT) and the City Rent Subsidy Coalition (CRSC).
MAHT and CRSC support the goals of the Coalition for a Truly Affordable Boston (CTAB), to more closely align Boston’s IDP program with the urgent need for rental housing affordable to the majority of Boston’s residents. Our focus is on how City Rent Subsidies and Section 8 Tenant Protection Vouchers can be utilized to achieve CTAB goals of a deeper average income for the rental units set aside for IDP, and 33% affordability for new IDP rental housing overall.
1) To achieve the goal of 40% AMI average for tenants in IDP set-aside units, require developers to utilize City Rent Subsidies for a portion of IDP units
The Mayor’s proposal calls for 17% IDP set-aside units (17 out of each 100 new units), aiding renters with an average of 60% AMI. If 10 of these 17 units were assisted with City Rent Subsidies, the average AMI would drop to 40% of AMI, achieving a key CTAB goal. This would also ensure developers receive the full IDP rent for these units, with no further commitment (i.e., rent reductions) from their own resources. Some IDP renters would also remain in the 60- 70% of AMI range, further diversifying incomes in IDP buildings.
Note that a 10% set-aside for City Rent subsidies (i.e., 10 out of 17 required IDP units) is comparable to the 10% homeless set-aside which the City now requires from recipients of City grant/loan programs, such as the Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund. Utilizing City subsidies for these units will promote the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate for BPDA approved housing, by increasing the mix of ELI households of color in new IDP buildings, thus promoting racial equity and class diversity.
If IDP units are increased beyond 17%, we recommend increasing the City subsidy units proportionately to maintain a 40% average AMI in IDP units.
Boston’s City Rent Subsidy program. MAHT spearheaded the CRSC in 2015 to advocate for a City-funded subsidy for low-income renters, funded from the regular City budget, similar to the Local Rent Subsidy Program (LRSP) in Washington, D.C., to address Boston’s severe shortage of housing affordable to Extremely Low-Income renters and homeless people.
In January 2020, Mayor Walsh announced a pilot Boston Rent Subsidy Program, funded at $5 million/year, to be administered by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). The CRSC was invited to participate on an Advisory Committee to help the BHA design and implement the new program. Quarterly meetings have been held since fall 2020.
Initially, the BHA resolved to target City funds as Project-Based subsidies in new developments in Boston, capped at the IDP rent level of 70% of AMI, or the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) rent at 60% of AMI. Subsidy commitments were to be long-term to provide permanent housing for Extremely Low Income (ELI) and/or homeless Boston residents. The BHA agreed to prioritize currently unhoused working families with children in the Boston Public Schools. Because these are City, not federal, funds, the BHA is able to assist undocumented residents and unhoused families not otherwise eligible for federal funds.
In July 2022, Mayor Wu and the City Council approved $9.75 million/year for City Rent Subsidies in the FY 2023 budget, enough to permanently house up to 900 ELI or currently unhoused families, at IDP or LIHTC rent levels.
Project-based City Rent Subsidies are underutilized. In November 2022, the BHA provided an analysis of the allocation of funds to date. Only 175 units had been allocated or committed as project-based assistance, in five developments, in the first 16 months of the program. The BHA has had difficulty “marketing” project-based subsidies in new LIHTC or IDP developments; very few developers have applied. The BHA is “land-banking” the remaining funds by issuing temporary city-funded mobile Vouchers, until such time as project-based developers can be found. That leaves up to 725 additional Project Based City Subsidies that can be allocated now for IDP or LIHTC units in new, mixed- income developments.
“Marketing” by BHA, BPDA and the City is the key. Although promises have been made, the BHA’s marketing of the Rent Subsidy program has fallen short. BPDA officials until recently seemed to be unaware of the new program. CRSC members have found that most nonprofit and for-profit developers of LIHTC or IDP housing are unaware that the program exists.
We strongly urge the BPDA, BHA and MOH to proactively meet with prospective IDP (and LIHTC) developers, and to require utilization of City Rent Subsidies to provide homes for ELI/homeless families to improve the income and diversity mix of new developments.
2) Achieve the CTAB goal of up to 33% of housing affordable to Boston residents in new IDP buildings, by utilizing additional Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers paying the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR)
The Mayor’s proposal commendably includes a 3% set-aside (3 out of 100 units) for regular BHA Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers which pay the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) to landlords. Requiring IDP developers to accept additional Section 8 Vouchers, could approach the 33% goal. There are 14,000 or so Vouchers issued by the BHA each year. Many Voucher holders have difficulty finding an apartment, even with the SAFMR due to widespread discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders, so IDP buildings could help these Voucher holders find a home.
The SAFMR is substantially higher than IDP rents, up to a $1,200 to $1,500/month more in 1 BR apartments, and $1,500 to $2,300/month more in 2 BR apartments, in the higher income neighborhoods where IDP buildings are typically located. At the same time, IDP developers are able to obtain anywhere from $664 to $2,699/month for new luxury market rents above what SAFMR Vouchers can pay, depending on neighborhood/zip code. (See attached chart). So accepting up to 13% additional Vouchers at SAFMR (beyond the Mayor’s proposed 3%) would likely mean developers absorbing a reduction below potential market income, in these units.
However, this amount would be at least partially offset by the “savings” from what developers are otherwise being asked to absorb in the Mayor’s proposed IDP plan. If 10 IDP units are subsidized with City Rent subsidies at the IDP rent, we believe that another 5 to 10 units could accept SAFMR Vouchers, at little or no additional marginal cost to the developer. The Section 8 set aside, could be achieved either by accepting mobile Vouchers or a Project Based Voucher contract from the BHA.
In sum, we recommend that the BPDA (1) utilize City Rent Subsidies in the IDP set aside units to lower average AMI to 40%, and (2) require acceptance of Section 8 subsidies paying SAFMRs in the remaining non-IDP, “market” units, to achieve the overall goal of 33% affordability urged by CTAB. This arrangement would enable creative developers to offer a more truly diverse, equitable and socially healthy income mix in future IDP buildings, at little or no additional “cost” beyond that required by the Mayor’s current proposal.
Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants
42 Seaverns Avenue/Jamaica Plain/MA/02130
617-522-5133/617-233-1885 [email protected]
To: Ricardo Arroyo, Chair Date: March 2, 2023
Government Operations Committee
Re: Testimony to support and amend Mayor Wu’s proposed Home Rule Petition to Stabilize Rents
From: Michael Kane, Director, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants (MAHT)
Member, Mayor’s Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee
Thank you for today’s hearing on Mayor Wu’s proposed Home Rule Petition. MAHT is here to support Mayor Wu’s Home Rule Petition, and to propose amendments to strengthen it.
MAHT is a coalition of tenant groups in privately-owned, government assisted housing in Eastern and Central Massachusetts. Since 1983, MAHT has helped preserve more than 8,000 subsidized apartments in Boston that were at risk of conversion to high market rents, one building at a time, through tenant organizing.
At the same time, Boston has lost more than 2,100 previously affordable apartments by conversion to high market rents since 1996. Another 928 are at risk of conversion today, including the Forbes Building in Jamaica Plain and Babcock Towers in Brighton. Elderly and disabled tenants at the Forbes, who face up to $1,200 per month rent increases in 2023, urgently need rent stabilization to avoid mass displacement.
Mayor Wu is to be commended for her visionary leadership and courage in proposing a Rent Stabilization proposal in response to Boston’s rental housing crisis. Likewise, a majority of the City Council is to be commended for evident support for rent stabilization, for the first time since the 1970’s. For the 2/3 of Boston voters who affirmed our support for rent control in the 2021 election, this is an exciting and hopeful time. Together, our growing, powerful movement has begun to chip away at the anti-regulation climate at the Statehouse.
Since the repeal of Boston’s “expiring use” rent control by the legislature in 1995, the City Council and three Mayors have unanimously supported MAHT’s Home Rule Petition to restore controls to “expiring use” housing. We appreciate the Council’s vote to re-file this measure in October 2022. While Statehouse leaders have blocked passage of Boston’s “expiring use” HRP--and most attempts to regulate real estate markets--since the late 1990’s, strong leadership by Mayor Wu and the Council, and growing support statewide, offers hope that Boston’s Home Rule proposals, and/or statewide enabling legislation, can be passed in this legislative session.
After sustained pressure from the Forbes Building Tenants Association (FBTA) with support from the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, All City Management (ACM) has notified 75 former 13A "legacy" tenants whose leases expired December 31, of a one-year Rent Freeze!
These are all lower income tenants who received a six-month lease in May 2022, after state 13A rent restrictions expired. Tenants were facing up to $1,200 per month rent increases until the freeze was announced. While the short-term freeze provides much appreciated breathing room, there is still work to be done to save the Forbes as affordable housing for the long term.
The FBTA has kept the drum beat steady through rallies, in the press and at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council to save their homes, in the face of numerous broken promises and missed deadlines from All City Management. But we know the pressure is working! In addition to the rent freeze, ACM's team has now publicly committed to reach a deal that will preserve all 147 apartments as affordable housing for mostly senior and handicapped tenants.
However, ACM has yet to submit a workable, written proposal to the City and State, and missed a key deadline in October to apply for funds. Reportedly, ACM is requesting $40 million more in public subsidies than State guidelines allow. Stay tuned!
The FBTA and Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants are working closely with newly elected Representative, Samantha Montaño, to rengage the City and the State to encourage a timely and favorable preservation deal, and to pursue the passage of a Boston Home Rule Petition that would give the City the authority to require building owners like ACM to accept preservation deals. The FBTA also recently won the approval from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council to send a letter in support of the FBTA affordability goals to City and State officials.
The Forbes Building Tenant Association continues to advocate in the community and with the legislature to win long-term affordability of the building.
Please direct your questions to the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants at: 617-522-5133 or by email at: [email protected]
Saturday December 17th, we hosted our first in person holiday party since 2019. We were absolutely thrilled to be able to gather back in person this year to eat delicious food, enjoy beautiful music and honor the hard work of our member Tenant Associations, Civic Engagement Team and Lobby Team including:
Forbes Building Tenant Association for continuing their heroic campaign to secure permanent affordability and Save Their Homes.
Georgetowne Tenants United for winning a model Eviction Prevention Plan from Beacon Communities for 18,000 Beacon tenants nationwide.
We were honored to have Boston city councilor Ruthzee Louijeune and state representative Mike Connelly take the time to stop by and offer words of support. We appreciate their continued support for our organization and low-income tenants across the state. There is a lot of work ahead and we look forward to working with them in the new year.
We are saddened to announce the recent passing of Ellie McCarthy, long time MAHT volunteer and resident of Ausonia Apartments in the North End. She supported MAHT at various rallies and protests and traveled to Washington D.C. to fight with tenants across the country on housing issues. She will be dearly missed.
The final Boston budget approved on June 30, increased the City Rent Subsidy Program to $9.75 million/year! This is a major victory for the CRSC and MAHT—we had advocated to increase the $5 million pilot program, by doubling it this year!
Mayor Wu had originally requested $7.5 million/year in her budget, an increase of $2.5 million but short of the CRSC goal. On June 6, the Council voted to increase this, to $10m and offset the extra cost with cuts to the Fire and Police Departments. The Mayor vetoed the police cuts and responded back with a $9.35 million offer.
It was a beautiful day for our annual meeting this past Saturday to celebrate the many tenant leaders and tenant associations who work hard to save affordable housing across Massachusetts. We were excited to present awards to:
The Forbes Building Tenants Association in Jamaica Plain for gaining community support to get their owner to commit to permanent affordability
Georgetowne Tenants United in Hyde Park for winning a comprehensive survey of water leaks and mold and Emergency Rental Assistance for tenants behind on rent
Babcock Towers Tenants Association in Brighton for securing their landlord’s acceptance of 46 Vouchers from the BHA to save their homes
Marcus Garvey Tenants Association in Roxbury for successfully protesting sudden rent increase notices and restoring dialogue with management
The City Rent Subsidy Coalition for winning support to increase Boston’s City Rent Subsidy Program from $5 million to $10 million annually
Newcastle-Saranac Tenants Association in Roxbury for surviving relocation and renovations and winning owner’s commitment to seek additional Vouchers to lower rents for tenants
The Sandi Padellaro Award for Outstanding Tenant Leader to Yuri Fershter from Babcock Towers Tenants Association for his courageous, brilliant, and compassionate leadership to win creative new resources for tenants citywide and enable his neighbors save their homes
We also had the pleasure of having chief of housing for the city of Boston Sheila Dillon, Boston city councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, and state representative Mike Connolly stop by and express their support for affordable housing and all of the great work MAHT does. We look forward to continued partnership with them.