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Malden tenants protest evictions

City Life organizers say evictions increasing in Greater Boston area

Anna Lamb
Malden tenants protest evictions
Demonstrators with City Life/Vida Urbana protest at Malden Towers. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB

Dozens of tenants and housing rights activists gathered outside Malden Towers last Sunday to demand a stop to evictions, safer conditions and a seat at the table with owner Carabetta Management.

“We have a lot of problems here, like trash everywhere,” resident Sam Melo said. “We don’t have a staff to clean, to collect the trash. So on weekends, you can see trash in the hallway, everywhere. We have a lot of leaking problems. The AC is disgusting. So a lot of breathing problems because of this.”

He added that he and other residents have also seen an abundance of mice and cockroaches, which management has not addressed.

Tenants say that several of them have started to withhold rent in response to the company’s negligence and that Carabetta Management has retaliated with eviction notices and lease non-renewals.

Tenants, holding signs and standing in front of a large inflatable union rat, demanded Carabetta management drop all eviction filings and fix dangerous 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 has typically focused on tenant advocacy 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’s border into areas of Greater Boston where the working class has gone in recent decades to escape rising housing costs.

A study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that Malden between 1990 and 2016 gained a high-poverty neighborhood, while also joining the ranks of gentrified municipalities.

“On average, home values in the gentrified tracts grew 47 percent, rents rose by 39 percent, incomes increased by 29 percent, and the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree grew by 27 percentage points,” the study says.

Tatiane de Oliveira, a Malden resident for 15 years and member of one of the other tenant associations in the city, said she has seen the change for herself.

“I think Malden is a community of the working class. And I think since gentrification has started, we are the ones who get the big hit, because of rent increases,” she said. “The big corporations, they just don’t care about us. They just want money, and they don’t want to fix anything, and they don’t want to negotiate it. And I mean, yeah, I think it’s a big problem for the working class right now, not just in here 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. She has since continued to work with CLVU helping her neighbors protect their homes.

Among those de Oliveira has helped are tenants from the Maplewood Tenants Association, which continues to demand collective negotiations with the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School (MVRCS), which has sought to buy their buildings for a campus expansion.

“Today we all go from being individuals to gathering in solidarity, friends who fight for what is right, just and dignified. Today we join ranks and become the movement and voice we need for not only ourselves, but for those that come after us. Everyone here is a leader in their own right, and together we shall be the light who wish to see in the world,” Eduardo Palacios, a Maplewood tenant, said Sunday.

After holding a rally in February, tenant organizers say they’ve been able to enter into talks with Malden’s mayor and MVRCS to see what kind of agreement can be made. They will also hold a housing rights teach-in at the Malden Education Association office later this month.

Katie McCann, community organizer with CLVU, said the group first started organizing with Malden tenants during the United Properties fight. She said CLVU’s mission and the problems it tries to address extend beyond the city proper.

“It’s definitely a problem that is throughout the Greater Boston area,” she said. “And so we work with tenant associations all over the Greater Boston area to support them to organize, to put pressure on their landlords to negotiate and to build a statewide movement for laws like rent control that we really need to have.”

Some of the statewide legislation CLVU hopes to pass includes the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill, local rent control options and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

“Those involved in both fights — along with the thousands of families who see their lives reflected in these fights — will finally breathe more calmly when the state finally approves protections for tenants and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic,” a CLVU press release states. “Working-class people need a path towards economic recovery in Massachusetts.”

City Live/Vida Urbana, Malden, rent increases