• Rent Strike 2020

RENTERS RISE UP: Victor in Boston

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Victor is a renter in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston and a young father of a one year-old daughter. His mom, who lives in the apartment as well, was born and raised in the neighborhood and has lived there since the 1970’s.

Victor is one of millions of working people across the country whose income has been hard hit by COVID-19. Since the pandemic started, US households have lost over $6.5 in income.

He is also among the growing share of renters suffering under the management of big business landlords. Since the building was purchased by real estate investment firm Mainsail Management after the 2008-09 recession, Victor has seen longtime low-income tenants being pushed out, deteriorating building conditions the landlord refuses to address, and vicious disregard for the hardship of families struggling to pay rent during COVID.

How long has your family lived in the building?

My one-year old daughter makes the third generation that will be here in this home and in the Allston-Brighton area. Being a part of this community means so much, not to just myself, but to my mother as well. She was born and raised in the Faneuil Housing complex here in Brighton. Her father was a Boston Housing Authority carpenter, and her mother was well known in the housing complex.

The fact that we have been here going on three generations speaks to how much we value our home. I never thought I’d be facing this; that I’d see so many changes to our community and building and see so many of the families I know forced out.

When did things start to change for you and your family?

A lot of buildings have been bought up by big companies in the last few years. Ours was one of them. Ever since Mainsail took over the building, we noticed tons of people being kicked out or moving due to the major changes that have happened here like rents being raised or things just not living up to what was promised, like repairs that never happened. Forcing tenants to move out because they can’t afford to pay more every single year or they are demanding safe apartments is just not right.

How has the pandemic affected you and your family?

Given how things are today it’s tough to even provide decent meals let alone pay rent. But somehow we’re always getting emails demanding money we can’t pay due to COVID-19.

Forcing anyone to pay full market rent during a time like this isn’t ethical. You shouldn’t have to choose between food and rent. Landlords can clearly survive during this, showing some compassion would really go a long way.

You’ve told us your unit has a black mold outbreak, leaks, and water damage. How are the conditions affecting you and your family?

All these hazardous conditions within our unit are harmful for me, my mom, my little brother, and my daughter. Most of us have asthma and to breathe in mold could do things to our breathing system and we don’t even know it. We have been speaking up about this since the issues arose. Obviously in the middle of this pandemic, the risks are even higher.

With communication between our family and Mainsail, we face constant push back, constant promises that things are going to be fixed, changed, etc. But nothing has been changed or fixed. We’ve still had the same carpets for a good 15 years. We should not be forced to live with mold within our bathroom walls and have nothing done about it.

How have you tried to get the issues in your building addressed?

My mom is so sick and tired of this that she never wants to speak up anymore. To sit there and have to watch the family argue about whether to speak up is just draining. The sad part about all of this is that we have been communicating to the landlord for years, and still nothing is done. When we do speak up, it takes up to 6 months for someone to even follow up.

Things got so bad here that we reached out to the Boston Housing Authority about the conditions of our unit. Sadly they changed their policy so they no longer send in your leasing officer to inspect the building. If our housing officer could see the conditions of the unit and advocate for what needs to be fixed, then there could be some serious change not only within my situation but for everyone else who is facing this from a major landlord.

What made you decide you need to get organized?

I’ve lived in the same apartment since I was 5 years old. This is our home. We deserve to have the same shelter and living conditions as anyone else no matter who we are or what we make in a year. With my daughter being born and her bringing this wonderful energy into this world, it’s hard to sit here and be positive given how we are living.

It’s time to act against these landlords. How can someone who has the power to provide a home not care enough to even make the space livable? Why can’t they scrape together some money out of the massive amounts they make from all their properties and help those in need, fix up units, and provide people with a good place to sleep no matter their income? I hope anyone facing these issues stands up and rises.

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