Boston Activists Canvass to Revive Rent Control

Hundreds of Boston housing activists spent the afternoon of Sept. 21 knocking on doors in the Roxbury, Chinatown, Mattapan and Dorchester, asking residents to sign a pledge in support of bringing rent control back to the city. 

Handing out flyers in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Haitian Creole, they got an “overwhelmingly positive” response, organizers said. “Every resident that my team spoke with agreed with the idea of bringing back rent control,” said Steve Meacham, an organizer with the grass-roots organization. Dozens of signed pledges piled up as canvassers returned from the field.

Boston and Cambridge had rent controls until 1994, when state voters approved a landlord-backed ballot initiative to prohibit them. Twenty-five years later, the city is facing a growing wave of evictions spawned by rent hikes and luxury housing development.

“Rent control is feasible—across the country, states are enacting it. And it’s one of the most strategic things we can do to protect our neighborhoods,” Roxbury housing activist Lawrence Carty told an assembly at a Dorchester community center before the canvassing. 

The assembly, organized by Right to The City Boston, a coalition of over a dozen grassroots housing justice organizations, discussed the draft “Boston People’s Plan”: instituting “anti-displacement zones” in key areas of the city, building affordable housing, and empowering neighborhoods in the face of development. 

On Sept. 26, City Life/Vida Urbana organized a protest against the impending eviction of two elderly women in the Mattapan neighborhood. The two, both grandmothers and community activists, received 30-day eviction notices from their landlord after refusing to pay $700 rent increases.

“I’m fighting to help other people in the same situation that I am in—the threat of being homeless. I’m fighting the predatory developers who want to come in and take over Mattapan,” said Ruby James Saucer