Tenants to rally for housing

October 20, 2006
By

JOHN RUCH

Local affordable housing tenants and activists will rally to preserve subsidized and public housing tomorrow afternoon in the heart of Roslindale Village.

Grace Ross, the Green Party candidate for governor, is among the confirmed speakers.

The rally follows the expiration in August of most federally subsidized Section 8 housing at the huge High Point development on Blue Ledge Drive. Section 8 expirations are looming at other major Roslindale developments, including Florence and Georgetown.

“High Point has been kind of the poster child for all expiring-use units,” said Kathy Brown, executive director of the Boston Tenant Coalition, one of the rally’s organizers.

Expiring-use refers to buildings where low-rate mortgage deals tied to providing Section 8 housing are expiring, freeing the owners to turn the buildings into market-rate housing. That is happening at High Point, which has more than 500 units.

Roslindale has about 30 percent of the city’s expiring-use buildings. “Expiring-use is an ongoing problem in that part of the city,” said Michael Kane, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, which has been organizing the tenants.

The Florence apartments Section 8 contract will expire in 2008, meaning a renewal decision must be made by next March. Contract decisions at Georgetown will start in 2009.

A major goal of the rally is to get the Boston City Council and Mayor Thomas Menino to file—for the fifth time—a bill that would allow the city to protect expiring-use units with rent regulation, purchase by non-profit groups such as community development corporations, and/or the encouragement of the renewal of project-based Section 8 subsidies. The bill would require approval by the state Legislature and has failed there repeatedly.

The rally also aims to draw attention to the federal housing budget, which Congress will resume debating after the election. Kane said it could result in billions of dollars of cuts to Section 8 and public housing funds.

The Committee for Boston Public Housing will appear at the rally to talk about that side of the housing challenge. The Boston Housing Authority recently announced it has reopened a waiting list for emergency Section 8 housing that had been closed since May, 2004 due to federal budget cuts. [See JP Agenda.]

The rally will run 2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Park. Other groups involved include the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, the Chinese Progressive Association and various tenant groups.

The same groups are also engaged in their annual effort, pioneered last year, to register low-income tenants to vote. The effort has registered hundreds of new voters.

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