By Yukun Zhang
BU News Service
BOSTON — Around 100 people held a vigil at 1220 Adams Street on Friday night to protest the Section 8 lease termination of Rosa Poincy, a 60-year-old Dorchester resident on a fixed income from the Social Security Disability Insurance.
While the group chanted “Whose city? Our city,” and “We are Rosa, the mighty mighty Rosa,” Steve Meacham, organizing coordinator of City Life/Vida Urbana, a community organization that set up the vigil, said Poincy’s apartment is an income-restricted unit, which has a rent capped at an affordable price. According to Meacham, Chartwell Holding LLC, the management company of the apartments, claims that the rent restrictions are expiring.
Poincy said that the day after Thanksgiving of last year, she received a letter saying her rent subsidy would be terminated on December 18, 2018.
In June 2018, Poincy received a second letter telling her that her lease would not be renewed after Nov. 30, 2018, said Helen Homefries Matthews, the communications coordinator for City Life/Vida Urbana.
There was no option for Poincy to remain a tenant in the building after that date, Matthews said.
“I see the letter and I’m thinking: ‘I haven’t done anything,’” she told BU News Service.
According to Poincy, seven people in Baker Chocolate Factory apartments, all on Section 8, got the same letter from the lawyers of the managing company. She said the letter told her she could stay if she pays market rent, which is between $2,500 and $3,000.
“It’s all about the dollar bill,” she said.
Unwilling to move out from her home for four and a half years, Poincy decided to put up a fight to stay. City Life/Vida Urbana has been helping Rosa legally.
“There’s no way that they are going to force me out. I’m going nowhere,” Poincy said to the group gathered at the vigil. “I paid my rents on time. My neighbors love me — I know they do — and I love them too.”
Poincy’s friends, family and representatives of City Life/Vida Urbana and Dorchester Not for Sale spoke, too.
City Life/Vida Urbana made signs that read “Stop Corporate Greed.”
“We want to make the case that Chartwell, who is the landlord here, owns some six thousand units up and down the East Coast. Here’s this really wealthy company that is evicting Rosa — no fault, because they want even more profits. We are going to stand here and stop that,” Meacham said.
“I’ve never been evicted in all my life. This is new to me and it’s scary. My kids are grown and I’m alone, and I feel like I shouldn’t have to go,” Poincy said, tearing up as she spoke.
Gabrielle Rene, member of City Life/Vida Urbana, said gentrification has been happening in Boston and she has seen mostly people of color fighting in courts to stay in their homes.
“I’m fighting with [Poincy] and I’m fighting with everybody who wants to stay in their homes, because when you come home and not know whether you’ll stay or go, it’s like hell on earth…Boston is for everybody, not for some,” Rene said.
Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030, the housing plan Mayor Martin Walsh’s released in 2014 and updated in 2018 to reflect on the faster population growth, proposes that the city will help create 69,000 new units, including 10,300 units for low-income people and seniors by 2030.
The most recent report for the housing plan, released for the second quarter of 2018, says the city has 27,513 housing units completed or in construction, outpacing the annual target of 5,000.
Poincy said she had contacted Metro Housing Boston, the provider for her voucher assistance, but the program representative only told her to look at the apartment list, and the building’s owner, Baker Chocolate Factory, refused to help her.
Baker Chocolate Factory declined to comment.
Meacham said the tenants who received the letters would probably face summons to court and City Life would file a motion for discovery. The case could lead to a jury trial and he thinks the tenants will win.
Since receiving the letter, Poincy said, she has been upset and constantly going to her doctor for high blood pressure. But as the vigil ended on the night of Nov.30, which she was told would be the last day of her lease, Poincy said she was going back to her apartment to decorate her home for Christmas with her two granddaughters.