In Boston we are organizing against gentrification and the privatization of public housing. We got started on this effort in the summer of 2020 and have been expanding our efforts since then. In line with the national plans of the federal government, the Boston Housing Authority has been working to privatize numerous projects across the city. For example, Lenox Street, Old Colony, Heath Street (aka Mildred Hailey), Mary Ellen McCormack, and many others are being privatized or have already been sold off to the big banks and developers.
As gentrification has changed the face of the city, once neglected neighborhoods have seen the land increase in value; many housing projects are now sitting on prime real estate. Developers, politicians (from both parties), universities, and the big banks are looking to gobble up these locations, displace residents, and build luxury units and “mixed-income” developments. In the cases where the original residents in the projects are able to return after these renovations, they face strict new rules. For example, after Lenox Street was sold off to Bank of America and Beacon Communities, a new rule was put in place there prohibiting children from playing outside. Tenants are also often treated as second-class citizens, subject to racism and discrimination, as the new developments cater to the new market-rate tenants who have just moved in. Right now there are around 25,000 people living in public housing in Boston, so many people’s homes and neighborhoods are being threatened by this massive push for privatization.
In many of the developments which receive Section 8 vouchers, residents are also feeling the pressures of gentrification. For example, at Grant Manor in the South End almost one out of every four residents received a rent increase in 2021 of between $200-$1000 per month! Places like Grant Manor have a rich history of struggle, as residents in many places in the 1990s and early 2000s fought back to prevent HUD from selling off their buildings. Now they face troubled times yet again. But the situation is not hopeless.
We are working to unite tenants across different projects and subsidized developments against the powerful forces gentrifying the community. People are coming together in their own buildings and uniting with the neighbors from around the community. Step by step people are building up tenants associations and neighborhood organizations. While there were issues back in the day, people in the neighborhoods were generally more unified. Much of that has been lost with the pressures of gentrification as well as violence from the gangs and dealers in collaboration with the police. Building ties between different developments and organizing events like community BBQs are important parts of a larger strategy to build up a strong and unified community that will come together and fight for the best interests of the people and expose the lies of the rich and the politicians.