Last Tuesday was local election day in many Massachusetts communities, and the biggest story was Michelle Wu’s historic win as the next Mayor of Boston. AHMA congratulates Mayor-elect Wu on her victory, and we look forward to working with her and her administration to build a pro-housing Boston. AHMA agrees with Mayor-elect Wu who has raised alarm about the frequent use of zoning variances to permit new housing construction in Boston. Variances are special allowances granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals to exceed basic zoning rules – most of which in Boston were implemented decades ago while the city’s population was shrinking do not meet the housing needs of Boston’s growing population today.
AHMA will work with Mayor Wu and the next City Council to build on our recent success eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing in Boston. We need to reform Boston’s zoning code and ensure an abundant variety of homes are built to keep Boston affordable for all people.
In other Boston urban core communities, pro-housing candidates endorsed by AHMA member organizations performed well:
In Cambridge, AHMA board treasurer Burhan Azeem was elected to the City Council along with five other candidates endorsed by A Better Cambridge. Burhan was joined on the ABC candidate slate by Marc McGovern, a fellow AHMA member who was re-elected. Their six-person majority on the nine-seat City Council will help protect Cambridge’s Affordable Housing Overlay from NIMBY attempts to weaken or eliminate it completely.
In Somerville all candidates endorsed by Somerville YIMBY for Mayor and City Council won their races.
In Newton, 9 of the 11 candidates endorsed by AHMA member organization Engine 6 were elected. This includes the re-election of Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and helps maintain a narrow pro-housing majority on the city’s council at a time when local zoning reform and housing production has become a top focus. This week dirty tactics by an incumbent City Councilor, who is notoriously opposed to building more homes in Newton, were exposed by the Boston Globe.
Pro-housing leaders continue to build power throughout Greater Boston, and among the victories last week include friends and/or members of AHMA:
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll was resoundingly re-elected to a fifth term in office. Kim has been an unabashed pro-housing leader for Salem, advocating for zoning reforms to build the homes Salem needs to be a more affordable and welcoming community.
AHMA member Jack Eccles was re-elected as Melrose City Councilor-At-Large
Friend of AHMA Cobi Frongillo was re-elected to the Franklin Town Council.
This summer and fall has been a period of major growth for Abundant Housing MA. Since we launched our inaugural membership drive in June nearly 200 people around the state have invested in our mission to build and sustain the grassroots pro-housing movement in Massachusetts. While we continue to grow our individual membership base, AHMA has also spent the last few months developing our infrastructure to support existing pro-housing organizations, now counting affiliate orgs in Allston, Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Newton, and Somerville in our ranks (with a continued effort to build outside of Greater Boston).
This summer we also welcomed a new member to the AHMA Board of Directors – Manikka Bowman, current Cambridge School Committee vice-Chair and executive director of Rebuilding Together Boston. As a leader in housing and education policy, Manikka knows how a community’s housing policy directly impacts segregation in its public schools. The AHMA board and I are excited to work with Manikka!
On the policy front we continue to build the relationships we need to be an effective voice of the Massachusetts pro-housing movement in local and state policy conversations. In recent months we’ve met with the Housing and Senate co-chairs of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing and other legislators to brief them on our policy vision and offer resources to help them better understand the need for continued, comprehensive zoning reform and housing production in all corners of the state. On the local front,AHMA has been instrumental in advocating for the elimination of parking minimums in the City of Boston – a move that recently passed the City Council unanimously and when implemented will help speed the production and lead to the creation of more affordable homes throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.
Thanks to the support of our members, AHMA is emerging as a leading voice of the pro-housing movement in Massachusetts. While there is still plenty of work to be done, the foundation we lay today will ensure that currently disparate pro-housing voices throughout the Commonwealth areunified in the fight to build a Massachusetts for Everyone.
Pro-Housing Endorsements & Resources for Tuesday’s Local Elections
This coming Tuesday, November 2nd is election day in many Massachusetts communities. Although the Boston Mayor’s race has dominated local coverage, pro-housing activists have been hard at work educating voters and getting out the vote for pro-housing candidates. AHMA member organizations A Better Cambridge, Engine 6 in Newton, and Somerville YIMBY have all endorsed candidates in their local races and Housing Medford published Mayoral and City Council candidates’ responses to their candidate questionnaire.
For information about where candidates in the Boston races stand on our issues, AHMA recommends pro-housing voters view the conversation that partner organization Housing Forward-MA Executive Director Josh Zakim held with Councilors Essaibi George and Wu before the preliminary election. We also recommend that Boston voters read candidates’ responses to the Vision Zero/Great Neighborhood survey on housing, transportation and mobility issues, for which AHMA contributed many of the housing-focused questions.
Working Towards Ending Parking Minimums for Affordable Housing in Boston
ICYMI: AHMA members recently participated in a learning session with members of Equitable Arlington, an AHMA affiliate organization that won a victory this year in their multi-year campaign to legalize Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the Town of Arlington. In this session, the first in our #LessonsForYes series of trainings for AHMA members, participants heard from three Equitable Arlington leaders about how they overcame past losses to write a strong ADU bylaw that ultimately passed with overwhelming support from Town Meeting members. Members also heard from Haverhill State Representative Andy Vargas about his legislation, HB 1448, which among other important zoning impacts would legalize ADUs in communities across the Commonwealth. Click here to view a recording of the event.
AHMA Executive Director Featured on National Affordable Housing Panel
Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav recently participated in an Aspen Institute panel, “Facing the Housing Crisis: Keeping Americans Safe, Healthy, and Connected” was co-sponsored by Share Our Strength and the Aspen Institute Food and Society Program. This webinar had Jesse appearing alongside Sarah Saadin of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Winsome Pendergrass, a tenant organizer with New York Communities for Change to explore the intersecting housing, hunger, and poverty crises. A recording of the event is available on the Aspen Institute website.
Celebrating Abundant Housing…and Beer!
In late-September over 50 AHMA members and supporters gathered in Allston for Abundant Housing and Beer, the first in-person social event since AHMA launched in 2020! Thanks to Lizzie Torres of Boston Artist Impact, an AHMA member organization, for welcoming us to Allston and speaking about her work to build a civic association for working class artists in the Boston area. We were also glad to be joined by elected officials and candidates from around the region, including Melrose City Councilor Jack Eccles, Franklin Town Councilor Cobi Frongillo, and Cambridge City Council Candidates Burhan Azeem (also AHMA treasurer) and Joe McGuirk.
Save the Date: AHMA Conversation with California Housing Champion Scott Weiner
On December 7th, AHMA is excited to welcome California State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) to speak to Massachusetts legislators and pro-housing advocates about recent victories for statewide zoning reform and building more homes to address California’s huge housing affordability crisis. Senator Weiner is a leading pro-housing voice in the CA legislature and was a primary force behind the passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10 this year which, combined, could lead to many hundreds of thousands of new homes across California in coming years. This event with Senator Weiner will be held on Tuesday, December 7th at 6:00pm eastern time, with more details to follow!
Join as an AHMA Member today!
AHMA is a membership organization that is open to everyone. We stand up for abundant housing for all in communities across Massachusetts. We drive policy at the state and local level by identifying pro-housing changemakers, building the power of local organizers, and connecting a statewide network. Become a member today and join our statewide coalition. Together, we can make Massachusetts for everyone.
AHMA staff and board are thrilled with the overwhelming response we received to our Abundant Housing and Beer event, originally scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, 9/9). We quickly exceed our expectations for the number of tickets claimed by members and guests!
Unfortunately, it appears Mother Nature will not cooperate and this outdoor event will be rained out.
But have no fear! Thanks to our kind hosts at Night Shift Brewing we have rescheduled the event for Thursday, September 30th at 6:00 PM. All previous AHMA member RSVPs and non-member tickets claimed for the 9/9 date will be honored on 9/30. If you purchased a non-member ticket for 9/9 but are unable to attend on 9/30, please let us know ASAP so that we can process a refund and make your spot available to others.
This past spring Arlington Town Meeting adopted a strong ADU by-law thanks to the advocacy of Equitable Arlington members, a local pro-housing group and new affiliate of AHMA. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are a tool more cities and towns in MA should use to gently increase the number of homes and build greater housing choice in their community. Arlington’s new ADU bylaw, which allows accessory homes by-right, without any additional off-street parking, and in all residential districts of town provides a model that pro-housing advocates could pursue in other Massachusetts communities.
AHMA members are invited to join us for the next in our #GettingToYes series: “Lessons to Yes: Winning ADUs in Arlington and Prospects for State Action.” In this webinar we will hear from three members of Equitable Arlington about their successful campaign for a strong ADU bylaw, including how they drafted the bylaw’s language, advocated for it at Town Meeting, and overcame past obstacles to secure this victory.
We will also be joined by Representative Andy X. Vargas of Haverhill who sponsors H.1448, a bill pending on Beacon Hill this legislative session that would, among other important zoning reform impacts, help facilitate the creation of new accessory homes in more communities across the Commonwealth.
This event is offered as a benefit to AHMA members. All current AHMA members should have an email with registration link already in their inboxes. If your membership is current but haven’t received the link please email us to get the link.
If you wish to attend but aren’t yet an AHMA member we hope you’ll join us right away. Your annual membership entitles you admission to this and future member events!
AHMA is hiring – come join our team!
AHMA is pleased to announce that we are hiring a Statewide Organizer to help grow the grassroots pro-housing movement in all corners of Massachusetts. This is a full-time, salaried position with great benefits! A complete job description can be found on the AHMA website. If you know someone with community organizing, policy advocacy, or other relevant experience that you think would be a great match for our organization/mission please send them our way!
This past week, the Supreme Court served a devastating blow to housing and tenant advocates by lifting the federal eviction moratorium. The decision puts hundreds of thousands at risk of being put out of their homes during a critical period of the pandemic with the surge of the Delta variant, the start of hurricane season affecting regions across the country, and the return to school for many of our children and students.
Only about $5.1 billion of the $46.5 billion in aid had been disbursed by the end of July 2021, according to figures released on Wednesday, as bureaucratic delays at the state and local levels snarled rent payment payouts.
Representative Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat who slept on the steps of the Capitol this month to protest the expiration of the previous moratorium proclaimed rightfully “We already know who is going to bear the brunt of this disastrous decision: Black and brown communities, and especially Black women.”
Indeed, Matt Desmond’s book Evicted lists the eviction crisis as the top issue affecting Black women-led households. Black women are evicted at alarming rates setting off a chain of hardship across families and their communities including food insecurity, job loss, and stagnating economic mobility.
Many have heard me share the story of my own family’s struggles with housing instability. The product of a single-parent household, I know too well the anxiety that the first of the month brings to a family barely making ends meet. I accompanied my immigrant mother to housing court month after month to plead on behalf of our family against eviction. The shame, sadness and burden experienced by our family played out in full display at these settings. We were often in line with other tenants facing eviction all at the mercy of private landlords and district judges. Even when payment terms were decided, the fear of eviction and displacement remained. It tainted our relationship to our home and left us on edge even months after a resolution had been reached. Living in uncertainty and under the threat of eviction depletes a family of the joyful bond that should be felt at home. The meaning of home now comes with a sharp expectation – it is available to you only up until the point where you can afford to keep it.
An eviction record for a tenant already struggling to pay basic needs is a death sentence – it’s the last strike against an already tumultuous situation. Having an eviction on your record often closes you and your family out from safer neighborhoods, better housing opportunities and marrs your record for years to come. An eviction can set off a chain of events that affect every single area of your life – from housing, to health & food access, and your inner sense of belonging.
Our team at Abundant Housing MA has pulled together a list of resources for our network to distribute. Help us support renters and tenants across the Commonwealth in staying housed. We need to address our housing crisis with urgency and that includes advocating for those who are most vulnerable.
Beya Jimenez AHMA Board President
Rental Relief Assistance
Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) may provide up to 18 months of help with overdue and/or future rent (rent that wasdue on or after 3/13/20), as well as some help with utility costs. Applicants must have had a COVID-related financial hardship.
IMPORTANT: When you apply, you will have to document your income, housing, and other household information. It is very important you submit a complete application with required documentation. If your application does not have all required documents, or accurate contact information, it will take additional time to process.
For those that do not qualify for ERAP, the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs may provide income-eligible households with up to $10,000 to pay overdue or future rent, or mortgage or utility costs. There is one application for all three programs, staff at regional agencies will determine your eligibility. Learn more about each of these programs at the link below:
COVID-19 Eviction Diversion: Receiving a Notice to Quit
I got a notice to quit. What do I do?
In Massachusetts, a lInandlord must send a tenant a Notice to Quit before the landlord can file a summary process (eviction) action. The Notice to Quit is a legal document that formally notifies the tenant that the tenancy will be terminated on a specific date. A Notice to Quit is not an order to leave your apartment on the date of the lease termination.
NOTE: IF YOU RECEIVE A NOTICE TO QUIT YOU DO NOT NEED TO IMMEDIATELY LEAVE YOUR UNIT. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A LEGAL PROCEEDING IN WHICH YOU CAN DEFEND AGAINST THE EVICTION. ONLY A COURT ORDER CAN FORCE YOU TO LEAVE YOUR UNIT.
If you have received a Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent, do not ignore or discard it. You should immediately contact your landlord to try to work out a payment plan. Legal Resource Finder will connect you to information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies, and court programs that may be able to help you with your legal issue for free or at a low cost. You can then contact your local Housing Consumer Education Center to learn if you are eligible for rental assistance.
Lawyers for Civil Rights provides representation, advice, and referrals primarily for residents of Massachusetts and surrounding communities who experience discrimination or harassment in employment, housing, education, or voting. LCR is launching a new pro bono initiative to connect those who need help paying rent or other housing expenses with volunteers who can help complete an application for RAFT or the City of Boston’s Rental Relief Fund.
Lawyers for Civil Right legal volunteers can help families at risk of losing their housing during the unfolding public health and economic crisis by assisting them with their RAFT and rental relief applications. If you need free housing support please submit your request here.