Abundant Housing MA October News 🍂

Jesse Kanson-Benanav, AHMA Executive Director

From the Executive Director: We’re Growing!

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 are unified 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

Thanks to advocacy by AHMA and partner organizations, the Boston City Council voted unanimously last week to eliminate costly parking mandates for new affordable housing in the city. This move comes on the heels of abutter lawsuits against two recent transit-adjacent affordable housing proposals in Jamaica Plain where decreased or zero parking was the basis opposition. Eliminating required parking for affordable housing can help discourage these NIMBY lawsuits, and may allow some affordable housing developers to include a larger number of affordable homes in future projects. AHMA Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav described AHMA’s support for this change before a City Council committee in June, and helped organize a coalition of allied organizations to support the measure. The measure now goes to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and city’s Zoning Commission for approval before it becomes law, which both bodies are expected to grant.


ADU Learning Session a Great Success!

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 Social Rained Out 🌧 PLUS: Learning Opportunity for members – ADU Victory in Arlington

Update: Abundant Housing & Beer POSTPONED

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!


Statement on SCOTUS decision to lift the CDC eviction moratorium

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

We believe Massachusetts is for Everyone

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 was due on or after 3/13/20), ​as well as some help with utility costs.  Applicants must have had a COVID-related financial hardship.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can assist tenant households with total gross household income below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), and includes the RAFT and ERMA programs. Apply for rental assistance with your regional administering agency here (Link to the full application)

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: 

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/emergency-housing-payment-assistance-during-covid-19

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.

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Abundant Housing and Beer – Sept. 9

AHMA invites you to enjoy…

Abundant Housing and Beer, Thursday Sept 9, 6pm, at Night Shift Brewing’s Allston Beer Garden at Christian Herter Park, 1155 Soldiers Field Road

The Abundant Housing MA board of directors invite you to join us for our first in-person gathering since our launch in April, 2020.

Enjoy the closing days of summer while hanging out with AHMA members and other pro-housing activists from around Greater Boston over a cold drink in a completely outdoor setting: Night Shift Brewing’s “Owls Nest” beer garden in Allston.

Event registration includes complimentary beverages for all attendees, including: beer, hard seltzer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages

FREE ADMISSION FOR ALL AHMA MEMBERS with link provided via email.

GUESTS: $15

AHMA loves your children and they are welcomed to attend free of charge; however, they must remain under supervision of a responsible adult at all times. And of course no one under 21 may drink or possess alcohol at any time.

Night Shift’s Owl’s Nest in Allston is located in Christian Herter Park at 1155 Soldiers Field Road (Between Harvard Stadium & Everett Street).

AHMA takes Covid-19 precautions seriously and we continue to track ongoing developments relating to the pandemic. AHMA and Night Shift Brewing will enforce any relevant local, state, or federal mandates regarding masking, social distancing, etc. AHMA highly encourages everyone eligible to get the Covid vaccine.


Abundant Housing MA Announces Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2021 

Contact:
Molly Goodman,
AHMA Board Clerk
(617) 212-8584
[email protected]

ABUNDANT HOUSING MA ANNOUNCES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Kanson-Benanav to Lead Statewide Pro-Housing Nonprofit

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) is pleased to announce that Jesse Kanson-Benanav has been named Executive Director. A nationally known figure in the pro-housing movement, Kanson-Benanav brings robust experience and extensive knowledge of both housing and community organizing as AHMA continues its work towards abundant housing for all.

Kanson-Benanav has over 15 years of experience in affordable housing, public policy, and community engagement. He is the founder of A Better Cambridge (ABC,) a community-based education and advocacy group committed to creating more affordable and sustainable housing. In 2016, he was recognized by the Boston Globe Magazine as a “game changer” for his work with ABC and was the recipient of the Metro Housing’s Champions of Housing Rising Star Award in 2019. He leaves his role as Senior Project Manager at B’nai B’rith Housing to take on this new challenge.

“I am humbled by the opportunity the AHMA board has given me to help build an equity-focused pro-housing movement in Massachusetts,” said Kanson-Benanav. “I look forward to connecting with grassroots housing activists already doing this work in communities across the Commonwealth to help strengthen their work, to seed the creation of new local pro-housing organizations in communities where they don’t already exist, and to boost the voice of our movement in state level policy discussions.”

Board of Directors Vice President, Beyazmin Jimenez said that with his experience with the nuts and bolts of affordable housing development, combined with his extensive experience in community organizing, Kanson-Benanav is the perfect choice to lead AHMA.

“As a fellow organizer for Boston’s 2018 YIMBYtown conference, Jesse and I saw the need for a statewide coalition to harness the power of existing housing groups while bringing new diverse voices into the fold to address the unique needs of all our Massachusetts communities.” said Jimenez. “With Jesse at the helm of AHMA, we’ve taken a huge step in bringing that vision to life and infused new energy to tackle the affordability and supply crisis affecting our housing needs.”

Kanson-Benanav grew up in Saint Paul, MN and currently resides in Jamaica Plain. He received an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College and has a Master’s Degree in City Planning from the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Prior to his work with B’nai B’rith Housing, he worked as a Senior Project Manager for Somerville Community Corporation, a Regional Project Associate for Community Builders, and a public housing management consultant for Edgemere Consulting. He is also a board member at Just-A-Start Corporation in Cambridge.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts is a non-profit organization founded in 2020 to advocate for the creation of abundant housing for all and to develop and support a network of grassroots, pro-housing groups and activists across Massachusetts. AHMA is committed to fostering a movement that includes diverse voices, geography, and people with different lived experiences to help shape an inclusive statewide pro-housing network.

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Click here for a PDF version of this press release.


Action Alerts on the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay

Massachusetts has a severe housing shortage. We aren’t building enough homes to keep pace with demand, especially near jobs and transit. What’s more, 50 years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, much of what we have is still largely segregated by income and race. building enough homes to keep pace with demand, especially near jobs and transit.


Abundant Housing MA — Statement on Local Option Housing Bills

Originally published Jan. 17, 2020 on Medium.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) is a new, statewide pro-housing organization launching in 2020. Our complete organizational mission is included below the following statement.


The following statement was prepared by (AHMA) founding steering committee member Jarred Johnson, and cosigned by members Beyazmin Jiminez, Molly Goodman, Burhan Azeem, Jacob Oppenheim, and Jesse Kanson-Benanav.

I’m Jarred Johnson with Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a new group organizing Pro-Housing residents across Greater Boston and the state who are dedicated to zoning reform and making sure cities, towns, and neighborhoods across Mass are doing their part to solve the housing crisis. One of the chief causes of this housing crisis is the restrictive zoning across the state that concentrates the majority of development in only a handful of places. These exclusionary policies exemplify the unwillingness of some cities and towns to build the multi-family and affordable housing the state needs. We support any legislation that makes it easier for municipal governments to upzone single-family neighborhoods, especially around transit. We also support legislation that would force those municipalities that artificially suppress their housing supply through exclusionary single-family zoning to build the transit-oriented developments that the state so desperately needs.

We understand though, that zoning changes do not happen in a vacuum and that the structural changes around zoning will take some time for the benefits to be felt by low-income residents. That is why bills like H3924 & H1316, as well as the set of bills related to both the real estate transfer fee, right to purchase and right of first refusal, are crucial. As we build the housing we need around the region, we need to have the tools necessary to stop unfair rent hikes, building clearouts and allow tenants and non-profit to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to have the tools to limit rent increases, generate revenue for affordable housing, and give tenants more rights. All the while, we must build towards a future where renters have the best protection of all — numerous affordable choices of where to live, leaving no one at the mercy of their landlord.

I’d also like to add “Right to counsel” as one of the best ways to help protect current tenants from unfair evictions and illegal practices.

As valuable as the local option bills are, we hope the legislature can enact statewide or regionwide tenant protections and rent regulation to give renters uniformity and predictability as they move around the region. We want to and to ensure that all municipalities are doing their part to supply housing and protect tenants.

I hope that the legislature is able to embrace bold actions like the state of Oregon which abolished single-family zoning, allowing fourplexes in every town and city AND capped rent increases. Or like California, which capped rent increases AND and is close to requiring transit-connected and job-rich cities across the state to build much more multi-family housing, while providing protection for low-income neighborhoods.