Roxbury residents say they’re being driven out

City Council hears pleas for relief, moratorium

By Brooks Sutherland, Jonathan Ng Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Roxbury residents priced out by soaring rents are demanding relief — including a building moratorium — with some fighting back tears at a packed City Council hearing last night as they argued gentrification is out of control.

Evictions are up, they said, along with a cost of living that many just can’t keep up with.

“We have a serious problem,” said Robert Terrell, head of the Roxbury Neighborhood Council. “By the time we get (solutions) in place and implemented, many of us won’t be here.”

He called on the council to impose a moratorium on all developments.

Residents testified that Boston’s rapid growth has hit Roxbury hard — where housing prices jumped 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 compared to 36 percent elsewhere in the city, according to the mayor’s Imagine Boston 2030 report.

Melinda Stewart choked up tearfully, saying she’s on her fourth eviction.

“Two evictions in the SJC court,” she said. “I fought for two whole years, back-and-forth, every week in the courts.”

City Councilor At-Large Michael Flaherty said if the trend holds, “We need to revisit that frank conversation about rent control.”

The Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building was so packed, residents had to watch the hearing on a television screen from an overflow room.

Roxbury City Councilor Kim Janey, who led the forum, said the city must ensure “development without displacement.”

“We didn’t get here by accident,” Janey said. “Discriminatory housing policies that block black people out from legitimate home ownership opportunities ... contributed to this crisis.”

Terrell slammed the construction of studio and one-bedroom apartments — popular units he says don’t help families.

“If this housing isn’t for us, who are they building it for?” He said. “It begs the question, where are our people going to go?”

That proved to be the theme of the night.

Chrystal Wesley, a lifelong Roxbury resident, said she pays $1,300 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment. But that could soon end, she added, because her landlord has been making renovations with a rent hike sure to follow.

“They’re pushing out all the people from this area, and they’re pushing us out to places that don’t want us.” Wesley said. “I get angry every time I think about it.”

Leonard Cropper said he was forced to move his shop from the Washington Park Mall after his landlord raised the rent by $400 to $500 a month.

“We have to weather this storm of gentrification,” said the Frugal Bookstore owner.

But even his new Dudley Square shop that specializes in books by authors of color comes with a $100-a-year rent hike.

“We’re at a crisis situation,” said Flaherty, “when you see a lifelong resident, young families, fixed-income seniors, our veterans. When you see your families and friends priced out.”

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