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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Evicted on short notice, some Medford Square tenants receive little help from local, state governments

A clock in Medford Square is pictured on May 1.

Residents of 18 units on month-to-month leases in The Bradlee Apartments, an apartment building in Medford Square, were given notice in late March that they had 30 days to permanently vacate their homes so that the building’s new property managers could renovate the units. The time frame was extended to 60 days after advocacy by city staff — placing the final move-out deadline in late May — but affected tenants said that was still too little time to find new housing and that local and state agencies were largely unhelpful.

The building was sold last year, at which point Atlas Group assumed property management duties. 

When this property was purchased, it was done so with the intent of renovating all the building’s kitchens and bathrooms, which is desperately needed,” a spokesperson for Atlas Groupwrote in an email to the Daily. “We have gone through the process of removing asbestos from the property and now have moved on to upgrading all kitchens and bathrooms. Tenants received notice that their leases would not be renewed in order to do the work.

Bradlee tenant Liza Maloney, who has lived in the building for over five years, said that she received a certified letter on March 28 informing her that she needed to remove all of her belongings from her unit by April 30. Maloney said that the timeline of the eviction notices has been distressing.

It’s just deeply upsetting,” Maloney said. “I don’t think any of us have gotten a lot of sleep … Why did it have to happen this way? This building was sold in March 2021, so the owners have had over a year to give us notice that that was their plan, to modernize the building, to upgrade it and give us more time, but that was not what happened.

Medford City Councilor Kit Collins (A’15)and her colleagues became aware of the situation when Bradlee tenants began emailing them and showing up at city council meetings. While the evictions are legal, Collins said that as the only renter on Medford City Council, she felt a need to advocate for the tenants.

I felt it’s my responsibility to stay abreast of the situation, stay in contact with the residents and see to it that the city, through … what the city is able to do — which, to be honest, is not much directly, legally — and through other resources, other connections and negotiations,  that we’re able to make sure that all of these residents are able to be in safe, stable situations,” she said. “Being told that you have just a month or two to find a whole new home, potentially a whole new community, obviously is no small thing.”

After the city council got involved, Atlas Group agreed to extend the move-out period to 60 days.

After speaking with officials from the City of Medford, we agreed to extend each tenancy by an additional thirty days to accommodate those who needed additional time,” the spokesperson wrote. “We remain committed to working with our tenants and the City of Medford as we continue these improvements and in providing safe, quality housing.”

Another tenant, who has lived in the building for 22 years and requested to speak on the condition of anonymity with the Daily,had just sprained their ankle when they received their eviction notice. The injury made it difficult to pack up their belongings and search for a new apartment, but they said the property manager denied their request for more time to move.

The tenant also said that they sought help from local and state government agencies and from Action for Boston Community Development, but they were redirected between agencies and received little actual help.

Action for Boston Community Development suggested that they stay in a government shelter, while State Rep. Paul Donato’s office told the tenant that they were eligible for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition funding to cover some of the costs of moving. However, to get RAFT assistance they would have had to choose from a very limited selection of apartments and come up with money to supplement the RAFT funds on short notice.

“I just got the run-around,” the tenant said. “That’s how the system works. So no matter what I do, I feel like I’m always just being stonewalled, and I feel as though that no matter who you talk to, even [Governor] Charlie Baker’s office, they always refer you to somebody else.

The anonymous tenant eventually found a new apartment on their own through Craigslist. The new apartment is not in Medford.

“It’s more money, but you know what? It’s better than being on the street,” they said.

Maloney echoed the anonymous tenant’s frustration with the bureaucracy involved in getting city assistance with housing issues such as this one.

One thing that I talked to [Collins] about [was] ... if there could be … one-stop shopping at the city level,Maloney said. “If there was one phone number that we could call.

Medford’s expensive and competitive real estate market poses a significant challenge for tenants who have been told to move out on short notice.

We’re in the middle of [a housing scarcity crisis] all throughout the Greater Boston area, and Medford is no exception,” Collins said. 

Maloney said that in addition to the lack of safe, accessible and affordable housing on the market, the eviction notice is particularly distressing given the vulnerable populations being evicted, such as seniors and families with young children. The anonymous tenant said that very low-income residents are concerned about losing their Section 8 housing assistance, which pays a portion of their rent.

They shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like this,” the anonymous tenant said. “Politicians shouldn’t be saying … ‘There’s nothing we can do because they own the property.’ That isn’t right.

Collins said that the state needs more protections for renters as well as more affordable housing options,pointing to legislation proposed by State Reps. Mike Connolly and Nika Elugardoand State Sen. Adam Gomez that would lift the state’s ban on rent stabilization.

A system that allows people to be ousted from their homes in the midst of a housing scarcity crisis … That’s not humane,” she said. “It’s not any one individual person’s fault, but that is the status quo, and that’s not okay.

Collins added that state governments have more power to change housing policy than local governments. The city is considering petitioning the state to expand its powers in this area, she explained.

“So many measures are currently not available to us as a municipality with what we have the jurisdiction to do,” Collins said. “[I and City Council Vice President Isaac Bears introduced] many home rule petitions about rent stabilization, about tenant right to counsel, regulating just cause eviction protection.”

In the meantime, landlord-tenant interactions are governed at the state level.

“A lot of this work that we’re doing on the city level is an uphill battle, but it has to be done in tandem with work on the state level as well,” Collins said.