Boston's real story - Eviction resistance

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue May 7 14:49:44 BST 2013
An interview with Cynthia Peters about community 
organising, revolutionary strategy and eviction resistance in Boston.

City Life Project - people before profit


City Life/Vida Urbana is a grassroots community 
organization committed to fighting for racial, 
social and economic justice and gender equality 
by building working class power. We promote 
individual empowerment, develop community leaders 
and build collective power to effect systemic change and transform society.


City Life/Vida Urbana: 40 Years of Putting People Before Profits

In 1973, a group of local residents and activists 
with roots in the civil rights, feminist and 
anti-Vietnam War movements founded the Jamaica 
Plain Tenants Action Group, now City Life/Vida 
Urbana (CL/VU). For almost 40 years, CL/VU has 
been a leading force for change in the Boston 
area, responding to the ever-changing forces that 
effect poor and working people.
The 70’s

Early organizing focused on stopping housing 
divestment and neglect. Growing numbers of city 
slumlords had stopped maintaining their buildings 
– while still raising the rent on units that were 
unsafe and unsanitary. Others were burning down 
their own buildings for profit. Tenant organizers 
identified the worst buildings and organized 
occupants to take power. Soon thousands of 
tenants across the city were holding rent 
strikes, taking owners to court and even 
picketing in front of their suburban mansions. In 
response to this powerful movement, the city 
passed rent control protections, helping tenants 
for the next 20 years. Several noted property owners were convicted for arson.
The 80’s

When the housing market turned around in the 
1980’s, gentrification, speculation and 
condominium conversions became the new threat. 
CL/UV created an Eviction Free Zone in Jamaica 
Plain, helping hundreds of people to stay in 
their homes and inspiring similar models in 
Roxbury, East Boston, Cambridge and cities in other parts of the country.
The 90’s

The loss of rent control in 1994 sparked a 
dramatic increase in housing prices. CVLU 
responded by applying pressure on local property 
owners to maintain reasonable rents. We also 
began collaborating with the Jamaica Plain 
Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) to 
develop affordable housing. In 1990, the former 
Bowditch School opened as a 45-unit rooming 
housing for previously homeless people. JPNDC 
remains a strong voice for housing justice in 
Jamaica Plain, having created over 440 additional units since that time.
The 00’s

As the need grew, CL/VU began expanding its 
efforts across the city in the fight against 
displacement and for restoration of rent 
regulation. In just 3 years, tenants’ 
associations were formed in over 40 buildings. 
Working with CL/VU, these groups used a 
collective bargaining model to win affordability 
contracts, Section 8 rent subsidies, and limit 
rent increases. Two buildings totaling 435 units 
were able to win 99-year affordability contracts.
The 10’s

In 2007 CL/VU started noticing the increasing 
number of foreclosure evictions in housing court, 
prompting us to launch the Post Foreclosure 
Eviction Defense Campaign. Since 2008, eviction 
defense has been the thrust of our organizing 
strategy to halt housing displacement for working 
class tenants and owners. Foreclosure evictions 
have disproportionately affected communities of 
color, and reasserted our mission to work toward 
racial justice as well as confronting bank power with collective people power. 
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Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be 
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell 
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the 
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

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