Militant Journalism

Blue Hill Avenue, Boston tenants demand safe and dignified housing from Nuestra Comunidad

On the day before April rent was due, tenants of 225 Blue Hill Avenue in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston gathered in front of their building’s management office to protest deteriorating housing conditions. The tenants demanded working locks in the building’s main entrances, consistent heat and hot water, and to rid the building of its rodent infestation.

The tenant organizers of the demonstration were majority women, including many mothers with young children. Earlier this year, they began organizing with the Boston Liberation Center, a local working-class community center.

Residents of 225 Blue Hill Avenue and supporters gather outside Winn Residential’s management office. Liberation photo

The residential building is owned by local non-profit neighborhood development corporation Nuestra Comunidad. The corporation contracts Winn Residential, a for-profit company, to manage the day-to-day operations in the building.

A decade of unsafe conditions

Tenants say they have dealt with these issues for the past 11 years, ever since the building first opened to residents. Despite the building’s young age, there are severe structural issues. The main and back entrances have broken locks, handles and disability access buttons. The lack of working locks has led to problems such as stolen packages and people entering the building to defecate in the staircases. 

Families at 225 Blue Hill Avenue have struggled for at least the past two winters without hot water or heat. Rodents are a consistent problem. Tenants shared stories of when mice fell from vents inside their apartments, or when they killed multiple mice within one week. BLC volunteers also noticed trash piles in the building’s main entrance, dirty laundry rooms and fire alarms beeping throughout the day in the lobby.

Migdalia Valentin spoke at the demonstration. “I’ve been a tenant at 225 Blue Hill Avenue for 11 years, and with Nuestra housing for a total of 22 years,” she said. “I’ve had issues such as mice, cockroaches, heat, hot water, mold, packages being stolen and safety, for example. Furniture has been ruined because of [mice], the mice making holes in them and in their walls.”

Protesters outside of Winn Residential’s office. Liberation photo

“We are tired of not having hot water,” tenant Cali White said. “We are tired of the mice, of the people sleeping in the hallways and urinating in the elevators … we are tired of calling security and nothing being done. We want to see a change.” Management has responded slowly to these complaints with excuses.

Ruth, another resident who asked to be identified by first name only, said “I’ve lived here for four years with multiple complaints and coming down [to the management office] and asking for these things to be fixed, it never seems to get done … [having] to get up at four o’clock in the morning to shower at my sister’s house before going to a doctor’s appointment makes no sense.”

Tenants fight for accountability and fair housing

When the tenants began meeting together earlier this year, they realized how many issues they had in common. “We need to speak up,” Johanna Jimenez told Liberation News. “We need to get together and do everything as one. One person is going to be put in check, so the longer we aren’t together our voices won’t be heard.”

‘Roxbury demands dignified housing!’ Liberation photo

“We demand that Winn management and the building owners, Nuestra Comunidad, treat these problems now,” Valentin said in her speech. “We are not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting for dignified housing. If they want our rent on time, they need to solve our issues on time.”

12-year-old King speaks at the demonstration. Liberation photo

Nuestra Comunidad’s mission states the following:

“Nuestra Comunidad is devoted to building the wealth and health and enhancing the physical, economic, and social well-being of Roxbury and other underserved populations in greater Boston through a community-driven process that promotes self-sufficiency and neighborhood revitalization.”

By neglecting their residents for years, Nuestra has betrayed these stated commitments. Tenants and community supporters say they want Nuestra to stay true to their mission and purpose, and not allow the building conditions to continue to decline.

King, a 12-year-old community supporter, told the crowd that many children live at 225 Blue Hill Avenue. These children, along with children throughout Roxbury and other working-class communities across the country, have to deal with unsafe housing conditions daily, he said. “We’re here today because there’s problems in this community that need to be fixed.”

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