As Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s cabinet members settle into their new positions, over 100 leaders, activists and residents protested outside City Hall Tuesday and delivered a petition to the city’s leaders calling for the expansion of an Inclusionary Development Program to create more affordable housing in Boston.
Led by the Chinese Progressive Association, the event brought together a coalition of community groups representing a variety of Boston’s neighborhoods, including Chinatown, Fenway and Dorchester. Together, the groups created a petition to ask the Walsh administration for a fair apportionment of housing resources, said Dharmena Downey, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation.
“There are 23,000 households in the city of Boston without subsidies, not counting people that have subsidies that are rent-burdened and paying more than 50 percent of their income for their housing expense,” she said. “What we’re here about is to deliver nearly 1,000 petitions which are asking the Walsh administration to direct inclusionary housing policy money toward where there is the deepest housing crisis.”
Representing the Walsh administration and receiving the petition in the mayor’s absence were Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development; John Barros, chief of economic development; Felix Arroyo, chief of health and human services; and Joyce Linehan, chief of policy.
As the petition was handed over to Dillon, Ann Stewart, president of Mass Senior Action, said they are requesting that Walsh make every effort to create affordable housing for residents who are elderly or on a fixed income.
“For most seniors, affordable housing is a lifeline, especially for those who are on a fixed income or low income,” she said. “I remember a time when America’s goals were to increase jobs and to build housing for the men and women returning from World War II. It is a shame that today, we have to ask politicians to work with us to reinstate this as a priority.”
Dillon, who has specialized in housing development in the City of Boston for several years, thanked the groups for their dedication and promised that their concerns would be taken seriously by the administration.
“We are looking on the policy as we speak,” she said. “We really do look forward to working with representatives from each and every group represented here today to come up with a fair and effective housing policy for the City of Boston.”
Barros said protests held by community groups and Boston residents are the best way for Walsh to hear the people’s voice and see what Bostonians care about.
“Affordable housing [is] an issue our mayor cares dearly about, that I care dearly about as chief economic development,” he told The Daily Free Press at the conclusion of the event. “Protest is important. Even though we care about it, it doesn’t mean that these types of civic activities shouldn’t happen. We’re not here to say don’t protest. We’re here to say we want to listen to you as you protest.”
Several attendees said they are looking forward to working with Boston’s leaders to create affordable housing and create policies that will benefit all of the city’s neighborhoods.
Li Li, 60, of Chinatown, said her family has six months to move out of their current residence, and with their low income, they don’t have anywhere else to go.
“We’ve been trying to find a place to move to, but it’s very difficult because my husband is disabled, and we don’t make a lot of money,” she said. “I’m here today because I’m in need of housing, and I’m hoping the government can help us get housing.”
Yongsheng Huang, 45, of Dorchester, said many Chinese people are being forced to move out of Chinatown because of the high rent, and the city needs to do something to keep these people in their homes.
“It’s really about survival,” he said. “We need a place to live, and we only speak Chinese, so we can’t go somewhere else. We get used to living here. It’s a space of home, and we want to stay in our home.”
Lenore Pereira, 67, of Mattapan, said the city government does not play a large enough role in helping veterans, disabled people and those with low incomes.
“Myself, well I’m lucky to have a house and a home, but so many people don’t, and there are so many people getting pushed out of the neighborhoods that they live in because the rent is so high,” she said. “It’s a human right. Everybody should have a house.”