Edwards Holds Hearing to Further Protect Tenants

Last Wednesday, City Councilor Lydia Edwards held a hearing with the Boston City Council’s Committee on Government Operations to recommend passage of her ordinance extending and enhancing protections for tenants facing displacement by condominium or cooperative conversion. 

As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Government Operations, Edwards ordinance will strengthen existing protections afforded by the current ordinance in light of the rapid increase of small apartment buildings being converted to condominiums in East Boston and throughout the city. 

City Councilor Lydia Edwards.

Since 1983, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has afforded municipalities the option to enact protections for tenants residing in properties subject to condominium conversion. Boston’s condominium conversion ordinance, updated in 2014, affords residents of covered properties a notice period, right of first refusal to purchase their unit, relocation assistance, just cause eviction, and relocation benefits if the unit is converted to a condominium. 

Edwards explained the ordinance increases relocation benefits for residents facing displacement, provides additional notice requirements, and establishes a condo conversion permit and notification system within the City of Boston’s Office of Housing Stability and Inspectional Services Department. In addition, the ordinance establishes a look back period of 12 months which will assist in determining whether the tenants are provided all of their rights and benefits in cases of a building clear out.

“The proposed language strengthens the current ordinance, closes loopholes, and further protects tenants from displacement during this citywide rental housing emergency,” says Councilor Edwards. “I’d like to thank my Boston City Council colleagues, especially City Councilor Ed Flynn, Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon and Tim Davis at the Department of Neighborhood Services, and all administration officials who worked diligently to make this happen”.

Last year, Councilors and administration officials held a hearing and working session on July 27, 2020 and October 15, 2020 examining issues of building clearouts that occured prior to a building owner starting the formal process to convert a building. 

The aim of hearing and working sessions was to increase the relocation assistance provided in order to better reflect the economic realities of the current rental market, and expand the groups covered by the ordinance beyond protected classes to include families with children and tenants that have lived in a unit for longer than five years.

“I support this proposal,” said Councilor Ed Flynn. “I want to strengthen the ordinance like we all do, and look forward to seeing what we can do to provide more protections for our seniors, persons with disabilities and our immigrant neighbors to make sure Boston is a city for, for all.”

Councilor Michael Flaherty thanked Edwards for her advocacy on this issue. 

“I look forward to working on this and to continue to improve the quality of life for folks that have been faced with eviction,” said Flaherty. “We have a responsibility as a government to try to protect our residents and neighbors and keep them in their homes, particularly those that are born and raised in neighborhoods. Through no fault of their own, through speculation and investment, they’re being squeezed out of their property. Rents continue to creep up so anything we can do to keep people in their homes and to give them whatever support they can as tenants being evicted I say, ‘sign me up.’ So I appreciate the work Councilor Edwards is doing.”

District 9 City Councilor Liz Breadon also thanked Edwards for her leadership and added, “I really want to echo the sentiments of my colleagues that this is critically critically important in protecting folks who are vulnerable to eviction and displacement by condo conversions.”

Chief Dillon said the previous ordinance had too many loopholes. 

“We all are here to extend the condo conversion ordinance that wasn’t strong enough,” said Dillon. “It had too many loopholes and it needed to be strengthened. What we’re discussing here today is really going to make a difference for tenants and it’s going to be harder for them to be displaced so (developers) can achieve a condo conversion.”

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