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(en) Boston: The Angry Tenant (issue #1 - winter 2003) (http://stray.linefeed.org/cac/)

From Class Against Class <smash_rich_bastards@yahoo.com>
Date Thu, 10 Apr 2003 21:56:51 +0200 (CEST)


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>THE ANGRY TENANT - "Your Landlord's Worst Nightmare"
The Angry Tenant is the bi-lingual (English/Spanish)
newspaper of the Boston Angry Tenants Union (BATU),
a grassroots, tenant-run organization,
[Ed. Members of NEFAC] whose mission is
to organize tenants to act militantly and collectively
in order to change the state of housing in Boston.

Boston Angry Tenants Union
PO Box 146
Boston, MA 02133

****************************

BOSTON ANGRY TENANTS UNION THE 8-POINTS

1. We Are Angry Tenants! We're angry because of rats,
leaky faucets, increasing rents, no heat, roaches, and
to top it all off, scumbag landlords. Our rents are
too high, there's not enough housing for everyone, and
landlords are getting rich while we're getting
evicted. We refuse to take it anymore!

2. What are we going to do about it? Direct Action! We
can't count on those dirty politicians and crooked
cops to get the job done. We, the angry tenants, make
no polite appeals to those who are screwing us over
(building supers, landlords, property speculators, and
the housing authority). We will take action however we
see fit, on our own terms, and without any
intermediaries... this is direct action!

3. Direct Democracy! All angry tenants deserve a
voice, all angry tenants deserve a vote! Who's been
affected more by the housing crisis than us? Let's
take control of our own lives and make decisions for
ourselves.

4. What do we need to do? Organize! Who should
organize angry tenants? Angry tenants should organize
angry tenants! We think that those who live in our
communities should make the decisions about our
communities, and that we should organize ourselves.

5. Everybody deserves a home, everybody deserves a
community! Those money hungry capitalists who are in
control don't allow our communities to do what's best
for us. They're not going to give us housing and
community control, we need to take it!

6. Solidarity in our struggles! In our struggles for
power in our own communities, we must also support our
neighboring communities in their struggles. With
solidarity and mutual aid comes victory!

7. No landlords! No evictions! Let's face it, every
time we pay rent, we are being robbed! Housing is not
a privilege, and it's not something to be owned by a
few rich scumbags. We don't need or want landlords to
evict us and make decisions that could ruin our lives.
Eviction is a crime! Rent is theft!

8. We will not allow our city to be overrun by the
wealthy! We don't need more stores that we can't
afford, and we don't need expensive condos pushing our
families out and destroying our communities.

****************************

KNOW YOUR ENEMY: THE SMALL PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
[these guys suck!]

They destroyed rent control in 1994 and they're at it
again. The Small Property Owners Association (SPOA)
reared its ugly head again this year with a massive
mailing and media campaign to shoot down the
re-introduction of rent control in Boston City Council
this year. To residents of Boston, struggling to get
by in this housing crisis, they are public enemy #1.
SPOA thrives on the illusion of being a grassroots
organization of ma & pa homeowners, banding together
for their survival.

SPOA's stances on major housing issues are sickening.
They want nothing short of the complete annihilation
of all tenant rights and safeguards. SPOA's hatred of
the working class is made clear on their website
(http://www.spoa.com). They warn landlords of tenants
who know "the free rent trick" and suggests that lead
paint would not be an issue if only "simple
cleanliness habits" were used "in a few poor
neighborhoods." A look at SPOA's history gives some
insight into the forces behind their brutal attacks on
the tenants of Boston.

SPOA formed in 1987, and incorporated in 1992 as the
Small Property Owners Association of Cambridge, Inc.
After several failed campaigns, they stepped into the
spotlight with its campaign against rent control
starting in 1993. SPOA spearheaded a state-wide
initiative to completely overturn rent control and
vacancy laws with what would become known as "Question
9."

If passed, Question 9 would essentially create a
complete ban on rent control in Massachusetts. At the
time, only Boston, Brookline and Cambridge had
home-rule rent control laws. SPOA sought to bypass
local opposition by defeating rent control at the
state level.

Operating under the banner of the Massachusetts
Homeowners Coalition (MHC), they began collecting
signatures to introduce "Question 9" onto the 1994
election ballot. Even after paying canvassers to
collect signatures, and submitting 19,000 invalid
signatures, MHC barely squeezed Question 9 onto the
ballot. Question 9 would appear on the ballot in over
300 cities and towns, most of whom did not have rent
control laws.

Despite failing miserably in Boston, Brookline and
Cambridge, Question 9 passed on a state-wide level,
51% to 49%. Most of the support for Question 9 came
from wealthy suburbs not affected by the outcome. The
MHC campaign consisted of misinformation about the
effects of rent control and most important the false
portrayal of their own image.

A quick look at who funded the MHC campaign gives us a
better understanding of who was really behind it.
Approximately 70% of the campaign's funds came from
donations of $2000.00 or more, an amount well out of
reach for real "small" property owners. It is no
surprise that the majority of the funding actually
came from Boston's biggest landlords. Included among
the biggest spenders are the Greater Boston Real
Estate Board ($68,500.00), Nancy Broderick
($48,000.00), Chestnut Hill Realty ($42,000.00), S.
Rotham of Stu-Lin Management ($31,000.00), W. White of
the Niles Company ($29,265.47), Southview Coop.
Housing Co. 28,000.00), and Samia Cos. Agency Acct -
Leonard Samia ($10,000.00). Another 11 landlords
contributed $10,000-20,000.00 in funds each. With
approximately 11% of the campaign's funding coming
from contributions of $500.00 & under, we start to see
through the false image that SPOA/MHC has created.
[For a complete listing of campaign contributors
please visit http://www.tenant.net/other_areas
/massachusetts/ election.txt]

There are misconceptions about what it means to be a
small property owner. A common misconception is that
of a resident owner, whose tenants are also his
neighbors. However, SPOA regards any property owner
without a paid staff, regardless of the size of their
holdings, as a small property owner. SPOA claims that
they are "average Americans" and "not millionaires."
This author suggests that you stop by Lenore & Skip
Shloming's (President & V.P. of SPOA, respectively)
estate at 102 Inman St. and judge for yourself. If you
haven't made up your mind, try asking them about the
value of their real estate holdings.

I must admit that SPOA has done one useful thing for
tenants. They have been kind enough to compile a list
of ways to lower your rent (see their website!).
SPOA's little handy guide may be helpful in the short
run, but it is not enough. Isolated acts of rebellion
can create small gains; the tenants of Boston need a
unified, long term strategy. SPOA promises to remain
vigilant, we must do the same and in greater numbers.
It's time to organize!

****************************

RENT CONTROL: WHAT'S THE STORY?

We all dread it: the renewal of the lease. Lease
renewal these days is usually synonymous with an
inevitable increase in ridiculously high rent. Whether
it is those of us who live by the numerous colleges or
in areas of "Urban Renewal", (a code word for sweeping
out the working class), we are all affected. Although
we pay rent once a month, the thought of paying it
haunts us. We are in the middle of a housing crisis.
Working class families are constantly paying higher
rents and landlords are receiving higher profits.
Rents have been escalating in neighborhoods all over
Greater Boston. We all know it, we've all experienced
it.

The Boston Angry Tenants Union knows that increasing
rents and the expansion of rich neighborhoods and
colleges are pushing out families from traditionally
working class neighborhoods. We also see this with the
state's recent cuts in funding for affordable housing,
the national government's attacks on section 8, and
the increased political and economic power of
landlords throughout the U.S.

With these rising rents, fewer vacancies and increased
evictions, tenants throughout greater Boston are
frantically looking for a solution to the housing
crisis. Listening to family after family tell their
stories of rent increases, one wonders how many will
be displaced from Greater Boston before we stop this
crisis. But one must wonder, where this housing crisis
came from and why we are living in it?

On January 1st 1995, wealthy special interest groups
successfully ended rent control in Boston. The Small
Property Owners Association (SPOA), a misleading name
since they receive most of their funding from large
real estate organizations and multi-million dollar
landlords, spearheaded the anti-rent control campaign.
Motivated by profit and using misleading propaganda,
the rich successfully opened up the housing market to
gain greater profits; rich real estate tycoons,
development companies, large landlords and realtors,
benefited from the subsequent skyrocketing rents and
property values.

The loss of rent control and the subsequent rise in
rents is a direct attack on working class families. It
is a perfect example of how the ruling class gets fat
at our expense. So what is 'rent control'? The idea
behind rent control is to restrict a free market
housing system. A free market housing system benefits
rich capitalists who invest in property and either
develop luxury condos, own large portions of rental
property or buy and sell numerous properties for
profit. Rent control successfully lessens the profit
landlords can make off of us while we simply try to
provide shelter for our families.

Though affordable rent seems to be impossible, there
is still hope yet. There are many organizing projects
and advocacy groups working to change Boston into a
livable city for working class families. The Boston
Angry Tenants Union is dedicated to organizing tenants
so we may fight together to take control over our
basic needs. In addition to our own campaigns, we are
a member of The Boston Tenants Coalition (BTC), which
is an umbrella group of various organizations working
on housing.

The BTC's main approach to the housing crisis is to
pass the Home Protection Proposal, which would
effectively limit rent increases, increase tenants'
rights, allow tenants to buy their apartments if the
landlord was selling, and increase protection for
tenants who are being evicted.

BATU sees this legislation as a small step in a large
campaign. However, we do not want tenants to be
dependent on politicians and state officials who are
rarely tenants themselves and are sometimes wealthy
realtors. Legislation is not the answer to the housing
crisis in Boston; the answer is an organized angry
mass of tenants working together to protect each other
from wealthy landlords. We, as tenants, should solve
the situation ourselves.

We do not support dependency on the State; however,
the Home Protection Proposal would effectively help
many families by slowing down rent increases. BATU is
proud to be involved with other tenants in a fight to
stabilize rents in Boston. Through direct action and
an organized tenant voice, we can change the tenant
housing crisis into a crisis for rich speculators who
steal up to three quarters of our paycheck a month in
rent.

Stabilizing rents will not solve the immediate
problem, an emergency rent reduction is essential to
bring families out of economic panic. We will not lie
down and wait for yuppies and landlords to be the only
ones who can afford to live in Boston. Why should we
move away from our neighborhoods just to commute
longer and work for those who pushed us out in the
first place? We will not let capitalists get away that
easy. We are angry and we will organize until we gain
community control of our neighborhoods and our lives.

****************************

SCUMLORD OF THE MONTH: LEONARD SAMIA

The Scumbag Landlord of the Month award goes to one
Leonard Samia, although he's more deserving of the
Scumbag Landlord of the Decade award. This is a guy
who controls over 2,500 units of housing in the Boston
area, in addition to many commercial properties. He
likes to spend his time raising your rent and not
fixing up his properties, while he relaxes in an
enormous sprawling mansion at 57 Meriam Street in
Lexington, complete with gates and private security to
keep us out. Yeah, that's right, he doesn't even live
in the city, but he sees fit to make a killing off of
his tenants who do.

You might think that this is a man with tremendous
expertise in business, to be able to be doing so well.
The Boston Globe seemed to think so, when they printed
an article about how terrific Samia was at making
money off of other people. Much to their chagrin, the
Globe was obliged to print another story about Samia
the very next day, only this one wasn't about how rich
he is, it was about how a balcony on one of his
properties in Allston had collapsed and crushed about
a dozen college kids. As a display of his compassion
for his tenants, Samia came up with a great solution
to this problem by nailing shut all the doors to
balconies on his other properties. Such consideration
is rarely seen.

The truth of the matter is that Samia didn't get rich
through his business skill (or his compassion for the
well-being of others). He got it by becoming good
friends with the scumbags at the Hamilton Company, who
at one time were the largest landowners in the Boston
area. Samia got to be such good friends with these
guys that they decided to sell him hundreds and
hundreds of properties for $1 each! Wouldn't it be
nice if we could buy just one house for $1? I suppose
that's a luxury you get only when you're filthy rich
and get to make deals with your buddies at the yacht
club. As a result of this nice little deal, guess who
became the owner of the most properties in Boston:
Leonard Samia.

This scumbag has the absolute worst record in the city
for complaints by tenants. If you live in a Samia
property, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
This guy doesn't fix much of anything, he loves
raising rents, and if you don't kiss his ass, he just
might evict you for no reason. Ever try to get through
to him so that his company will fix something? Good
luck. He loves to ignore complaints of horrible
conditions in his buildings while he plays croquet in
the backyard of his multi-million dollar mansion.

If you live in a unit that's owned by Samia, and
you're fed up with him, give us a call and let us
know. And if you don't, you'd better watch out before
he buys your building and kicks you out so that
yuppies can move in. Leonard Samia, we salute you.
You're an asshole!

SAMIA STATS...

* Two men were injured critically when the porches on
Samia's Magnolia Street property in Boston collapsed
in 1999. Samia responded by boarding up exits to
porches on all his properties.

* Samia continues to rack up the most complaints of
any landlord in the city by disgruntled tenants.

* The Hamilton Company sold Samia hundreds and
hundreds of properties for $1 each! (Samia's estimated
asset value in 1997 was $210 million dollars)

* "Samia Cos. Agency Acct," aka Leonard Samia, gave
$10,000.00 to the Massachusetts Homeowners Coalition
(MHC) to fund the Question 9 Bill in 1994 to destroy
rent control.

****************************

ALLSTON... BEWARE!

In early December, John McDermott took the
Allston-Brighton Council office after the death of
Councilor Brian Honan. A-B tenants, already squeezed
by the housing crisis and university expansion into
their neighborhoods, now have another obstacle in
their path: their newly elected councilor is a real
estate agent.

McDermott made it clear in his campaign that he is
opposed to rent control. His solution to the housing
crisis is increased production of housing units, and
therefore more business for himself and colleagues. He
espouses the same theory that has been put forth by
the Small Property Owners, the organization that
destroyed rent control, and caused the Boston housing
crisis. McDermott seems to be content ignoring the
legacy that de-regulation has left behind. Long-term
A-B residents have long had to compete with the influx
of college students in their neighborhoods, driving
rents through the roof, and forcing many out of their
homes. A-B landlords contend that rent control
benefits students and not long-term residents. In
reality, students who are supported by their affluent
parents can afford the exorbitant rent, while
long-term working class tenants are forced to move.

McDermott seeks to perpetuate this problem with his
approval of Boston University expansion into A-B. It
is the gentrification of our neighborhoods and
increased production of upscale apartments that
created the housing crisis. Real estate agents like
McDermott drool over such a scenario, while tenants
pay the price.

****************************

ATTACK OF THE BEDBUGS...

Not only must we face the blood sucking bite of
landlords, tenants in Allston/Brighton now must face
the menacing bite of the bed bug. These bugs are
spreading throughout Allston/Brighton; they are in
apartments and stores alike. Many tenants are
struggling with controlling and eradicating the bugs
and are faced with confronting their landlords about
paying for extermination and trying to find
information about the bugs themselves.

What Are They?

Bed bugs are about a third of an inch long and range
from brown to mahogany colored. The color, size and
shape change while the bug matures. The pre-mature bug
is brownish and narrower while a mature bug is ovoid
shaped. Bed bugs spread by animals, people finding and
using infested bedding or furniture, other people's
clothes, or laundry.

These bugs are called bed bugs because they tend to
infest in bedding where they feed on our blood when we
sleep. Cracks, zippers or buttons on mattresses, in
the mattress frame and nearby furniture is where the
bed bugs first infest. In major infestations the bugs
spread to base boards, cracks in floors, inside the
walls, picture frames, door and window casing and any
other pieces of furniture.

Where bed bugs are most numerous eggs, egg shells, and
cast skins can be found as well as black or brown
spots of dried blood.

Health Risks

Bed Bugs cause no serious health risks; it has never
been proven that they can spread disease. They can
however, produce allergic reactions from their bite.
The bugs feed on human blood and in this process
release a fluid to prevent coagulation. This fluid may
cause welts, inflammation and irritation.

Health risks could result from going to the doctor and
being prescribed with medicine that is meant to be
used for other ailments. Often times, residents do not
know the irritation is caused by bed bugs and
therefore, neither do doctors.

Extermination

Because bed bugs can last up to one year without
feeding and they live in the walls they are very
difficult to exterminate. If you know you have bed
bugs you should exterminate them. Make sure you wash
all your bedding (steam, hot water, and detergent will
kill the bugs). Vacuuming your floor and even
furniture will suck out bugs and their eggs, but make
sure you dispose of the vacuum bag or they will
reproduce there.

Tenants who have infestations often end up throwing
away furniture after extermination only to find out
weeks or months later that the bugs are still living.
Often exterminators have not dealt with bed bugs and
are not familiar with how to exterminate them. Also,
exterminators may kill those that are present in the
room but not the ones living in the walls.

What to Do!?

If you have bed bugs do not let your landlord bully
you by blaming you for the infestation. Some landlords
will blame the tenants for being "filthy." Other
idiots think immigrants bring the bugs with them. This
is unacceptable and ridiculous; a bed bug
manifestation has nothing to do with one's race or
ethnicity. Bed bugs are not discriminatory and they
are found in white and non-white households alike.

Paying for extermination is the landlord's
responsibility and it is quite common for them to pay
for it until the bugs are history (we got our landlord
to pay for it). If the landlord refuses to pay for it,
take it off your rent and send your check in with a
receipt and note explaining your situation (you may
want to consult with a lawyer).

****************************

WAR IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: AN ANGRY TENANTS' GUIDE TO
GENTRIFICATION

Gentrification. A mouthful of a word to describe a
social epidemic that is sweeping working class
neighborhoods across the country.

But what exactly is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process in which greedy land
speculators buy up real estate cheap in low-income
areas in order to push out the "undesirables" and
bring in young professionals who can afford a much
higher cost of living. It is not something that
happens overnight, but slowly over time.

Run-down apartments are bought at a very low price
(or, if you know people in city government, at an
extremely low price!), and tenants are told that their
leases will not be renewed. Once they are kicked out,
the apartments are renovated and rents are hiked up.
In a tight housing market like Boston, it is not hard
to find people willing to pay a little more for an
apartment - usually students or young artists, who act
as shock troops in the gentrification process. As the
faces in the neighborhood change, so do the businesses
in the surrounding area. Before you know it, Dunkin
Donuts is replaced by Starbucks and upscale
restaurants with pretentious names and a dress code
are popping up all over the place. Also, since the
people who now own the property in the neighborhood
need to protect their investment, they make sure that
the cops are always around to make life uncomfortable
for all of us who aren't a part of the plan.

>From Mission Hill to Southy, Chinatown to Lower
Allstonââ,¬Â¦ you can see gentrification at work in
neighborhoods all over Boston. The rich move in, and
we get pushed out. Does this mean that we are
powerless in stopping this urban trend? Hell no!

Gentrification means displacement, and in most places
around the world DISPLACEMENT MEANS WAR. When the rich
use their economic power to push us out of our
communities, we need to use community power to fight
back. In the short term this could mean anything from
refusing to leave your apartment after your lease is
up (if you are going to get evicted anyway, why go
quietly?) to organizing coordinated rent strikes
throughout the neighborhood. Individual direct actions
(best done under the cover of darkness) can always be
taken against yuppie restaurants or shops, as well as
to expensive cars that are left parked and unattended
on the street (be creative). The short-term
possibilities are endless.

Obviously these sorts of actions can only keep the
gentrifiers at bay for so long. As with any war
against a stronger enemy, the struggle against
gentrification should be seen as a protracted struggle
with a long-term goal. In the long-run, the only real
solution to keeping control of our communities is to
make sure that the properties stay in the community
and out of the hands of the greedy property
speculators.

If you are serious about building community control in
your neighborhoods and beating gentrification once and
for all, then you need to organize with other tenants
and look into establishing something like a community
land trust. This is where residents can own and manage
their own buildings (with no landlords to deal with!),
and a community land trust (basically a committee with
no real economic power) owns the land under the
buildings. Permanent price restrictions can ensure
that the housing will always be affordable. There are
a few non-profit community groups around the city that
can help you establish a land trust, just ask around.

*******
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